The Anti-Change Candidate

Paul Krugman has an excellent article about how Barack Obama’s approach to faux change not only fails to produce progress but actually regress the ability for the country to move forward.

Over the last few days Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards have been conducting a long-range argument over health care that gets right to this issue. And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve.

The argument began during the Democratic debate, when the moderator — Carolyn Washburn, the editor of The Des Moines Register — suggested that Mr. Edwards shouldn’t be so harsh on the wealthy and special interests, because “the same groups are often responsible for getting things done in Washington.”

Mr. Edwards replied, “Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy; it will never happen.”

This was pretty clearly a swipe at Mr. Obama, who has repeatedly said that health reform should be negotiated at a “big table” that would include insurance companies and drug companies.

On Saturday Mr. Obama responded, this time criticizing Mr. Edwards by name. He declared that “We want to reduce the power of drug companies and insurance companies and so forth, but the notion that they will have no say-so at all in anything is just not realistic.”

It’s about time Edwards started fighting back. Obama’s been attacking him for a week now.

As a result, drug and insurance companies — backed by the conservative movement as a whole — will be implacably opposed to any significant reforms. And what would Mr. Obama do then? “I’ll get on television and say Harry and Louise are lying,” he says. I’m sure the lobbyists are terrified.

As health care goes, so goes the rest of the progressive agenda. Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.

Which brings me to a big worry about Mr. Obama: in an important sense, he has in effect become the anti-change candidate.

When it comes to politics there are two methods you can take to passing your agenda in the landmine field that is Washington. One method involves taking the power away through direct confrontation, finding the landmines and taking them out. The second method involves using your experience and knowledge to navigate through the minefield, where you’ve spent time before. The method Obama is offering equates to being able to talk your way through the field of mines. Herein lies the obvious problem. You cant talk your away through a field of mines.

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