Barack Obama: The Audacity Of Hope. Chapter One: Republicans And Democrats. Identity And Philosophy.
Barack Obama in this chapter discusses the difference between Republicans and Democrats historically and up to the present day. He notes that the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt has become more conservative recently hearkening back to the party as it was in the Twenties before the Great Depression
The party of Nelson Rockefeller made up of moderates who would go along to get along has disappeared. There have been changes in the Democratic Party also. The party once run by big city bosses and with a contingent from the Solid South has also disappeared. Also the party that ruled Congress for forty years after World War II is gone.
However while the Democrats have held on to the idea that politics is a game of achieving goals incrementally by give and take and compromise to the benefit of society in general, the Republicans have become more conservative and more absolutist.
Republican party discipline is rigidly enforced by its leaders. Districts have been gerrymandered into safe districts except if a member breaks a party rule like no new taxes then he is met by an onslaught of media attack ads and vituperation and vilification on conservative talk shows. Thus a shiny new true believer is put in his place as payment to the chastised and dismissed member for daring to vote his beliefs or conscience.
Beyond this the Republican Party has been taken over by its conservative wing and there are fewer moderates to meet and reach decisions somewhere in the middle. Now it’s our way or the highway and lobbyists like Grover Norquist who are not elected but have more power over issues than elected members decide policies and even the fate of elected members. They control big money donors so if a tenet of their conservative philosophy is violated by a member he can expect to be vigorously opposed in the next primary. Also new members are forced to sign pledges to vote certain ways on measures like no new taxes.
Barack Obama thinks that this polarity and absolutism exhibited by the Republican right is preventing the government from enacting legislation fair to all Americans or even functioning properly as a governing body in a democratic society
Instead the Republicans have a limited focus for government, no safety net, no health care, no consumer protection, small government, no regulation of commerce, free markets and government should only provide for the national defense and protection of private property.
Obama sees this situation as a bad one for all concerned. Without a strong and vibrant middle class and with proper education for all Americans we will not be able to compete in a globalized economy.
The Audacity Of Hope is about changing the status quo in Washington to a government that is more focused on protecting and nourishing all its people and not just the wealthy. To do otherwise would be to abandon our premiere place as the leader of the World to other rising powers. Therefore we must prepare our country to compete in order to hold our place in the world.
This book is different than his first book, Dreams From Father. In that book he seemed to be searching for identification and a philosophy to live by. In this book he appears to have found his identity and philosophy.