Obama's Constitution: The Passive Virtues Writ Large

By Epstein, Richard A. | Constitutional Commentary, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Obama's Constitution: The Passive Virtues Writ Large


Epstein, Richard A., Constitutional Commentary


THE FADING OBAMA MYSTIQUE

There is little doubt today about Barack Obama's political orientation. He is a man of the Left. Yet in the fall of 2008, during the height of the Presidential Election, there were endless debates as to whether Obama counted as a political moderate who understood that it was necessary to govern from the center or whether he a strong left-of-center politician who had mastered the lesson that radical politicians had to present themselves in a way that went against type. The standard political economy story that had some currency at the time was that he would turn out to be a moderate on the grounds that all presidential nominees move to court the median voter. That impression was reinforced by his choice of advisors, many of whom like Lawrence Summers, were retooled Clintonites who were thought to be on the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. And most powerfully, that image was reinforced by his evident rhetorical elegance, his nice blue ties and his calm demeanor. Taken together, his presentation of self was an effective means to disarm those critics who insisted that his politics put him, as his voting record suggested, to the left of center of the American legal system.

It is this studied ambiguity that makes Obama so hard to read. It is instructive that in the fall of 2008 many people asked whether Obama counted as a socialist--a question that needed (and still needs) a nuanced answer. Obama did not, and does not believe, in the government ownership over the means of production. What he believes in is the extensive regulation by government of the private firms that are responsible for production, which may be achieved by any and all methods that are available to a President and the Congress: taxes, mandates, regulations, subsidies. The hard question is just how far he is prepared to push on these levers of government power. Well, that debate is over. As one centrist democrat put it to me, ruefully, "we were both wrong. Obama is surely to the left of where I thought he would be. But then again he is to the left of where you thought he would be as well." I am not quite sure that the last half of this observation is true, but without question he has sought to move the ratio of public to private expenditures and influence harder and faster on more issues than any president in recent years. He is in favor of market liberalization on issues like medical marijuana and stem cell research, but otherwise his mindset is quite clear. The defects that we have in the current situation all stem from too little government regulation not from too much. He sees the health care system as one in which private insurance markets have failed; the global warming issue as one in which massive restrictions on emissions are needed; the labor markets as suffering from declining real income because of a want of effective union organization; financial markets as failing because of greedy bankers and weak and divided oversight. And so on down the line.

Sadly his rhetoric has become more strident and less coherent since the Democratic Party lost the Senate seat in Massachusetts, in what counts as one of the most stunning reversals in political fortune ever in the United States. Rather than mend his ways, bashing the banks has become the current fixation, in the hope that the antagonism toward Wall Street will allow him to pick up Republican support for showing that he is made of sterner stuff, even if that means saddling the banks with a set of punitive regulations and taxes, which will only further set back the economy.

But, it will be asked, how deep are his convictions? On this point, the issue is complicated to say the least. It is common knowledge today that Obama now faces deep resentment from the left-wing of the Democratic Party that is, if anything, further to the left than he is. The issue, which at one time was confined to blogs on the Left, has now become grist for the mainstream press.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Obama's Constitution: The Passive Virtues Writ Large
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.