Debate Magazine

Is Obama Moving Further To the Center?

Posted on the 17 February 2013 by Reasoningpolitics @reasonpolitics
Getty Images

Getty Images

After contrasting the State of Union with his second inaugural speech, James P Pinkerton at The American Conservative thinks so, and also sees new opportunity for common ground with Republicans:

And so in his February 12 State of the Union address, Obama used the word “job” or “jobs” no less that 32 times.

Indeed, in his effort to move to the middle, and closer to business, the president’s State of the Union address even sounded some distinctly Republican-friendly notes. Obama called for “comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.” Of course, while the president may see the economic value of greater business confidence and more jobs, he is no supply-sider, yet he also inserted into his speech a call for “a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America.”

For their part, many Republicans, eager to get something done, have been thinking some of the same thoughts. Tax reform is one area where it’s possible that some sort of constructive compromise could emerge between the Obama White House and the Boehner congressional House.

He notes that President Obama’s focus on innovation and research should also be attractive to the GOP:

Then the president, who began his State of the Union with a quote from John F. Kennedy, added another dollop of JFK-esque language: “Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.”

A president who talks like this is not the Alinskyite lefty of feverish conservative imaginings. Instead, this is a President who is trying connect to one of the main cables of American economic thinking—namely, can-do innovation. That’s Schumpeterian “creative destruction” in action, and throughout the history of economic growth, creative destruction, as its name implies, has been associated with progressivism as often as conservatism.

But does Obama really mean it? Will he follow through on his pro-innovation words with pro-innovation deeds? As with Cantor and the Republicans, only time will tell. But for now, Republicans are on notice: The pro-growth Obama of the State of the Union is a much stronger figure than the McGovernite liberal of the Inaugural.

Of course, not everything has to be a fight. It’s also possible for the two parties to agree on things, to their mutual benefit.

So in addition to tax reform, we could yet achieve another bipartisan consensus, on behalf of medical research and cures. Yes, the two parties will continue to fight on everything from deficit spending to the next defense secretary, but on a couple of issues, they could find themselves moving forward together.

Pinkerton also points out the right has seen a change of mind in regards to federal involvement in medicine, or at least in medical research aimed at reducing costs, and may be more in line with the President than they realize:

But the new year has brought new thinking on the right. On February 5, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke to the American Enterprise Institute, declaring, “Long term, controlling health care costs will require smarter federal investments in medical research. Many of today’s cures and life saving treatments are a result of an initial federal investment.” In a piece for, I observed that Republicans were beginning a major shift, from a “Cut Strategy” to a “Cure Strategy.”

Then, a week later came the President’s State of the Union, which zeroed right in on the economic value of medical innovation:

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs.

And as a warning to Republican budget-cutters, he added, “Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.” Indeed, Cantor and other Republicans will now have to develop pro-innovation polices to back up their pro-innovation rhetoric.

I’ll simply finish by pointing out that this sort of independent thinking is exactly why you should be reading The American Conservative.

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