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Obama: “Go Big Or Go Home”

May 10, 2012

I don’t know if Barack Obama and his political team planned the sequence of events that led to yesterday’s announcement by Obama that he supports same-sex marriage to the degree that Charlie Pierce suggests (and for what it’s worth, David Corn, who has pretty good sources in the administration, disagrees)but I do think it’s likely Obama has planned for some weeks or months to make that announcement.

I think that because it fits with what could be called Obama’s “Go Big Or Go Home” approach to politics.  For all the ways in which he’s calm, understated, reasonable, willing, even eager to compromise with political opponents (often far beyond what many of his allies would like), Barack Obama is a politician who want to do big things, and have a big impact.  And when push comes to shove, Obama goes big:

  • After Democrats lost their 60 vote supermajority in the Senate when Scott Brown won the special election to replace Ted Kennedy, Obama ignored the advice of Rahm Emmanuel and Barney Frank (among others) and pushed ahead with a strategy to pass the Affordable Care Act.
  • When presented with options for going after the man US intelligence agencies thought was Osama bin Laden (but weren’t sure), Obama not only decided to go ahead, but chose a high risk operation that Defense Sec. Robert Gates and VP Joe Biden (among others) advised against.
  • When confronted in early 2011 with a Republican House determined to cut spending and deficits without raising taxes, Obama—against the advice of almost every senior Democrat on Capitol Hill—spent months negotiating with Speaker John Boehner in the (ultimately failed) hope of securing a (big) $4 trillion debt reduction deal.

Part of the hysteria and extremism on display during the Republican presidential primaries—and evident in the platform on which Mitt Romney is running—reflects the fact that today’s Republican Party is more extremist and more unified than at perhaps any other time in its history.  (Yes, even in its founding anti-slavery years.)

But part of the hysteria and extremism is driven by the fact that Barack Obama ran for president on a platform of making big changes, and he’s governed as a president who is making big changes.  And if he’s re-elected, extremist Republicans aren’t wrong to fear that the USA of 2020 may well be a nation dramatically reshaped over the previous eight years…and reshaped in ways that further isolate and weaken the political and social power of the conservative movement.

From → Politics

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