Obama and the right

If Ross Douthat can figure it out, why can’t Paul Krugman?

How come Ross Douthat understands Barack Obama better than, let’s just say, Paul Krugman?

To understand the Right’s mounting disappointment with his candidacy it’s worth pointing out again that in his attempt to bring new voters into the Democratic tent, Obama’s rightward outreach is primarily stylistic rather than substantive. He’s making a bet that the country is already moving left, and that by taking an unusually respectful (by liberal standards) approach to the ideas and grievances that pushed an earlier generation to the right he can win many of them, and their children, back to the liberalism that once dominated American politics. As everyone from Rod Dreher to Mickey Kaus to Steve Sailer have noted, his practical concessions to present-day conservatism are vanishingly small. But he isn’t trying to win over the gang at the Corner, or movement conservatives more generally; he’s trying to win over those voters (and writers) who sometimes think that conservatives make a lot of sense, but whose ideological commitments are ultimately malleable. So of course if you’re an ideological conservative you don’t like what you hear from him; he’s talking to everybody else, but not to you.

At some point, you have to start doubting either the good faith of the Hillaryites who claim that Obama would sell us out to the Right, or their literacy.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com