February 1, 2008

Fun with books: Election 2008 edition

Posted in Books, Politics at 10:14 pm by The Lizard Queen

Katie Couric recently asked a number of the primary candidates, Democratic and Republican, what book — other than the Bible* — they would take to the White House with them. [*I appreciate that Couric included that clause, because you know a number of the candidates would have answered “The Bible, of course,” and we wouldn’t have learned anything new.] Clinton said she’d take the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, for obvious reasons; Obama’s answer was, I think, somewhat more illuminating (emphasis added):

Obama: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals.” It was a biography of Lincoln. And she talks about Lincoln’s capacity to bring opponents of his and people who have run against him in his cabinet. And he was confident enough to be willing to have these dissenting voices and confident enough to listen to the American people and push them outside of their comfort zone. And I think that part of what I want to do as president is push Americans a little bit outside of their comfort zone. It’s a remarkable study in leadership.

A few days ago Melissa McEwan reminded us that “when the Supreme Court struck down the bans against interracial marriage in 1968 through Virginia vs. Loving, SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT of Americans were against interracial marriage” (the statement is from a 2005 blog entry by John Rogers), and so when I hear Obama talk about wanting to push Americans out of their comfort zones, I want to believe he might have same-sex marriage on his mind, which is what I thought of when I read that sentence. Of course, given that it follows “be willing to have these dissenting voices,” I fear that the idea of pushing Americans out of their comfort zones is actually a message to progressives: I’m going to pander to the middle in the name of unity, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.

But maybe I’m just paranoid. Indeed, I rather hope I am.

[Hat tip to Petulant.]



  1. DavidD said,

    “I’m going to pander to the middle in the name of unity, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.”

    I think you’re very close on this one. It might be better if you replace “unity” with “getting elected”. I doubt if it’s an elective desire toward unity the way one might desire civility. It may be more like Lincoln’s attitude toward slavery early on in his Presidency, which was that he would do whatever he had to do with slavery to save the union. Otherwise what difference would it make since there was no slavery in the North?

    I noticed that all 3 major Democratic candidates were opposed to same-sex marriage unequivocally, although they were just as unequivocally against prohibiting it in the Constitution. I assumed they favored civil unions, but I didn’t find that position as prominently displayed. Neither did I find opposition to the death penalty, though I doubt any of them support the death penalty much.

    Like the prohibition against interracial marriage, the death penalty seems destined to die in the courts someday without ever losing its supermajority backing among voters. It’s so costly to have death penalty cases, so arbitrary sometimes, so strange for the state to be killing people after 20 years of appeals that there isn’t much enthusiasm for it legally unless someone wants to posture as strong on crime for the general population, so I’ve read.

    Not all cultural evolution has to wait for a majority of the people to embrace something nontraditional. I think same-sex marriage may evolve this way, through local court cases and personal decisions rather than either the electorate or a great leader saying, yes, now we accept you.

    At the same time, I suppose the politics of hope requires some vagueness, to speak of pushing people outside their comfort zone so that the listener might think that it’s only those other people who will be uncomfortable, since I climbed out of my skin a long time ago. If Sen. Obama were specific about that, a lot of people might say, “No way,” and mean it. So I wouldn’t look for explicit pushing of same-sex marriage, even if he becomes President.

  2. Daddy13 said,

    NBC is being left with people that are much better. ,

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