The Choice of Democrats

In The American Prospect, Ezra Klein on the choice between Hillary and Obama:

Many of Clinton’s economic plans are universal as well. Indeed, her health-care plan, with its mandate, is a truer expression of the principle than Obama’s competing proposal. But in general, Clinton’s approach doesn’t display much of a unifying theme. Her health plan is universal because that makes it a better policy, not because she conceives of social policy within a universalistic framework as such. Which gets to the real difference between the two candidates, which is not in what they want to do with the economy, or even what they believe about it, but how they conceive of the president’s role in affecting it.

Where Obama speaks of trends and values, situating his policies within the broader forces shaping our culture as well as our society, Clinton speaks of individual problems and solitary obstacles, offering her proposals as discrete solutions to identifiable challenges. Her approach was well expressed in a speech she gave in Knoxville, Iowa. “The next president,” she said, “will be a steward of our economy at a time when the bills from eight years of neglect and mismanagement will be coming due.”

That is why, when you ask Clinton’s advisers about their economic plans, they’re likely to point you toward various policies she’s proposed and pieces of legislation she’s sponsored, most of which are admirable, forward-thinking, and thoughtfully designed. That is what a responsible economic steward does: competently manage the economy; identify and propose policies to solve problems when appropriate; leave things alone if they’re humming along satisfactorily.

Obama’s advisers, by contrast, are likely to point you toward his speech at the NASDAQ, which highlighted his desire to transform our economy through the application of moral leadership. There, Obama went before an audience of bankers and stockbrokers and spoke, not of our growth numbers or our credit problems but of our economic values…