…people on the left, especially during the dark days of the early oughts, and, historically, in the eighties with the New Democrats, have shown a willingness to say, “Whoa, something isn’t working here.” Sometimes that took the form of saying that liberals need to be more pragmatic, more conservative, etc., and sometimes it took the form of people calling for a return to and revitalization of core progressive principles. Obama certainly has borrowed from both of these exercises in redefinition: He’s pragmatic in many respects, shading toward conservative in his understanding of family and faith, but also has made forthright defenses of liberal ideas on civil rights and investment.
But I, for one, would like to see a better conservative opposition, if only because I’d rather spend my days arguing about policy than trying to convince readers that liberal political candidates aren’t terrorist sympathizers. Maybe this is simply a symptom of the final days of a long and strange election, but it often feels like conservatives and liberals are talking past each other; not in the usual way, where fundamental differences in values make our various proposals incompatible, but because there are conservatives who are focusing on Obama’s imaginary “utopianism” while so many liberals are focused on asking why we’re in Iraq or what will be done about the economy. It’s certainly a metaphor for the campaign, where Obama’s bread-and-butter approach has seen a success while McCain’s character-driven campaign has thus far failed to resonate.