Hope and Change

With confirmation that Bob Gates will stay on as Secretary of Defense, it now appears that the Obama administration will represent a continuation of Bush-era policies on taxes, response to the current financial crisis, and national security policy, including Iraq. There are still, of course, major areas where mischief may be done; health care and the environment are obvious examples.

But it is curious that so few of Obama’s supporters seem to be dismayed by the prospect of President Bush’s third term. This can’t be what they meant by “hope and change,” yet, apart from the left blogosphere, few complaints have been heard. Reporters in particular seem uniformly pleased at Obama’s personnel choices.

Why are Democrats so passive in the face of what could reasonably be considered a major betrayal? Last night I heard a caller to a talk radio show say something along the lines of “Sure, but now those policies will be carried out competently.” (Gates, for example, will be a lot smarter now.) I think this translates to, “Now those policies will be carried out by a politician with a D after his name.”

It took me a long time to understand that much of our politics is driven by sheer partisanship–not liberal vs. conservative, but Democrat vs. Republican. The fact that the President is a Democrat, regardless of the policies he pursues, really is a big deal to a great many people. As is, in this case, the fact that the President is African-American. So maybe Obama hasn’t betrayed his backers as severely as an ideologue might think; perhaps having a Democrat in the White House (and handing out Washington jobs to other Democrats) really is enough for most of them.

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