Friday, October 31, 2008

"Socialist" Rhetoric and Its Uses

As is often the case, Matt Yglesias has an interesting point, this time about the gaming and positioning that's sure to ensue if Obama wins next Tuesday*:

Presumably, come January and February conservatives are going to be wanting to argue that Obama’s got no mandate, that Republican legislators have no need to fear him, and that Democratic legislators should live in terror of overreaching. To that end, it’ll be helpful to argue that Obama got elected as a tepid centrist. But in their last-ditch efforts to beat him, they’re doing the reverse, and dramatically overpainting Obama as a wild-eyed radical ready to unleash Marxism on the country. Well, if you spend a month or two running around saying that, and then the voters back the Marxist anyway, he’s got pretty much carte blanche to do what he wants if he wins.
Before the wails of "socialism" and "spreading the wealth" began in earnest, it was routine for the McCain campaign and its flacks to characterize Obama as "the most liberal" Senator.

Obama is not an extraordinarily liberal Senator, and he certainly isn't a socialist, but there is use to be made of these characterizations. In contrast to far too many Democrats, Obama does, fortunately, strike me as someone who understands how to seize political opportunities when they're presented, and moreover as someone who knows how to negotiate.** If he does win***, I hope he works hard to deliver.


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* Polls schmolls! Obama's election is still very much an if -- do vote!!!

** Note to Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski: do you negotiate big purchases in the way you negotiate political deals? If so, I want to sell you a car, or some furniture, or a computer, or something. Call me.

*** Again! He has not won yet! -- do vote!!! McCain supporters are welcome to skip the fuss and take Tuesday as a day of reflection -- quiet, non-voting, reflection. Hang out with the kids. Do some yard work. Watch some re-runs of 24. Take a day trip to someplace nice.

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