Obama’s moderation

Obama voted “No” on Roberts and Alito. Knowing how to sound conciliatory isn’t the same as not knowing how to stand on principle.

One of Andrew Sullivan’s conservative friends points out that Obama voted against confirming John Roberts as Chief Justice. (And, it might be added, against confirming Samuel Alito as an Associate Justice.)

With Roberts and Alito poised join their fellow right-wing Republicans in disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of (mostly Democratic) elderly, young, and poor voters for the crime of not having a driver’s license showing a current address &#8212 a measure nominally adopted to counteract a nonexistent form of voter fraud but actually to help Republican candidates win elections &#8212 some of us may regard those votes as a feature, not a bug.

By the same token, Obama’s votes ought to reassure those who fear that his failure to start each campaign rally with a Two Minutes’ Hate directed at conservatives means that he’s not prepared to act aggressively on liberal principles.

Progressives who will accept nothing less than the Two Minutes’ Hate, and conservatives who think of a “reasonable” liberal as one with no backbone, will not find what they want in Sen. Obama. Conservatives willing to settle for an opponent who will reason with them in good faith, and liberals who prefer winning the policy battles to triumphing in the culture wars, will find him more to their taste.

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