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Time For Obama to Slaughter Some Sacred Cows

By Blake D. Dvorak

On June 3 Barack Obama danced dangerously close to self-parody when he declared that the day of his victory over Hillary Clinton was the day "when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Isn't "saving-the-world" talk better left for general election victories or inaugural addresses?

But Obama returned from heaven's heights on Father's Day with a speech on the plight of fatherhood in the black community. It is a common enough theme in black churches, but on the national scene Bill Cosby has been alone on that front for far too long. Obama then followed that with an economic speech Monday that acknowledged the benefits of globalization and the dangers of building a "fortress around America." What a welcome change from the anti-NAFTA populism of the primaries.

The media will of course say Obama is transitioning for the general election. He is. But since emerging from the primaries, Obama's problem is that his entire candidacy is focused on the theme of change. Yet when Obama is not delivering vague proclamations about hope and change from the stump, he's proposing standard liberal fare as a matter of policy. As John McCain says often enough, on no issue has Obama ever opposed the special interests of his party.

Both speeches this week showed a bare willingness to make up for this. But again, neither were anything that we wouldn't expect from a generic Democrat running for president.

Complicating Obama's problem is the presence of those 18 million voters who didn't vote for him, specifically the working-class white voters nestled - it just so happens - in some of the most important battleground states. It is not a coincidence that the very voters Obama needs to win oppose many of the Democratic interest groups he has had a hard time disagreeing with.

Which means that Obama needs to slaughter one or two of the left's sacred cows and convince these voters that he's more than just an ideological lefty. Here are a few suggestions:

School choice: Vouchers remain unpopular with the general public, but charter schools and education tax credits are gaining in popularity, mostly due to the results. In Washington, D.C., the charter school program enjoys a 90% satisfaction rating, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yet congressional Democrats, urged on by the teachers unions, are trying to destroy the program.

Here's a case where Obama can say that when there's solid evidence of improvement he is willing to change his mind. He should come out against those Democrats and teachers unions trying to kill the D.C. program and say he supports similar programs around the country. Again, he doesn't need to abandon his support of public education to admit that in this instance the Right is not entirely wrong.

Second Amendment: The Supreme Court is about to decide the case on D.C.'s handgun ban. As a presidential candidate, Obama has had to do what every Democrat running for president has done: Voice support of the Second Amendment but maintain that there is room for restrictions. This weakness of this position has yielded the issue of gun rights to Republicans because it convinces so few voters - the same voters who remember Obama telling them how they "cling" to their guns.

The Court's overturning of D.C.'s handgun ban would give Obama the cover he would need to reverse (slightly) his position on guns. Even if it doesn't, Obama need only say that he recognizes that guns are used for protection, not just hunting, and that his administration will protect that right. It's a tall order, since it would require Obama to go back on decades of established liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment.

The United Nations: Petty tyrants and anti-Semitic gasbags have long since corrupted Turtle Bay. Even when you take out the riffraff what remains is an ineffective peace-keeping body whose guiding light is reactionary anti-Americanism. While ignoring the former, the internationalist left applauds the latter.

Obama doesn't need to go so far as to propose leaving the U.N., but he should recognize that the "blame Bush" talk won't end with an Obama Administration. Stating this fact and urging some measure of reform wouldn't destroy Obama's internationalist message. In fact, it would make it stronger and more palpable for Americans who might be weary of Bush's unilateralism but resistant to handing over more power to a body that lets Hugo Chavez be a member.

This certainly isn't all Obama could do. In the end he might do nothing. The anti-Republican sentiment in the country, mixed with Obama's own political gifts, could very well be enough to win in November. But if it is, then the only "change" we can expect is of the liberal variety, which decidedly isn't the kind of "remaking-the-nation" change Obama is promising. The problem with real change is that it takes a bit of political courage.

Blake D. Dvorak is an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics.

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