The Blog

The Left: This is Not the Obama We Knew

4:23 PM, Dec 18, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Since Obama announced that he has asked pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, liberals have at long last, with a jolt, realized that Obama is a man who professes many stands on issues, but rarely stands up for any of them.

The Warren pick is a political one, and a politically smart one, at that. Warren, despite the determined smearing he'll get from liberals in coming days, is utterly mainstream, ridiculously popular, and politically in line with Obama on issues like "social justice," poverty, AIDS, and the environment.

He's staunchly pro-life and anti-gay marriage, but he's a widely appealing, apolitical figure who speaks to a traditionally right-wing demographic on behalf of some traditionally left-wing policy ideas. He rankles politicos on either side of the aisle, and as such, is the perfect representative for Obama's allegedly "new politics" within an evangelical community that has shown a willingness to move in Obama's direction. There are a lot of moderate evangelicals and white church-attenders out there right now thinking, "Hey, this guy really can relate to us."

The Right has been successful for many years in painting the Democratic Party as both morally incompatible with evangelical beliefs and actively hostile to evangelical voters. Much of the success comes from the fact the Democratic Party and its liberal base have obliged conservatives by openly spurning pro-life Democrats and offering displays like the post-Prop. 8 demonstrations against churches and individual Christians, which have been abusive and sometimes violent.

Obama himself had a 20-year relationship with a radically leftist, anti-American, racist preacher, which undoubtedly kept him from peeling off more evangelicals from the Republican base than he did. He knows luring the ones he did was a remarkable political feat, and it's one he'd like to build on, so he can spread hope 'n' change for eight years. But he also knows there's ground to make up. He knows his liberal base will do its darnedest to drive evangelicals away from the party for the next four years. Facing off on Warren with the same people who are picketing churches in California will go a long way toward making it up, and endangering Republican electoral prospects.

The negative response from the Left has been swift and extreme, but I wonder if it will be sustained. Left-wing blogs and Twitter are ablaze with surprisingly stern denunciations, but creating a formal movement to overturn this decision isn't something the Left wants to get into before their champion even takes office. It's also not a message the Obama-loving press corps will want to carry for activists, which means the controversy may be relegated to Twitter outrage.

Obama's answer to the Rick Warren question at this morning's press conference invoked his campaign message of "healing," and "inclusiveness." He released talking points along the same lines, and I imagine he'll continue to be as dismissive of these questions as he has been about Blagojevich inquiries.

This is not the first time Obama has chosen politically expedient "inclusion" over allegiance to the demands of gay rights advocates. In the South Carolina primary, when Obama needed to appeal to socially conservative blacks backing Hillary Clinton, he had gospel singer Donnie McClurkin sing at a rally. McClurkin's stated views that being gay is a "curse" curable by prayer are much more controversial than Warren's mere opposition to gay marriage, but Obama had him sing at the concert nonetheless. Later, he said he was "disturbed" by those views, but that McClurkin was just one of many acts and of course Obama "disagreed" with him.

Dear liberals, This is the man you voted for, through and through.