Richter Scale

Obama and the Surprising Return of the Moderate Republican

Contrary to conventional wisdom, how has moderate Republicanism made a comeback in Washington?


  • Mr. Obama has been truer to Republican colors than the 41st president.
  • The best way for many Democrats to understand Barack Obama is to realize that he isn't truly a Democrat — but rather a moderate Republican.
  • One wonders whether the first President Bush would have kept tax cuts in place for the top 2%, as did Mr. Obama.

There is a simple reason why the field of potential Republican contenders for the White House in 2012 seems so devoid of any real winners: A Republican is already firmly entrenched in the White House.

Yes, the best way for many Democrats to understand their own frustrations with Barack Obama is to realize that, when the chips are down, he isn’t truly a Democrat — but rather a moderate Republican.

In many ways, Barack Obama, not George W. Bush, really is the son of George and Barbara.

Just consider how the current U.S. president is often described: aloof, patrician, almost regal in his bearing, mostly interested in foreign policy, has a hard time connecting with real folks. Sounds much like a throwback to the late 1980s and early 1990s, before Bill Clinton and his folksy ways took over Washington.

Even the recent actions in Libya are a replay of the UN-authorized international coalition that Bush Sr. put into place for his conduct of the first Gulf War, which lasted from August 1990 through February 1991.

As is the case with the current episode in Libya, Arab support was considered crucial. Better yet, George H.W. Bush even managed to convince Arabs to cover many of the war costs, while the U.S. military did much of the actual fighting.

No doubt, many Republicans will go ballistic when they hear President Obama described as a moderate Republican. This is because the Republican Party of today, driven as it is by the anti-government Tea Party movement and dominated by pseudo-populists, is far removed from the GOP of two decades ago.

However, the similarities between Barack Obama and George Bush Sr. are unmistakable. Like Bush 41, President Obama is a man who, irrespective of the rhetoric relentlessly hurled at him, ultimately feels quite in tune with the country’s elites.

After all, he is a man whose unlikely path to the Ivy League opened the doors to a stellar career and earned him a place at the very pinnacle of the meritocracy.

He is a man who likes to think about business, infrastructure, industrial policy, the modernization of America, investing public funds for strategic purposes and setting the U.S. economy on the right path — all priorities that his pre-pre-predecessor very much shared.

How far off is that assessment? Just imagine the names that this blue-blooded moderate Republican named George H.W. Bush was called by intra-party foes at the time, especially when he acted responsibly in the interest of moving toward balancing the nation’s books by abandoning his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge.

Yes, it was the right thing to do. And yet, “liar” and “liberal” were among the less strident charges raised against the then-president.

Today, President Obama is weathering similar attacks, with the occasional “socialist” thrown in for good measure.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Obama, by comparison, has been truer to Republican colors than the 41st president. Just think of the deal he cut with congressional Republicans in December 2010 to continue the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for all Americans — even the top 2%.

One wonders whether the first President Bush would have done so. After all, he was quite prepared to take a lot of criticism, even from his own party, in the ardent pursuit of rectifying the nation’s listing fiscal ship.

Of course, there is always hope — the hope that President Obama, as part of his 2012 reelection campaign, will raise his game and live up to the standards of courage and diligence displayed by his fellow patrician office holder in the White House.

Then again, there are those who say that Mr. Obama’s loftiest goal in his first term — raising a cool billion dollars for his 2012 campaign — can only be reached by going where the real bucks are.

Raising taxes on well-to-do campaign contributors would go a long way toward reestablishing budgetary sanity, but it could only hurt the reelection effort. Can you imagine the number of people he and his campaign finance team would pitch to who would laugh them out of town?

Thankfully for Mr. Obama and his campaign team, it won’t come to that. The Republicans in Congress would never let that happen.

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About Stephan Richter

Director of the Global Ideas Center, a global network of authors and analysts, and Editor-in-Chief of The Globalist.

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