Barack Obama’s mad rush toward the middle
The Democrat is following a well-trod path to moderation on the political stage
L. IAN MACDONALD, The Montreal Gazette, Wednesday, July 23, 2008
…There’s a fine line between pragmatism and cynicism, and Obama runs a risk of crossing it, especially since he started out as the candidate of hope and change.
But Gil Troy, for one, perceives that Obama is returning to his centrist origins, as well as heeding the rules of post-primary positioning.
Troy, a McGill University history professor and presidential scholar, has just brought out a timely book in the U.S. on the subject of centrism in American politics, entitled Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents.
“When you read Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, or when you hear his 2004 speech to the Democratic convention,” Troy says, “that’s a much more centrist vision than what we saw in the primaries.”
From Washington, where he’s a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Centre, Troy adds: “I look at it less as pandering that someone needs to do than as someone being what he’s always been.”
In Troy’s centrist all-star lineup, Obama could fit right in with 20th-century presidents who usually found the common middle ground – Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. It was Reagan who named the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, to the Supreme Court.
“To the frustration of his core supporters,” writes Troy, “Reagan repeatedly compromised, caring more about national unity, relative political calm and his own popularity.”
Troy defines the “Great American Centre” as having “a long proud history of offering a muscular moderation, not a mushy middle.”
Obama also seems to be on what Troy describes in his book as “this search for the centre, this majoritarian stance, (which) may be the quintessential democratic quest.”