Areas of Agreement Between Obama and McCain

Back in February, when I became pretty confident that the general election race would be between Barack Obama and John McCain, I called this a Triumph of The Independents, And of Reality Based Voters. The candidate from each party which most attracted independents (and centrists) appeared to be winning while the Republicans were unable to find a candidate who supported the most extreme of the views they have promoted over the past eight years.

The Los Angeles Times look at the areas where Obama and McCain agree. Both support ending the federal ban on funding stem cell research. They quote John Isaacs, an arms control advocate, of finding common ground between the two and coming to this conclusion:

“It debunks the common view that Obama is the most liberal Democratic senator,” Isaacs said. “And it debunks the view that McCain is really the third Bush term.”

They find other areas where their views are similar:

On immigration, faith-based social services, expanded government wiretapping, global warming and more, Obama and McCain have arrived at similar stances — even as they have spent weeks trying to amplify the differences between them on other issues, such as healthcare and taxes.

The article does overlook some significant differences on these issues. Obama’s position on faith-based social programs takes steps to preserve separation of church and state which McCain disagrees on, making it a mistake to say the two agree on the issue. McCain’s support for cap and trade sounds similar to Obama’s view on the surface, but McCain’s program is far weaker. The article is inaccurate in claiming that Obama’s views on Iraq have come any closer to McCain’s. The fundamental disagreement remains that Obama understands that our presence in Iraq is part of the problem and supports leaving while McCain is willing to remain in Iraq for one hundred years.

The article is also inaccurate on their positions on FISA. While both supported the compromise, they came to the compromise from different perspectives. Democrats such as Obama who supported the compromise saw this as an improvement over the status quo and desired to reduce even further the ability for the government to engage in warrant-less wiretapping, along with opposing the retroactive immunity. Republicans who supported the compromise would prefer that some of the restrictions not be included. In a democracy two different groups might both vote for a compromise bill, but that does not mean that their views are the same. Obama and McCain will likely handle this issue far differently if elected. Obama would be far more likely to respect the rule of law in ordering wiretaps, and would be far more likely than McCain to have previous abuses investigated.

Another area where the two do have similar views is immigration:

Although those issues are not prominent in the campaign debate, the candidates are also converging on the major issue of immigration — to the surprise and delight of immigrant advocates and businesses who depend on their labor.

“The best news all year is that after competitive presidential primaries in both parties, we end up with nominees on both sides who get it on immigration,” said John Gay, an official with the National Restaurant Assn. who heads a business coalition favoring a legalization plan for undocumented immigrant workers. “That was by no means a certainty when the campaign got started.”

Unfortunately McCain has actually been all over the place on immigration when it came time to vote. He also used his influence to prevent an immigration bill from being considered this year to avoid having it become a campaign issue. While one businessman above might be happy with McCain, this has caused a number of headaches for businessmen in the tourist industry here in Michigan (and I assume elsewhere as well).

While not discussed in this article, yet another issue where the partisan divide is now decreased is over torture. At least in terms of rhetoric, McCain breaks from the Bush administration’s support of torture, but he has been less consistent when voting.

A race between Obama and McCain does have two candidates with views more attractive to the center than was the case four years ago, with McCain representing an improvement from the extremism of George Bush in some areas. The Republicans under Bush had moved so far towards the extreme right that they had no choice but to move a bit towards the middle to win any election, including primary battles among long time Republicans. While an improvement, McCain remains far to the right of center. leaving Obama as the better alternative for independents and centrists, as well as Democrats.

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