And out of hope, cynicism

Ezra Klein notes disapprovingly that Obama will likely appoint former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack to Agriculture Secretary:

If the Department of Agriculture sees large farmers and farm producing states (like Iowa), rather than individual eaters, as their primary constituency, then we’ll have a farm policy geared towards those interests. But eaters have interests here too, as do taxpayers, and parents, and energy advocates, and the public health community. They, however, are not well represented in Iowa politics. The fact that Obama is already signaling that his chief agricultural appointment will hail from the land of corn, and whose agricultural experience will mainly have been keeping powerful corn interests happy with him, is not a good sign. Vilsack could surprise, of course. But the indication here is that Obama will not upend the ag subsidy apple cart.

This is not surprising. All you had to do was look at Obama’s consistent support for subsidies, his campaigning in the Midwest, or the prominent New York Times article discussing his advisors’ ties to the ethanol industry to know that his mantra of change is not going to extend to our wasteful agricultural policies. Klein, to his credit, was not unaware of this, though he hoped for better once the pressures of the election were removed. But why? The fact that Obama reads Michael Pollan and buys arugula at Whole Foods doesn’t mean he’s going to pursue the kinds of policies preferred by people who also read Michael Pollan and buy arugula at Whole Foods.

If Vilsack is indeed the nominee, that doesn’t bode well for Obama’s willingness to challenge conventional politics. A week after the election we’ve already seen signs of continued subsidies to corn growers, support for corporate welfare for automakers, and a more conservative approach to halting intelligence and civil liberties abuses than many were hoping for. I never had high hopes for Obama, but even I’m surprised at how quickly he’s managing to show that, however inspiring he may be, he’s still just another damn politician.

That said, I’ll forgive the rocky start if he throws us civil libertarians a big bone to chew on sometime soon.


8 thoughts on “And out of hope, cynicism”

  1. “…he’s still just another damn politician.”

    No one outside of Cult of Obama ever doubted that. The “hope” I referred to in the title was the hope that his election inspired, that America had finally shown (rather than just talked about) how one can ascend from even the most humble and unlikely beginnings to be President. That doesn’t mean you can do it without turning into a damn politician.

    “Obama will not upend the ag subsidy apple cart.”

    Did anyone honestly expect him to? It’s been the status quo for so long it’s going to require something quite revolutionary to change it.

  2. Of course no one expected Obama to upend the apple cart. That was one of the main reasons I hesitated to support Obama, but I reasoned that cutting ag subsidies was Congress’ job, not the President’s. In that sense, sending the anti-subsidy McCain back to Congress while removing the pro-subsidy Biden and Obama may actually help things. (Which is why I would have liked Collin Peterson to get a cabinet spot, if for no other reason than that it gets his pork-lovin’ ass out of Congress.)

  3. Mike, this wasn’t directed at you, despite me riffing on your title.

    But guys, yes, people did expect better from Obama on this. The guy I linked to, for example. Or Alice Waters, who also gushed about the fact that Obama reads Pollan. Or on the trade side of subsidies, the many libertarians who’ve thought that because he has some good economic advisors and is a smart guy, the real Obama will reveal himself post-election as something of a free trader. This nomination doesn’t bode well for those prospects.

  4. If those people expected better of him, all they had to do, as you said, is look at his consistent support for subsidies. If they filled in a fantasy candidate for the real one, that’s their problem. To expect a politician to suddenly change for the better after an election is like expecting a cheating boyfriend to suddenly turn faithful once you marry him.

    Still, as I said on Jeff’s blog, I still think the Wall Street Journal article on Obama’s intelligence positions is nothing but innuendo. I’m willing to be proven wrong by events, but aside from the FISA vote, there’s nothing I’ve seen to indicate he’s changed his stated positions on waterboarding, Guantanamo, etc.

  5. Agreed, Ben. I’m holding out hope on the intelligence/detainee issues as well. Still, it’s not encouraging that his campaign seems to be making an effort to downplay expectations rather than putting up a confident face. And as noted elsewhere, the ideas for executive orders they’ve floated so far have stayed away from these issues.

  6. No, I know it wasn’t directed at me, no worries. Still, I’ve got to agree with Ben that if people thought that, just because Obama is intelligent and reasonable, he would suddenly reverse himself, they were simply misguided. However, Ben’s analogy does at least suggest a reason why so many women voted for Obama.

  7. “However, Ben’s analogy does at least suggest a reason why so many women voted for Obama.” I know it was a joke but wow, that’s not in the least bit offensive. Jeesh.

    Count me in as a woman who did not vote for Obama and never saw him as particularly intelligent, reasonable, or visionary. Rather, I’ve seen him as a poll-chasing sexist hypocrite since he gave a defense of traditional marriage and moral values speech in 2004 the day after the election because it was where the polls were saying the country was.

    I saw nothing in the election process that showed me that he would produce this grand change he keeps talking about and his run of the mill appointments so far haven’t changed my mind.

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