Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama: I'm a divider not a uniter

Throughout his presidential campaign, Barack Obama has consistently touted himself as the candidate who will work with Republicans to bring unity to Washington. His recent remarks in Denver, however, reveal that Obama's idea of "reaching across the aisle" is to build a large enough Democratic majority so that he can steam roll the Republican minority. In other words, the only real unity is when everyone agrees (or is forced to go along) with him.

In his speech, Obama depicted Clinton as a calculating, poll-tested divisive figure who will only inspire greater partisan divisions as she sides with Republicans on issues such as trade, the role of lobbyists in politics and national security.

Now does this make sense? Democrats and Republicans coming together and actually agreeing on things -- some call this bipartisanship -- is going to be divisive and lead to greater partisanship?

"Democrats will win in November and build a majority in Congress not by nominating a candidate who will unite the other party against us, but by choosing one who can unite this country around a movement for change," Obama said."

So finding common ground with Republicans "will unite them against us," while ignoring their ideas and forcing our ideas down their throats is the real path to unity.

Later Obama says:
"We need to offer the American people a clear contrast on national security, and when I am the nominee of the Democratic Party, that is exactly what I will do.

This is the point. Unity is not possible when Democrats and Republicans hold contrary views on so many big issues -- national security, abortion, the economy, illegal immigration, health care, education, etc. We shouldn't be seeking unity, but rather honest debate and discussion over these disagreements.

One of the lessons of the last seven years is that the quest for unity and bipartisanship is neither attainable nor desirable. George Bush tried it, on everything from education (No Child Left Behind), to prescription drugs, to illegal immigration. What did it get us? A bunch of policies that no one is happy with. For Democrats, it's never enough; for Republicans it's always too much.

Meanwhile, did Bush get any credit for having reached across the aisle? Did Democrats embrace his attempts to bring the parties together to get something done? Not close. Far from achieving unity, it's rare enough these days that we even rise to civility (especially from the left).

So let's recognize appeals to unity for what they are -- vacuous pandering as a substitute for serious ideas. Democracy doesn't require unity. It thrives instead on the clarity that can only come about through the clash of ideas offered honestly and openly.

No comments: