From Paul M. at Powerline:
An Obama administration would almost certainly be to the left of the Clinton administration. It might well be to the left of any U.S. administration ever. (my emphasis)
Query: Does this final sentence make any sense?
I know the all important question you are thinking to yourself: Will Barack Obama be to the left of Grover Cleveland? Inquiring minds seriously want to know. srlsy. Is he to the left of James Madison or James K. Polk or to the left of William McKinley and William Howard Taft?
What the hell does this even mean?
The highest tax bracket during Eisenhower (THE REPUBLICAN) was something like 91%!!!!. Obama wants to go back to like 36% on that bracket. Is Obama to the left on that one?
Obama cites as a model for his foreign policy view George HW Bush for Chrissakes. He’s a return to the basic bipartisan liberal internationalist framework that has guided policy (minus the early year of George W. Bush’s presidency) since the end of WWII. Is he to the left of Truman on foreign policy? Again what does that mean? Didn’t Nixon go to China? When they were nuclear armed and run by a totalitarian crazy man (and it actually worked btw). Is Obama to the left of Kissinger? He wants to add troops (I think incorrectly) in Afghanistan and has said if they have high value targets in Pakistan he will kill them without approval from the Pakistani government—since is when is that the position of the super far left?
The only history comparison I think are New Deal on. There was a general consensus from FDR through Carter, call it the welfare state based on Keynesian economics and the Republicans who were president during that time basically bought into that consensus and simply tried to minimize it (i.e. Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford). There were Republicans/conservatives within the Senate/House who advocated a more radical undoing of the Welfare State (most notably Sen. Robert Taft aka Mr. Ohio) but they were never very influential.
Then came the Reaganite consensus and the only Democrat Prez during that consensus model learned to live with that model and try to be centrist/left-center within the frame of that consensus. His name you will recall was Bill Clinton. Clinton was the left’s Eisenhower in this analogy. [Similarly there were more anti-Reaganite elements from the Democratic Left in the House and Senate who similarly were in large part unsuccessful in undoing the Reaganite governing majority view].
That Reaganite coalition/consensus (built around monetary economic policy) is now going to be electorally shattered on Tuesday night. Obama will indeed be the first president of a new consensus/paradigm coalition. Obama’s victory whatever size it is will be interpreted as an outsized victory perhaps relative to its hard numbers because all presidents who come at the end of a coalition/beginning of a new one are seen as transformational presidents.
The Obama coalition or whatever it will called will be to the left of the previous Reaganite one to be sure, but it’s not a wholesale return to the FDR model. Again look at the issue of taxes. Or Obama’s support of the Supreme Court recent ruling on handguns.
Where Obama is trying to form a long term effect is not through the raising of the taxes on the really rich–acually just letting the Bush tax cuts expire and go back to the Clinton levels–but in his attempt to create a massive middle class tax cut. But since when is tax cutting something from the left? It’s now longer tax cuts but the boogey man of redistributionism. The right apparently loves a tax cut until its for the middle class.
Obama is a University of Chicago Democrat on economics not a Keynesian, so in some (actually many) ways I see much more statism in the New Deal consensus than in Obama. Yes Obama wants free trade deals to have environmental and labor standards in them which is to the left of Clinton, but is that the leftmost in history? When the country used to be run by economic nationalists and mercantilists? Clinton was really (see above) center or really I would say (particularly on trade) center-right, in which case being to the left of Clinton doesn’t tell you much. It means Obama could be center, center-left, left-center, or really left on the issue. I would say probably center-left. Compared to the recent presidents that is the furthest left technically but on in the Powerline world is that the most left in the history of the United States. And the inevitable slop to Marxist domination.
Undoubtedly Obama will be more progressive/to the left of previous administrations on climate change legislation. And the evil leftism here is a cap set by the government and the free market determining the sale of carbon permits??? I can here the red troops shouting slogans to Che now. Can’t you comrade? God and The Market All Holy help us.
He won’t be to the left of Clinton SCOTUS nominations. He will appoint equally liberal judges as did Clinton (the one area Clinton did manage real liberal progressive influence). That issue is so polarized that everyone has come down completely on one side or the other on that one.
So really it seems to me the only policy Obama has that would be a real shift to the left is on health care. He expressly did not push for a mandate/single payer system (a la Hillary and John Edwards) in the Democratic Primary because of his generally center-left tendencies. Obviously it also has to do with learning how and why Bill Clinton was unable to pass health care legislation in his first term. But even there if it could be proved he was secretly some much more left wing guy, he clearly is hardheaded about politics and something like his health care policy frame shows that he understands the necessity of working incrementally. He’s a gradualist reformer not a radical. The question for Obama will be whether he gets swept more by the Democratic Congress. That will be a very interesting relationship and his ability to handle that one will go a long way to determining the success or failure of his administration (on domestic issues).
Oh and I guess education, he is to the left of Clinton. But with everything else going on education is going to be far down the list of his changes. Probably not until a 2nd term if he gets one frankly.