The changing face of Democrats: How Obama has blurred party lines

HarrisonFinzel8-27The recent signing of the 2014 Farm Bill — which includes an $8.7 billion cut in food stamps over the next 10 years — is just the latest example of Democratic leadership capitulating to the demands of the Republican Party. Instead of fighting tooth and nail to remove the cuts, the Democrats settled on the $8.7 billion figure, without any mention from President Obama about the cut to food stamps. For a President who has stated that the defining challenge of our time is income inequality, his recent acceptance of the Farm Bill suggests a reluctance to actually take the stand necessary to defend those who are most economically challenged.

Then again, this is the same President who grilled the Bush administration in 2008 for being “one of the most secretive in our nation’s history” and hailed whistleblowers as “the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government,” but then subsequently vilified the actions of the whistleblowers during his administration, namely Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

It would appear that, when it’s convenient, President Obama sticks to the talking points that Sen. Obama had. Take his stance on marijuana, for instance. In 2004 Obama suggested that we “need to re-think how we operate in the drug war. … We are not doing a good job.” His laxness towards enforcing federal law in Colorado and Washington is one place where Obama has remained consistent over the last decade. Enforcing those laws in the states in which marijuana is legal would be more trouble than it’s worth, and Obama recognizes this. Sticking to what Sen. Obama said seems to be the exception, not the rule, for our current President.

Obama is far from the only Democrat changing his tune, however. The White House’s policy of drone warfare has taken a complete about-face from the Democratic standpoint of 10 years ago. What was once criticism under Bush has turned into compliance under Obama on the part of the Democratic Party. The numbers don’t lie. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the final tally for all Pakistan drone strikes by President Bush rests at 51, over the course of five years’ striking (2004-09). Since Obama has taken office, he has launched 330 strikes against the same country within the same time frame of only five years. The same people who once disparaged drone strikes are now the ones keeping the program strong. It is important, though, to note that Obama never publicly denounced drone strikes prior to becoming president, while many of his Democrat colleagues did.

The Democratic Party has decided to follow the President instead of following the issues, and its fair-weather moral compass leaves a lot to be desired. This all reflects a much larger trend in American politics — the party-line voting of both our constituents and our representatives. Our Congress is remarkable for its ability to re-frame any debate as an “us vs. them” debacle, where supercharged rhetoric inhibits a precise, serious discussion about issues ranging from abortion and gay rights to immigration and gun control.

This in turn leads voters to cast their ballots according to what politicians with their party say instead of what their policies actually entail. Obama is the latest, most visible politician to do this same flip-flopping, and any criticism leveled at him could easily be redirected to hundreds of others in the local, state and national legislatures. Regardless of one’s own political affiliation, we should all be able to agree that a clear exchange of ideas is essential to preserving our country’s future and the integrity of political debate.

The redness or blueness of our politicians is completely irrelevant in face of the ideological, intellectual and moral grayness that they display on a regular basis.

Reach the columnist at hfinzel@asu.edu

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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