Saturday, February 16, 2008

Substance, Substance, Substance

Hilzoy, an excellent blogger at Obsidian Wings, has a great article about all of the obscure but important legislation that Barack Obama has sponsored in the Senate. I have to note one caveat about Hilzoy's analysis. She posted this a while ago. It's from October. October 2006. That was before the Democrats took back the Senate, and before Obama decided to run for President. She makes this point:

I have been surprised by how often Senator Obama turns up, sponsoring or co-sponsoring really good legislation on some topic that isn't wildly sexy, but does matter. His bills tend to have the following features: they are good and thoughtful bills that try to solve real problems; they are in general not terribly flashy; and they tend to focus on achieving solutions acceptable to all concerned, not by compromising on principle, but by genuinely trying to craft a solution that everyone can get behind.
And this is something that I hadn't thot of:

a lot of people are going on about how Obama has not sponsored legislation on any of the Vital Issues Of The Day. Personally, I think that he'd have to be delusional to introduce, say, his own solution to the health insurance crisis: no bill on such a topic introduced by a freshman senator from the minority party would have a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding, and the only reason to introduce one would be to grandstand. For that reason, I think that his failure to do so tends to speak well of him.
So in his first year and a half in the Senate, Obama had already found a number things that he wanted to change. Most of them are the kind of issues that don't affect a lot of people, at least not at first, but are actually very important, and could become life-altering. Like Nonproliferation, which Hilzoy describes as "the poster child for issues that people ought to care about, but don't." Or avian flu. Or helping hospitals to develop programs for disclosure of medical errors.

This may be part of why people don't realize that Obama is actually a very substantive kind of guy. He is, in part, a policy wonk. But you don't get crowds riled up talking about regulating genetic testing. That stuff is really boring for about 99.9% of Americans. But that is the nuts and bolts of democracy.
I've read Hilzoy every now and then, but I am going to pay more attention to her blog from now on. Particularly since I just discovered that she is a professor of philosophy.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan


Gwennegaia said...

So, is the mention of Andrew Sullivan referring to his excellent article about Obama? He puts into words many of the feelings and ideas I had, but had not pinned down.......great article. and affirms my excitement about Obama's candidacy. hope he does well tomorrow.........

Glad to here about Obama's senate work........thanx.

JohnTEQP said...

I mentioned Andrew Sullivan because he provided a link to Hilzoy's article. That's what "Hat Tip" means - I'm acknowledging that he pointed me in the right direction.