Michael Lind’s recent post at Salon reminds us that many of Obama’s policies are similar to the old “liberal” wing of the Republican Party. Lind argues that the Obama administration “is the third Clinton administration–or perhaps the fifth Eisenhower administration, following the four combined terms of Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton (by comparison to both Richard Nixon, as president, was a New Deal liberal).”
With the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, the Republican presidential field is weak on candidates who could appeal to centrist swing voters, including moderate Republicans. But there is one 2012 prospect who has a proven track record of pursuing policies that owe a great deal to the moderate Republican tradition and who could potentially shake up the race for the GOP presidential nomination: President Barack Obama.
If Obama chose to run for reelection not as a Democrat but as a moderate Republican, he could bring about two healthy transformations in the American political system. The moderate wing of the Republican Party could be restored. And the Democratic presidential nomination might be opened up to politicians from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.
In the last generation, the old-fashioned moderate Republicans from New England and the Midwest symbolized by Nelson Rockefeller have been driven out of the GOP by the conservative followers of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Streaming into the Democratic Party as voters, and buying it with ample Wall Street cash as donors, this upscale elite has changed the party from a populist liberal alliance of unionized workers and populists into a socially liberal, economically conservative version of the old country-club Republicanism of the pre-Reagan era. The transformation began under Jimmy Carter, accelerated under Bill Clinton and has nearly been completed under Barack Obama. This is not your grandfather’s Democratic Party. It is your grandfather’s Republican Party of 1955.
Lind has even written Obama’s acceptance speech at the 2012 GOP Convention:
“I have fought against the failed tradition of New Deal liberalism from the strongest possible position — the presidency. When the liberals wanted to nationalize the banks, I bailed them out and let their executives reap huge bonuses, thanks to the taxpayers. When the liberals wanted an expansion of Lyndon Johnson’s big government Medicare, I said no and pushed for a version of the Heritage Foundation’s healthcare coverage plan and what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts. When the liberals wanted a bigger stimulus, I drew the line in the sand. When the liberals criticized the Bowles-Simpson plan to gut Social Security and Medicare, I praised it. When the liberals demanded tougher action against Chinese mercantilist policies that hurt our manufacturing industries, I said no and sided with the U.S. multinationals that want to appease the Chinese government. When the liberals wanted America to withdraw from Afghanistan, I sided with the neoconservatives and ordered the surge. When the voices of the old, failed liberalism said that Congress has a part to play in authorizing foreign wars, I ignored that radical liberal assault on unchecked, arbitrary presidential power and ordered the U.S. to war in Libya on my own authority.
Look out Mitt, here comes Barack!