Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holding the Bush Administration Accountable: Obama's Agenda

I was reminded of how strong the urge for vindication is for those aghast at the Bush Administration's seemingly precedent-forming legal maneuvers over the past 8 years over at Democracy Interactive yesterday.

Is it wise or foolish to be bipartisan and forgiving? I cringed during the early Clinton years as he reached across the aisle, but felt I had been taught an important lesson in leadership and grew to see his approach as difficult to stomach but wise and ultimately strategic. Of course, it might be easier for me to appreciate Clinton's middle of the road approach because I directly benefited from some of the "concessions" he was able to wrangle from the Republicans (portability of health insurance). Less substantial, but gratifying all the same, was the real difference it makes in cultural approval of a Democratic leader. Clinton effectively took the bite out of Republican attacks in the early Clinton years.

Obama is of the same mold, albeit more overtly and perhaps (I guess we won't know for while) less strategically (or, "more sincerely", judging from his writings).

Do we take this as a reminder to reach for the higher ground, a lesson in civility? Or do we force Obama to take a more aggressive stand?

For now, my hope is that Obama will, strategically, use the goodwill to get some real legislative victories in his first year, but not abandon the real need for Democrats to resolve the injustices of the past 8 years. The accountability can, and from a strategic political perspective, should, come later. I hope there is some way he can signal such intentions to the Democratic base and that the Democratic base will be perceptive and patient. That is my wish. And I say this as someone who voted against Obama in the primary largely due to my fear (based on reading his books) that he would be far too bipartisan for my tastes (and as someone who came to be fan of Max and the Marginalized after hearing their song "Revenge").

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