Obama is a thoroughly modern Washington liberal. Despite his personal popularity and his success at the polls, he recognizes that, in large swaths of America, the very word “liberal” remains a pejorative term—especially when it is applied to programs aimed at helping the poor, the low-paid, and the brown-skinned. Operating in what is largely hostile terrain, the crafty liberal politician operates not by subterfuge, exactly, but by embracing subtlety, coöption, and compromise. He wraps himself in the flag and refers to himself as a moderate. He talks about “opportunity” rather than “equality.” And he tries to hit singles and doubles rather than go for the long ball.
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