It’s not utterly impossible that John McCain could pull off an historic upset, and I’ll suggest some ways in future posts. But for those who see most polls as imperfect but reasonably genuine attempts to discern the mood of the public rather than as pieces of a gigantic liberal conspiracy to dupe the public into thinking there’s a landslide and going along with it, the smart money has to be on Obama.
So what kind of president might he be. Stuart Taylor of the National Journal, a self-described centrist, has a remarkably thoughtful article in the current issue. He doesn’t see Obama as a sinister terrorist-loving extremist, but looking judiciously at the evidence, he sees a fairly dogmatic, even radical leftist, largely on the evidence of his associations and his 1995 autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” who since becoming a candidate for public office (especially the presidency) has carefully cultivated an image as a pragmatic, cool, calm moderate capable of listening to all sides and bringing people together.
Doubt the radical aspect? He spent his teenage years searching for his black identity, in part mentored in Hawaii by Frank Marshall Davis, “a black-power activist who had once been a member of the Communist Party” who had moved from Chicago. During his first years in college, here at Occidental, he tells us, he chose his friends carefully so he wouldn’t appear to be a sellout, preferring politically active blacks, foreign students, “The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets.” After college he became a community organizer and met and was inspired by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. After law school he returned to Chicago to do socially-conscious law and had a much closer association with Bill Ayers than he has since acknowledged.
During the campaign he has appeared much more pragmatic, and he has won support from moderates and even some conservatives. He has acknowledged that “America’s free market has been the engine of America’s great progress” and said he doesn’t want to return to tax rates of 60 or 70 percent. He has glancingly talked about charter schools and merit pay for teachers and even questioned whether affluent blacks like his children need preferences.
If he governs as a left-liberal ideologue, Taylor asserts, he will be a failure. If he governs as a pragmatic centrist he could be successful. There will be forces pulling him both ways. I suspect we’ll find out.