I know conservatives weren’t great admirers of Bill Clinton’s AG choices either, but the prospect of Attorney General John Edwards is exactly the sort of thing that ought to make right-wing Obamaphiles think twice.
One would hope that “right-wing Obamaphiles” would do a lot more than that, but I think we should put this Edwards-as-AG talk in perspective. This is the sort of thing Obama’s campaign would have to say to bolster its support among union members as well as among downscale Democratic voters who have tended to vote for Clinton in larger numbers. Whether or not this represents the beginnings of an Obama-Edwards pact, it reveals the present limitations of Obama’s appeal. That Obama and his campaign feel compelled to start spreading information of this kind is a sign of Obama’s electoral weakness within the Democratic Party, to say nothing of his electoral liabilities with the broader electorate, so we would all be getting ahead of ourselves if we are worrying about Obama’s supposed Reagan-like potential and the damage that could be done by his first Cabinet appointments. As I’ve noted before, conservative fear of Obama’s candidacy, much less his Presidency, seems to be driven by false assumptions.
As implausible as it seems to me, let’s speculate on Obama’s chances. If 2008 really is an election that will focus on competence, is that an election Obama can win? It is doubtful. Behind the gauzy talk of hope, Obama is actually quite ideological. After two terms of a highly ideological administration, will a majority support someone almost as ideological as the current President? Even if Obama somehow won because of the deep unpopularity of the other party, he would find himself in the odd position of having constantly to prove himself to progressives who think that he is all together too accommodating while not allowing himself to be isolated and portrayed as a “radical.” Any early overreaching could leave him hobbled after the first midterm elections, and if there is one thing that proponents of grandiose visions of “change” are most susceptible to it is going too far too quickly. In one sense, he would be like Reagan, in that he has declared himself an enemy of the status quo–and not just the Bushian status quo–and would find Washington to be very hostile.