“The Economist” is a rightly respected commentator on the US Elections but in a recent article about Barack Obama they disappointingly argue that:

“Mr Obama needs to embrace centrism as a matter of conviction rather than flirting with it as an instrument of political expediency.”

For many of us looking at Obama as a real beacon of hope in a troubled world it is deeply depressing that a newspaper of The Economist’s stature should be encouraging this sort of woolly thinking.

It is true, of course, that George Bush despite his facile commitment to “compassionate conservatism” is the most right wing President of the United States in living memory. So a move to the centre would be quite some shift. But the original Obama appeal was that he was a genuine liberal and that is where many of watching him from a distance would like him to stay. We don’t like his pragmatic shift rightwards whether it is expediency or a change of mind. We want him to be true to his core values – the ones he movingly expressed in his writings and articulated in his speeches during the Primary campaign.

There are real risks to what Obama seems to be doing – moving expediently to the centre on some key issues. First it opens up the charge of being a Flip-flopper – “Don’t you know at all what you believe in Senator or do you just decide when you read the focus group results” you can imagine McCain saying in the TV debates. Secondly if Obama discards the liberal agenda in the run up to the election how can he implement it if elected? Hypocrisy is a damning charge and Obama really would have to do what he says he will do to avoid it.

Let’s be clear about this. Barack Obama is potentially the best thing to happen to world politics in many a generation. Up to a point those who support him here in Britain (that’s most of us Brits) want him to change radically the imperatives of American foreign and domestic policy. We would accept that he may need to be a little careful and not appear too much of a Pinko in the American political spectrum. But we don’t want him to sacrifice his values just to be elected. That’s what gives politics a bad name and Obama should eschew it.

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