Friday, June 19, 2009

Obama's History Lesson

As majority leader in the United States Senate, Lyndon Johnson was very successful in passing civil rights legislation. This was during the fifties, when Jim Crow laws still dominated the south, and restrictive real estate covenants were the norm in most American cities. Pressured from the left for more action, and obstructed by the racist right, Johnson concentrated on moving the middle. He would go to southern senators and tell them that sooner or latter civil rights laws would pass, and if they wanted to slow things down, they should agree to something. He would then go to liberals on race and tell them that he couldn't get the south to agree to massive reforms, so they should settle for what was possible. And then, after the center had been moved to the left, he would go back and start all over again. In time, little by little he changed things, radically.

I thought of this today, while watching Rachel Maddow on the Charlie Rose Show. They were talking about how disappointed the left was with the Presidency of Barack Obama. Like it or not, President Obama probably can't get most of what the left wants through congress. He can't get single payer, the repeal of the defense of marriage act, the closing of many over-seas American military bases, and far reaching restrictions of green house gases. What he can do is move the center to the left. I may be wrong, but I think that's what he is doing.

It has been my fear that Obama's greatest hurdle is not the right, but liberals who want everything right now, and if they don't get it, they'll stage some sort of revolt. My advice is patience. If Obama is indeed trying to move the center far enough to the left that major change doesn't seem so scary to congress, he needs the support of the liberal left, rather than criticism. And if it's not Obama's strategy, we'll know within a year or two, and then criticism can begin.

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