Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Question of Preferences

It's been awefully busy in Darwin-land this week. We've got members of both sides of the family visiting, and at the same time things have gone nuts at work -- which had me in the office till 11pm on Monday.

There's a Dante post that's sitting half-finished in queue, and a couple substantive ones simmering on the back burner of my mind. But nothing is coming out till tonight at this rate. But I also find myself with a question, which I'd like to try to turn over to our readers.

I'm not sure how many committed liberal/progressive readers we have at this point (Are you still out there, Larry?) but to those who are, and anyone whom Google brings along, I've got a question for you: Are there, from a liberal/progressive perspective, any real policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

On the Republican side, we just came out of a fairly fierce internal fight over who was the "true conservative" candidate, and just about everyone agrees that the presumptive nominee isn't. So there was a great deal of argument about policy, and what was the right policy, and what were the most important policies as we went through out primaries.

From the outside, it looks like the contest between Obama and Clinton is almost strictly one of style: He represents hope. She represents being tough yet understanding.

Clearly, they both have a lot of policy differences with Republicans, but are there really any serious policy differences between the two of them, from an inside POV, or is it strictly style and tactics?

Some of the paeans to Obama that I've read go so far as to suggest that he transcends policy, and wouldn't even need policies because he'd just inspire everyone to be better -- but given that he's running for president rather than prophet I assume that policy (at least in regards to his differences with Republicans, if not between him and Hillary) but be a factor for his supporters.

So what's the Democratic race over: Style or substance?

9 comments:

Steve said...

For all Obama's "hope" talk, it's amazing how devoid of hope this campaign actually is. It seems as though he thinks that America is in ruins and we as individuals and as communities are powerless to improve anything. No, we must rely on his HUGE government programs and regulations or we are surely doomed.

I never thought my disgust for a politician could rival my disgust for the Clintons. But at least the Clintons don't actively masquerade as Christian while advocating the baby-butchering agenda.

Steve said...

Something else that always strikes me about Obama in this campaign.

Obama campaigning in South Carolina: "I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."

Pope Benedict in Jesus of Nazareth: “Earthly kingdoms remain earthly kingdoms, and anyone who claims to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays right into his hands.”

Yikes.

bink said...

Nothing but style in this campaign. The Democrats are divided based upon the person running, not their policies.

Cliff said...

Man, are u really serious or just lib baiting? :)lol

JHB said...

The only issue I can really remember disagreement on was whether or health care plans should have mandates attached. Obama was against them, Clinton was for them. Other than that, it seems like style to me, and both seem much further left than Kerry in 2004.

I don't what to think about Obama. He's a great orator, but his speeches are full of statements like 'we're going to rebuild America blocky by block' and messianic assurances of a coming golden age that 'won't be easy' to achieve but is coming. Every time I formulate that complaint, though, it strikes me as such a banal observation; of course he's over-promising - that is a large part of what politicians do. I can't really put my finger on why his particular brand of over-promising irritates me.

Is it because he delivers the lines more convincingly?

Darwin said...

It looks to me like just about purely a question of style, personal as well as rhetorical. And that seems alien enough to me (as one used to GOP fights over issues) that I'm honestly wondering if there's something that I'm missing due to having such an alien view of the Democratic primaries.

j. christian said...

Wow, Steve. I didn't know Obama said that. (I did read that quotation in the Pope's book, though. It was a very persuasive chapter that every progressive Catholic should read and ponder.)

See, it's not that I despise government-run programs a priori. Whether a good or service is provided by the private or public sector is mostly a matter that can be debated on technical terms.

What really bothers me about the progressive POV is this belief that it's possible to make the Kingdom on Earth. The temptation to use the coercive power of the state suddenly becomes too great, once you've done away with Original Sin and the need for a divine redemption. I always wonder, when will there be enough "change" and "progress?" Will we know when we reach that glorious endpoint? Or is it more likely that, being human and deeply flawed, we will never be satisfied, we will still have things that divide us, and so we will find ever more trivial matters for our government to police? It seems that the major industrial nations of our era have already gotten to that stage, what some like to call the Nanny State. These nations are like those so-called 'helicopter parents,' the ones hovering over their children lest they scrape a knee...

(To be fair, there is a similar temptation to state power, I think, among the most hawkish, law-and-order conservatives when it comes to matters of foreign policy and criminal justice.)

Obama has embraced the Messiah talk too much. It's creepy at this point. A liberal President is one thing, but a liberal President who thinks he's the Second Coming is scary.

DMinor said...

Politics 1934: "Every Man a King"
- Huey Long
Politics 2008: "I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."
- Barack Obama
Makes you say hmmmm. . . . .

A Philosopher said...

Obama and Clinton are quite close on most issues (roughly, both are slightly-left-of-moderate Democrats, with Clinton perhaps a hair further to the left). So the Democratic primaries are, as I see it, over four issues:

(1) Electability. This is the big one, I suspect - voters are trying to work out which of Obama and Clinton is best able to defeat (presumably) McCain in the general election.

(2) Personality/Character. Presidential elections in the United States have never been exclusively about policy issues - there's always a question about whether the people respect and trust the candidate, and view the candidate as able to provide effective leadership. I suspect that concerns about being able to work toward healing an increasing political partisanship play a role here, too.

(3) The Clinton name. We've now gone Bush-Clinton-Bush for the last 20 years, and people are sensitive to the question of whether we want to continue the alternating pattern. Feelings go both ways on this, often, I suspect, even within the same person.

(4) Gender. The exit polling seems to me to show that there continues to be real resistance to the idea of a female president (compare, especially, the distribution of the vote between men and women).

Also, on the "Kingdom" issue: I see this point raised against liberals all the time, and I just don't understand it. I don't know a liberal anywhere who thinks that we, through our collective action whether realized through the state or otherwise, can bring about perfection. All we think is that often we can make things better. Of course, it's natural when one sets out to motivate people to improve things to cast the rhetoric at a high plane, but we all know the difference between the rhetoric and the reality.