Lots of people like Barack Obama. He’s now the frontrunner for the democratic nomination, and if he does get it, He’ll be hard to beat for McCain. He’s articulate, charismatic and black. This appeals to a lot of people, not just in the U.S. but it seems around the world and here in Sri Lanka. The 20-somethings I meet often are captivated by his persona, excited about his message of “Hope” and “Change” and optimistic about the prospect of an Obama Presidency.
Obama has been celebrated as a Liberal Reagan – the great communicator of the American Left (which btw, is not so ‘left’ compared to say, Sri Lanka). People have written essays claiming he’s a left-libertarian, a Civil-Libertarian, a principled guy, a generation’s hope, yada yada. He has lot of independents supporting him, and even some conservatives. That’s all great. What’s going for Obama is that he’s the new kid on the block, so he doesn’t have a lot of baggage. Couple this with the kind of romance that people have developed for him, it makes people want to cherry-pick facts and project him as whoever they want to. As others have noted, Obama as of now is whatever people want him to be. Infatuation can do that to people.
There was a time not so long ago I was idealistic enough for this kind of blind romance, but those days are gone. This romance is unhealthy, because it stops you from actually examining the issues.
Let’s take foreign policy. Now I oppose the Iraq war, and I agree with the fundamentals of his withdrawal plan. But Obama’s position on the Iraq isn’t necessarily principled as some would like it to be, it’s just populist. His call for a troop withdrawal in Iraq is not coming from a principled non-interventionist position, based on his assessment of ground realities or from a fundamental change in the way U.S. approaches foreign policy, it’s coming from an assessment of voter sentiment.
My biggest beef with Obama of course, is with his economics, I’m not going to talk much about specific U.S. domestic policy issues, but it’s safe to say that Obama offers no “change” from the standard liberal democrat rhetoric, except Obama’s whole game is based on rhetoric.
Where Obama suck is trade, his “fair trade” plan would not only have free-traders worried (that’s basically most economists on the planet – including Obama’s own advisors.) but his “Fair Trade” plan to protect American jobs and Open foreign markets will have Oxfam-type- Do-gooder Fair Traders scratching their heads. Obama wants to talk to Chaves, but wants to renegotiate NAFTA. In other words he wants to talk to their oil-dictator while screwing over the people of Latin America.
Having civil liberties for Americans doesn’t really matter for the rest of us, but trade and foreign policy, those are heavy impact areas. It’s time some of us stop being swept away by Obama speeches and really look into what policies Obama’s advocating. If you agree – if you think protecting American jobs at our cost is a good thing – fine enough. But otherwise, it’s time to stop being in love and grow up.