Matt Stoller makes a very interesting observation about Senator Obama, although I think it could apply to most of the presidential candidates in both parties. Stoller writes:
But I think a lot of this kind of nonsense has to do with a basic lack of responsibility among citizens. Last week, I spoke to a friend who graduated from Harvard Law and just got done clerking for a high level judge. He’s smart and highly credentialled, and he supports Obama because he thinks Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism and will decolonize our foreign policy. I walked him through the rhetoric which showed him that this was just not true, and he acknowledged that Obama’s rhetoric was at odds with what he believed about Obama. And yet, he just didn’t care. He just offered that Obama was saying this because he had to say it to get elected.
I follow the Democratic blogs pretty closely (this shouldn’t come as a surprise), and what I’m seeing is that many who identify strongly with a candidate hold opinions that are very different from the candidates. Now, there’s wrong with that per se: if your guiding star is to beat the Republicans, because you think any Democrat would be preferable to a Republican, then so be it. It’s not how I would play it, but at least you’re aware of what you’re doing.
But what’s odd is that there is a lot of self-projection: supporters will often assume that their candidate would echo their own positions (which are usually to the left of the candidate’s positions), except that the candidate has to move rightward to win elections. Wny on earth would you think that? Liberals and progressives need to realize that if they help elect conservative and moderate Democrats, when elected, they’ll act like… conservative and moderate Democrats. Take for example, Senator Clinton, who is essentially a conservative-to-moderate Southern Democrat without the regional accent once you examine her voting record. Yet, somehow, many liberals think that once she is elected president she will magically transform herself into Ted Kennedy. Or as Stoller put it:
It’s like Hillary Clinton hiring a union-buster as her chief strategist, and the AFL-CIO and Change to Win being… silent.
Or consider ‘Fightin’ Dem’ Joe Sestak who crumpled on the Iraq spending bill. Just how progressive did you think a former military commander would be? Sure, it could happen, but the number of progressive liberals in the U.S. army that reach the upper echelons of the officer corps is pretty slim.
My point is not to dig at particular candidates since good politicians strive to be the perfect foil–that’s the job. President Clinton was a master at this, and Bush didn’t do so poorly with all of that ‘compassionate conservative’ hooey. Even though anyone who closely followed the Republican base and the Southern Republicans (and, in particular, the Texan GOP) knew exactly what was coming. (Molly Ivins, Intelligent Designer bless her, certainly tried).
It’s one thing to make a rational and reasoned calculation, but enough with the self-projection. They’re just politicians.