Instead of complaining about the prevalence of “center right” appointees in Barack Obama’s cabinet, as many on the left seem eager to do, let’s look at it from a different perspective. If you want to change the country by moving it to the left, what’s the best way to actually do it?
America has been a country divided roughly down the middle, so stalemate has been the order of the day whenever a slight Democratic majority tried to accomplish anything substantial. So perhaps the best way for Obama to change the dynamic is to turn to his right and look for those whom he can persuade to adopt his vision.
While he could easily find many to his left willing to take up the cause (as is often recommended by his critics), it will be the allies Obama enlists from his ideological right who can then turn to their right and use their credibility and influence to pull even more allies to share the vision. Allies from Obama’s left won’t be able to do nearly as much to help him expand the coalition for change, so the decision to add Clinton, Jones, Holder, retain Gates, and possibly even to appease Lieberman, may serve to help much more than they hurt his chances of accomplishing his goals.
Think of it as a large tug of war where the rope has been evenly manned by liberals and conservatives and the line of “battle” has been right near the center. Under this scenario, the most conservative loonies at the far right end of the rope are as likely as anyone to be the ones moving it to the right, or at least preventing change toward the left. Factor in the unfortunate reality that some on the left are a bit weak, and you can see how, for the last eight years (and arguably even longer), “change” has only moved to the right!
But just move the line of battle a little to the right by picking up support from some allies from that direction, and then use them as a bridge to pick up a few more allies from their right, and suddenly the dynamic has changed completely. With just a few more supporters on your side of the rope, the far right wingnuts become irrelevant and marginalized because they can’t change the direction of momentum anymore.
And unlike the Bill Clinton era, when the goal was seemingly to pull everyone toward the center, Obama’s goal could still be to move the country in a leftward direction, hopefully in a way that will generate some clear initial successes and perhaps build even more momentum and support from a country that spoke loud and clear in favor of that kind of change.
And it all starts from looking to the right and finding allies who can be a bridge to those even further to the right!