Obama's cross-party appeal?

Phil Primeau is right to point out that Barack Obama does have a somewhat curious cross-party appeal. However, this support — like Obama's campaign — seems a little empty.

For example, his piece does not point out one specific policy position that would make Obama attractive to Republicans or to anyone. This is not Primeau's fault: Obama does not care much for policy specifics, but rather enjoys vague platitudes about the "politics of hope" (his words) and "a place of stable jobs, amiable foreign relations (that is) not paralyzed by baby boomer culture wars" (Primeau's words).

Primeau mentions Andrew Sullivan's piece in the Atlantic, (Goodbye to All That, December 2007)), which, I would argue, was an assault to serious journalism and smart political engagement. In fact, Sullivan even admits that the logic behind an Obama candidacy “has little to do with his policy proposals.”

He writes:

“Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us.”

This is just silly, Chris Matthews-esque politico hero worship. This worldview asserts that charisma and so-called “intangible” leadership qualities are more important that how one would run the country. And sadly it is dominant in the media’s coverage of US national politics. And we wonder why most American voters don’t really care about issues (AP IPSOS 3.11.2007). And this is without getting into the fact that Obama really has no proposals that appeal to the left either. His health care proposal is a continuing of the status quo; and he, like Hillary Clinton, is totally Rubinized with virtually no new economic ideas.

The one thing that Obama offers both the left and the right is that he is not Hillary Clinton, whose pathetic triangulations, war mongering and submissiveness to corporations irritate lefties like me, while the fact that she is a Clinton irritates conservatives like Sullivan. Hell, even Sean Hannity types occasionally speak glowingly of Obama.

And this is what I think is at the root of Obama “cross-party appeal.” Indeed, not being Hillary is a good thing. But it doesn’t make him a good presidential candidate – and certainly not a “transformational” one.