Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sunstein on Obama: The Visionary Minimalist


To understand what makes him so distinctive, and why American politics has never seen anyone quite like him before, we would do well to start with a little constitutional theory.

Some judges are minimalists; other judges are visionaries. In deciding constitutional cases, minimalists gravitate toward the least controversial grounds. They like consensus and favor incompletely theorized agreements.... Not unlike the great conservative Edmund Burke, minimalists are fearful of those who are gripped by abstractions, simple ideologies, and large-scale theories. Minimalists tend to respect traditions, and they do not believe that long-standing practices should be altered lightly or without a careful analysis that includes many voices.

... In sharp contrast, visionaries have a large-scale understanding of where the nation should be heading. They are entirely willing to press a controversial theory about, say, liberty or equality or the president's power as commander-in-chief, even if that theory offends many Americans. Visionaries object that minimalists are too cautious, too accommodating, too fearful. If visions call for wholesale rejection of the views of "the other side," so be it...

Barack Obama is widely regarded as a visionary because of his emphasis on "change" and his soaring rhetoric, but he also has strong minimalist tendencies... Like all minimalists, Obama believes that real change usually requires consensus, learning, and accommodation--a belief directly reflected in many of his policies.... Rejecting the orthodoxy of many Democrats, Obama does not want to excise religion from the public sphere. He insists only that "[w]hat our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values."

...Obama's candidacy is producing a kind of national exhilaration not seen in many decades, his practice of anti-identity politics is a key factor.

(Thanks to L for sending me this link)

Chistopher Hitchens deconstructs this claim "his practice of anti-identity politics is a key factor" as yet another example of what he calls "auction of ethnic self-pity

Here again, the problem is that Sen. Obama wants us to transcend something at the same time he implicitly asks us to give that same something as a reason to vote for him. I must say that the lyricism with which he does this has double and triple the charm of Mrs. Clinton’s heavily-scripted trudge through the landscape, but the irony is still the same.

What are we trying to “get over” here? We are trying to get over the hideous legacy of slavery and segregation. But Mr. Obama is not a part of this legacy. His father was a citizen of Kenya, an independent African country, and his mother was a “white” American. He is as distant from the real “plantation” as I am. How — unless one thinks obsessively about color while affecting not to do so — does this make him “black”?

For some reason I'm reminded of the film "The Illusionist".


At 11:18 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama has close ties to the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam. Obama's brother and sister are Muslims, and his brother has some ties to VERY questionable charities. Look for this news to come out in the coming weeks.

At 12:26 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obama ...widely regarded as a visionary because of his emphasis on "change" ..."

That's about as revolutionary a concept in political campaigning as an advertising exec. adding the words "New," "Exciting," or "Now on Sale" to the marketing of any product. Only a media-lobotomized and memory-challenged electorate could be taken in by such childlike abstactions.

At 12:36 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obama has close ties to the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam."

Close ties? Any evidence?

Not of his pastor praising Farrakhan, but Mr. Obama himself.

I thought not.

At 3:25 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Sunsteins definitions, GW Bush is a Minimalist Visionary.


BTW, I do think that Obama's politics are past the classic black racialist paradigm. He realizes that the problems of the black community are the problems of all communities. No need for separate laws or programs for black folks. He believes in self responsibility, like Farrakhan I might add, but not the separationist victimization politics.


At 3:26 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which really makes his choice of church, very peculiar.

At 3:59 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NC: There is that. Then there is Obama's explicit commitment to Martin Luther King, who, some say, he is trying to emulate, in political form. MLK was a friend of the Jews, of Israel and of Zionism, as we can judge from this letter:

I'm still apprehensive about Obama's choice of Foreign Policy advisor. But as your article points out, he seems to echo Bush's observations about Israel's security. Obama might yet be the president that Bush would have been had he possessed the same eloquence... I think his choice of vice president might give us a better foothold in deciding the measure of the man.

I also think Obama should seriously reconsider his choice of a church. Part of great leadership is in making this kind of rending decisions:

“I forgot to shake hands and be friendly. It was an important lesson about leadership.”
Lee Iacocca

At 4:17 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama might yet be the president that Bush would have been had he possessed the same eloquence... --- from Noga's link quote

Not likely. An eloquent Bush would make him more like Blair, but without the broad Leftist policy postions and pre and pro -scriptions.


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