Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Durable Majority

(First, apologies for the low number of posts lately. There will be more to read after the holidays.)

A quick note - E.J. Dionne on the Rick Warren pick: 
Although I support same-sex marriage, I think that liberals should welcome Obama's success in causing so much consternation on the right. On balance, inviting Warren opens more doors than it closes. [...] liberals also need to come to terms with what it means to build a durable majority. Doing so requires not just easy gestures but hard ones. Here's a prayer that this one will be worth the risks it entails.
This seems like the right idea to me. Back when Karl Rove still enjoyed his reputation as a political guru, he used to talk about the "permanent Republican majority." I never bought into the hype, simply because the Republicans were quickly and intentionally making their tent ever-smaller: Frank Rich has detailed how they became an almost exclusively white party; Andrew Sullivan has detailed how they became an almost exclusively fundamentalist-Christian party; and David Frum has written convincingly about the purge of intellectuals from the party. Between 2004 and 2008, their only regional gains were in the South. These various attributes were embodied in Sarah Palin, and the standard defense of her was that she "energized the base." That's true, but she also alienated most voters (moderates couldn't stand her) and will go down as a major factor in McCain's loss. This apparent disconnect between Republicans and the political center does not portend well. 

All of this is just a long way of saying that a permanent majority (or, more realistically, a durable majority) cannot be a 50% + 1 majority. Obama understands that the tent has to be bigger. The task of governing is quite different from the task of being in the opposition; it's easy to demonize your opponents and stick to your guns when you're not in charge. But Democrats are in power now, and Obama is doing what he's always said he was going to do: bring diverse voices together to seek common ground. Rick Warren may not be my favorite person in the world, but he's immensely popular and undeniably powerful - and in spite of everything, he's done some good work. Obama is being mature and responsible by bringing him on board. It's a painful choice. It's a difficult choice. But I think it's the right choice. 

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