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article imageOp-Ed: 2012 Election — President Obama, the Conservative Candidate

By Sadiq Green     Apr 12, 2012 in Politics
The narrative used by opponents of President
Barack Obama describe him as a socialist Democrat, overseeing the most ultra-liberal White House in the history of the Republic.
They really may need to revisit their definitions of ultra-liberal and socialist Democrat, neither of which fit this president. When President Obama continued with the economic bailout of the financial institutions that had been instituted by Henry Paulson under the George W. Bush administration, his administration marked a furtherance of the corporatism over government regulations, and other policies the Bush presidency had advocated. The truth of the matter is Mr. Obama is far from being ultra-liberal. If anything, Obama is a true fiscal conservative and his administration, for the most part, has maintained the power and status of big business and has demonstrated its willingness to continue favoring big corporations over government by and for the people.
This White House has actually shown a strong preference for policies with demonstrated Republican support. That’s been obscured by the Republican Party adopting a stance of unified, and occasionally hysterical opposition, not to mention a flood of paranoia about the president’s “true” agenda and background. But as entertaining as Republican Party politics might be, it cannot trump reality. If you want to obsess over origins in American politics, look at the president’s policies, not his birth certificate.
If you put aside the emergency measures required by the financial crisis, three major policy ideas have dominated American politics in recent years: a plan that uses an individual mandate and tax subsidies to achieve near-universal health care; a cap-and-trade plan designed to raise the prices of environmental pollutants to better account for their costs; and bringing tax rates up from their Bush-era lows as part of a bid to reduce the deficit.
In each case, these positions are ones that President Obama and the Democrats have staked out and they are the very positions that moderate Republicans have staked out beforehand. In fact, if you look closely at his positions President Obama is a moderate Republican of the early 1990s. But this Republican Party he’s facing has abandoned many of its best ideas in its effort to oppose him.
Is it an exaggeration to conclude that President Obama’s positions are similar to those of a Republican of the 1990’s? The Republican platform has shifted significantly toward the right. Some of the positions they have adopted recently — such as the actions against public unions they have taken in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, and the budget adopted by the Republican House —are radical by the standards of a Republican like Bob Dole. Whether their strategy is successful will be determined by American voters during the upcoming General Election and likely ones to follow.
Take health-care reform. The individual mandate was developed by a group of conservative economists in the early ’90s. The conservative Heritage Foundation developed an individual-mandate plan of its own, and when President Bill Clinton endorsed an employer mandate in his health-care proposal, both major Republican alternatives centered on an individual mandate. By 1995, more than 20 Senate Republicans, including Chuck Grassley (IA), Orrin Hatch (UT) and Dick Lugar (IN) along with a few others who remain in office had signed one individual mandate bill or another.
The same rings true on cap and trade, which conservatives now call cap and tax. Back then the concern was sulfur dioxide, the cause behind acid rain. President George H.W. Bush wanted a solution that relied on the market rather than on government regulation. So in the Clean Air Act of 1990, he proposed a plan that would cap sulfur-dioxide emissions but let the market decide how to allocate the permits. That was “more compatible with economic growth than using only the command and control approaches of the past,” he said. The plan passed easily, with “aye” votes from Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) and then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (GA) among others. As recently as 2007, Gingrich said that “if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, it’s something I would strongly support.”
As for the 1990 budget deal, President George H.W. Bush initially resisted tax increases before eventually realizing they were necessary to get the job done.
“It is clear to me that both the size of the deficit problem and the need for a package that can be enacted require all of the following: entitlement and mandatory program reform, tax revenue increases, growth incentives, discretionary spending reductions, orderly reductions in defense expenditures, and budget process reform.” – George H.W. Bush
That deal, incidentally, was roughly half tax increases and half spending cuts. President Obama’s budget has far fewer tax increases. And compared with what would happen if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire in 2012, it actually includes a large tax cut.
The normal reason a party abandons its policy ideas, is that those ideas fail in practice. But that’s not the case with Republicans today. Those aforementioned initiatives were wildly successful. Presumed Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney passed an individual mandate as Governor of Massachusetts that drove its number of uninsured citizens below 5 percent. The Clean Air Act of 1990 solved the sulfur-dioxide problem. The 1990 budget deal helped cut the federal deficit and set the stage for the remarkable run of growth that Bill Clinton enjoyed as President.
It appears that as Democrats have moved to the right to pick up Republican votes, Republicans have moved further right to oppose Democratic proposals. Cap and trade didn’t just have Republican support in the 1990s. John McCain (AZ) included a cap-and-trade plan in his 2008 platform. The same goes for an individual mandate, which Grassley endorsed in June 2009, mere months before he began calling the policy “unconstitutional.”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The positions I`m taking now on the budget and a host of others issues, if we had been having this discussion 20 years ago, or even 15 years ago, would have been considered squarely centrist positions. What`s changed is the center of the Republican Party……Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems……There`s a reason why there`s a little bit of confusion in the Republican primary about health care and the individual mandates since it originated as a conservative idea. Now, suddenly, this is some socialist overreach. Ronald Reagan, who, as I recall, is not accused of being a tax and spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficits started to get out of control, that for him to make a deal, he would have to propose both spending cuts and tax increases -- did it multiple times. He could not get through a Republican primary today.
Ronald Reagan, the great Republican President who every Republican candidate since 2008 has alluded to, could not get through a Republican primary today. President Obama himself has been throwing his own policies back into the faces of his Republican critics in attempts to get them to acknowledge that they themselves once supported those same policies. He marvels at how much the Republican Party has shifted to the right and how their own policies and heroes, would be denounced as too left wing by today`s radicalized conservative Republicans.
And the White House has been making this case for a while now. Vice President Joe Biden likes to make the case by saying, “This is not your father`s Republican Party anymore.” This is a fact about the Republican Party, and it is a potentially devastating thing for independent and centrist voters to realize about the Republican Party. President Obama is pointing out that the policies embraced by the last Republican presidential nominee, even just in the last election cycle, are now seen as way too left-wing for today`s Republicans.
"In 2008, the guy I was running against, the Republican nominee, he didn`t deny that climate change might be a problem. He thought it was a good idea for us to ban torture. He was on record as having supported immigration reform." – President Barack Obama
Cap and trade; Senator McCain supported that in 2008. The DREAM Act; many Republicans including Senator McCain in 2008, supported that. A ban on torture; John McCain himself a survivor of prison torture after he was shot down and captured in Vietnam, led the fight within his own party to ban torture while going on to win his party`s nomination for president of the United States. John McCain beat out Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. During that campaign, Romney repeatedly refused to say that waterboarding a person was a way of torturing that person. Would his point of view win out in today`s Republican Party? Or is that yet another issue in which even the politics of John McCain in 2008 are too left wing now for today`s Republicans?
The examples set forth are just a couple of reasons why the claims against President Obama are fallacious. Mr. Obama cannot be an Enemy of big banking, while at the same time its savior, as in the Bank Bailout. He cannot be an Enemy of oil, while at the same time approving more drilling than any president in recent memory. Would an ultra-liberal socialist have extended the Bush Tax Cuts?
Critics like to call Mr. Obama those things and even continue to portray him is a closet Muslim. Perhaps his real secret is that he's a closet Republican. If his opponents and detractors would pay attention to the actions of this president, rather than giving in to ideologically promoting fear-mongering, we might have a more realistic and honest debate about the economic and political state of our country.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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