Obama Moves to the Left Ahead of General Election

It's a truism in American politics that one governs and campaigns from the base, and then moves to the center for general election politics. We've seen it from Mitt Romney this cycle, and from both Republicans and Democrats in both previous election cycles.

Of course, President Obama doesn't have a significant primary from which to shift to the center. But it's remarkable that the President has been making shifts to the left on hot button from marriage equality to immigration in the approach to the general election. It's an extremely unusual phenomenon in the realm of Presidential politics, particularly on the left.

There are a few ways of looking at it. One is to cheer that the Left is increasing in power and political acceptance such that the President is able and willing to take bold positions. But it's also equally valid to angry at the President for not taking these sorts of stands earlier.

After all, if it's good policy to affirm the right of loving couple to marry and allow blameless DREAMers to remain in the U.S. in June 2012, wasn't it good policy in June 2010 as well? If the Obama Administration is doing this in order to shore up base support for its own reelection bid, why did it not do likewise to preserve Democratic Congressional majorities in 2010?

There's another disturbing point here: all of these moves are carefully calculated based on polling and focus groups. In order for the President to feel comfortable taking these stands, one of two things (or both) must be true: either the LGBT and Latino base is furious enough with the President to cost him his election, and/or those all-important "moderates" in swing states like Ohio must not care that badly about deporting DREAMers or letting gays get married.

If the former, how is it that the President wasn't aware of this problem earlier? It's been brewing for years. If the latter, why take more centrist stands in the first place? And why not be unafraid tolead in any case?

Hullabaloo / By David Atkins

Posted at June 15, 2012, 11:03am