Friday, January 11, 2008

What's the Difference?

People are now beginning to question Barack Obama's claim to being different. They say he votes the same way, uses the same advisers, and stands for the same ideas. People argue that Obama has accomplished little legislation in the present, bitterly divided Congress. The Clintons even say that Obama is no different for these reasons and follow that claim with accusations that his campaign is a "fairy tale," hoping to make the criticism stick both ways.

The goals that Barack Obama has do not have to be different. Those goals are clear. No one can reasonable argue that the goals he stands for are not clear and unequivocal. For too long, though, a candidate's goals have been lined up as litmus tests to determine whether or not one belongs in either party. That is how ideology works in a politics of partisanship. But partisanship shifts our attention to the goals that divide us and connects all reasonable approaches to those conflicting goals. When all the policy goals are listed, the top goal remains: To advance the political fortunes of the party or the individual.

The Barack Obama difference lies not in the goals he would pursue (health care for all, strong and unwavering national security, powerful education, and job creation) but in the MANNER in which he would pursue them and consequently in the likelihood that he would achieve them.

Critics of Barack Obama must answer one point first. Can you point to significant progress toward these goals that has come from divisiveness, bitterness, and attack?

Why was Hillary Clinton unable to achieve significant expansion of health care availability in 1993? Was it because she was not divisive enough? John Edwards thinks so, but Hillary Clinton doesn't answer that question very well.

Our greatest recent successes in legislating to solve our problems came as a result of the genuine bipartisanship following 9/11. Since that good will has been undone by the Bush administration's aggressively partisan approach, little or nothing of substance has been accomplished.

Cooperation and collaboration may be naive. It may not work, but it is a process worth trying since little progress can be identified by those who defend the divide and stalemate approach of the past 30 years.

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