Economics, Politics

Can progressives exploit national security fears too?

Free Photo: Men Working in an Aluminum Factory, Boring Holes in Armour

President Obama recently made a speech to graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, arguing that climate change is a national security issue. This is an argument that the Pentagon made in a report last year. Many others have been making it for over a decade.

I’ve often thought that progressives who care about climate change should make the connection to national security more often, in an attempt to appeal to the values of cultural conservatives — although there will of course be limits to the persuasiveness of such an appeal if conservatives perceive it as coming from liberals.

More generally, what President Obama might call “a whole host of”* progressive policies could be advocated on national security grounds. This casts a new light on several previous arguments that have appeared on this blog.

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Obama as Moderate 1990s Republican

I’m not the first person to make this point, but it’s worth reconsidering occasionally: in terms of policy substance, President Obama is in many ways indistinguishable from a moderate 1990s Republican. Despite all the feverish rage on the right directed toward Obama’s supposed radical socialism, the substance of most of the policies Obama supports are safely center-right by 1990s American measures. (Not to mention that by the standards of European politics, where parties explicitly advocating for socialism actually exist, Obama would simply be right-wing: consider his military policies, his support for the regressive status quo in education funding, his rejection of significantly higher taxes and lack of commitment to a significantly more generous safety net, and so on.) The usual and still best example of Obama’s 1990s Republicanism is, of course, the Affordable Care Act, which follows the same general approach to health care promoted by the Heritage Foundation and implemented by Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.

But one implication of the notion of Obama as a moderate 1990s Republican, so far as I know, has not yet been explored.

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