Now look who’s asking “Who is the real Barack Obama?”
The mixed emotions on the left reflect a larger uncertainty about how to view Mr. Obama. Although National Journal deemed him the most liberal senator based on major votes and many liberals flocked to his campaign, Mr. Obama ran more on inspiration than ideology and has not always adopted the orthodoxy of the left. He proposed expanding health care coverage but does not favor a government-run single-payer system. He has criticized the Bush counterterrorism policies but voted for a compromise surveillance bill.
In a sense, Obama has already unified the country. People on the Right and the Left share a common confusion. We’re only polarized by our hopes. If you want to spot today’s fringe, look for the people who claim to understand perfectly the disconnect of Obama’s actions from his campaign rhetoric.
Liberals are poised for a great disappointment. Even if Obama and his cadre of moderates move leftward, they’ll never take the kind of national security risks that progressives are banking on. The very fact of Obama’s political success is testament to his understanding the limits of “change.” His default liberalism will probably cede ever more ground to his utilitarian chameleonism. As little as we know about the man, they may have been the same thing all along. Let’s not forget, he entered politics as the hand-picked successor to Illinois State Senator Alice Palmer–a bona fide Soviet sympathizer. In those circles, his progressive gestures–whatever else they were–were valuable political currency. When the marketplace shifts, Obama shifts with it. We saw his dramatic changes between the primaries and the general election. He is now in the process of adapting to his new environment. Remember, for Obama there is no red America and no blue America. It’s just a question of finding a convenient position in the blur.