Obama's the nominee. Hillary wrapped up her campaign, made nice, gave a totally adequate concession speech, and then threw her full weight behind Obama's candidacy at a rally.
In the last couple of weeks, though, Obama's started to make some moves to the center that have been somewhat worrisome to his more progressive supporters.
1.) While he's always seemed somewhat ambivalent about NAFTA, he always skewed his rhetoric towards opposing it. Now his rhetoric has shifted so that he doesn't really see what the big deal about NAFTA is.
2.) In years past he appeared to support the right of cities to ban handgun ownership, but after the Supreme Court affirmed the right of the citizen to bear arms last week, Obama's come out in support of the decision.
3.) In Illinois, he was part of the commission that halted Illinois's capital punishment regime. Last week when the Supreme Court decided that any crime that does not result in death does not warrant the death penalty (the crime at issue being child rape), Obama came out in opposition to the decision, saying the State should have the right to execute child rapists.
4.) Before, he said he'd filibuster any bill that contained a provision for immunity from prosecution for the telecommunications companies complicit in the government's illegal wiretapping program. Now, he has come out in support of a compromise bill that contains exactly that immunity.
5.) Before he didn't wear that goddamn flag lapel pin because he knew it was cheap, meaningless, and stupid. When someone's running for office, particularly for the highest office in the land, isn't that person's "patriotism" beyond reproach? Has anyone who's ever been accused of not being patriotic enough during an election season actually not loved their country? And who gets to define patriotism? Republicans? Obama showed all of that political silly season stupidity the door. Except ... As you can see in his photo from the cover of Rolling Stone, he's started to wear the flag pin regularly.
My question is this: how much of these shifts are necessary to win the general election, and how much do these shifts to the center dilute his powerful brand?
For myself, the places Obama has shifted to don't bother me much. NAFTA's never been much of an issue for me. I'd have to read about 5 dry economics books to understand half of what people are arguing about, and I'm not interested enough in the issue to do that. I also supported the Supreme Court's decision to decriminalize posession of firearms in one's own home, so Obama's new position is pretty much in line with my own. As for the capital punishment decision the Supreme Court handed down last week, I agreed with it, but I understand that as political theater, it's probably better for a candidate to come down on the side of killing child rapists than to oppose it, no matter their governmental philosophy. But the telecom immunity shift does bother me -- I think we need to know as much as we can about this illegal breach of citizen privacy and now Obama's said, in effect, that no, we don't. And the flag pin, well, that's just disappointing.
The cumulative effect of all this shifting is that I don't feel confident I know where Obama stands on any given issue anymore. On the flip side, I no longer doubt that he has the steely resolve required to win and to govern a divided nation. He's no Jimmy Carter, no McGovern. He's more like JFK. Thoughtful, liberal, but ruthless.
Though I still think Obama's a fantastic politician and one of the best candidates I've had the chance to vote for, I am a little worried that his recent shifts to the center and to the center-right aren't over, and that in his zeal to win over independents he's going to alienate his base and end up being the president we all knew Hillary would have been: just another poll-driven centrist. I hope I look back on this post in a few months and laugh at how alarmist and knee-jerk I was. All I can do is continue to watch and hope.