American Culture

NYT on Obama: "Can a liberal be a unifier?" Progressives: "YES!"

obama1.jpgBy Martin Bosworth

I’ve seen a lot of brain-crushingly stupid stuff coming out of the so-called “paper of record” in recent years, but this just takes the aneurysm-inducing cake:

To achieve the change the country wants, he says, “we need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents and Republicans together to get things done.” But this promise leads, inevitably, to a question: Can such a majority be built and led by Mr. Obama, whose voting record was, by one ranking, the most liberal in the Senate last year?

I love the fact that Robin Toner (or his/her editor) just threw in that “inevitably,” as if it’s just such a commonly accepted piece of wisdom that a liberal politician cannot possibly unify disparate points of view under their banner. It only gets better from there:

Mr. Obama’s rise has been built in part on the idea that he represents a break from the established identities that have defined many of the nation’s divisions. To many, he embodies a promise to bridge black and white, old and young, rich and poor — and Democrats, Republicans and independents. Even so, Mr. Obama does not come to the campaign with a reputation as one of the most accommodating bridge-builders in the Senate. And while he promises a very different politics from Mrs. Clinton, their voting records in the Senate last year were not strikingly different. A recent analysis of key votes by The National Journal concluded that Mr. Obama had the Senate’s most liberal voting record in 2007; Mrs. Clinton ranked 16th. But of the 267 measures on which both senators voted, the National Journal analysis found that they differed on only 10. (Emphases added.)

I don’t know what’s more insane–that the Grey Lady is relying on data from a study that has been almost universally discredited, or that they’re pursuing the idea that Obama being a liberal senator is a Bad Thing(tm). Not to mention that this flies right in the face of Obama’s proven ability to unite widely disparate groups in a common movement that has continued to defy all expectations, as well as the increasing adoption of “progressive” ideas and labels among the public. Obama himself smartly dodges the Times’ stupid line of attack by adopting the frame that he is both progressive and pragmatic:

Mr. Obama insists that while his core values are progressive, he himself is not ideological. His policy differences with Mrs. Clinton are limited, and his proposals are solidly in the mainstream of Democratic thought. In the interview, for example, he argued that his proposals on health care and the economy, which call for a stronger government role and more regulation, were really about what works. “I’m interested in solving problems as opposed to imposing doctrine,” he said. “I see a lot of convergence of interests among people who in traditional terms are considered to be divided politically.”

I said a year ago that liberal movements, by adopting the term “progressive,” weren’t just shucking off a label that has been tainted by years of insult and invective from the conservative movement, but were defining themselves as truly forward-looking and forward-thinking. Of the remaining candidates standing, Obama has defined himself the same way, and progressives are noticing–most recently through Tom Hayden (who knows a thing or two about progressive movements) and his impassioned endorsement of Obama and his transformational campaign:

We did not foresee the exciting social movement that is the Obama campaign. Many of us supported other candidates, or waited skeptically as weeks and months passed. But the closeness of the race makes it imperative that everyone on the sidelines, everyone in doubt, everyone vascillating, everyone fearing betrayals and the blasting of hope, everyone quarreling over political correctness, must join this fight to the finish. Not since Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign has there been a passion to imagine the world anew like the passion and unprecedented numbers of people mobilized in this campaign.

For the New York Times to publish such a silly, hackneyed, knee-jerk contrarian piece such as this is an embarrassment. But you know what really gets me? What really frosts my ‘nads?

That while acting oh-so-concerned about Obama’s potential divisiveness, the paper’s editors feel no remorse about publishing (and paying) arsefaces like William Kristol to spew their hateful, self-absorbed, and most assuredly divisive invective. Because, of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to assume that Kristol’s opinion about discussing race in America–“Let’s not and say we did”–is somehow unifying, not divisive.

I read it in the Times, after all, so it must be true. Right?

5 replies »

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  2. I think at his point we can cease to be outraged at the NYT’s posturing, and applaud at the sidelines as it commits slow dinosaur-suicide, along with the teevee news and other corporate-agenda media presentations delivered as “news.” We are no longer unsuspecting. The prejudices are there for all too see. Bye bye to one and all and don’t expect tears at your demise.