Barack Obama Faces False Choices

Forget left vs. right, Main Street vs. Wall Street--President-elect Obama should try bold, persistent experimentation.


It is important for President-elect Obama, his policy team, and—perhaps most of all—the rest of us, to beware of false choices.

Left vs. right.

Main Street vs. Wall Street.

Stimulus vs. Thrift.

Big Government vs. Small.

These are the phony alternatives now being defined by Washington wise guys and the national media.

This is especially true among the various C- and D-list talking heads, who are being called upon to fill the endless cable TV gabfests of the presidential transition period and know little but how to parrot the stale, conventional wisdom.

But if Obama's victory stands for anything, it is the desire to move beyond the same old same old.

And he should understand that the political coalition that elected him could melt away as quickly as it formed.

We face a political future dominated by pragmatic, independent-minded voters who will be forming and reforming, in pollster Peter Hart's evocative description, ever-shifting "coalitions of mercury."

The Obama administration, and the Democrats in Congress, can best succeed by keeping this in mind. American voters did not choose a socialist over a capitalist; they made a leap of faith that an audacious and dynamic young leader can make the government work—with efficiency, care, and imagination—for the American people.

Barack Obama can meet his promise if he delivers what Franklin D. Roosevelt vowed to supply at a somewhat similar moment in American history.

Not ideological rigidity but "bold and persistent experimentation."

  • Click here to read more by John Aloysius Farrell.
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  • Click here to read more about the Obama transition.
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