There are 3 areas where I think Barack Obama would be a centrist in governance; areas that while working towards a Democratic nomination he hasn’t been able to explain his actual position on, for fear of driving away primary voters.
1) NAFTA. The infamous memo making the rounds today doesn’t really clarify much to my mind. What is telling is his campaign’s inability to be unequivocal on his NAFTA policy and his refusal to denounce/reject NAFTA outright. His rhetoric thus far is centered around NAFTA’s flaws on inception (and Hillary’s share of responsibility) and the need to take care of workers who lost their jobs. Far from pulling out of it altogether, I think Obama will enhance his Patriot Employment Act ideas in the general and try to get companies to invest in cities like Flint, as well as insuring that companies who build overseas maintain minimum standards for the nation they are in.*
2) Social Security. Far from merely evoking Republican fear points on the subject, I think Obama’s plan to enact Social Security’s solvency through raising the cap is inferior to what I suspect Clinton’s eventual investment style SS plan would provide. I like the idea of stimulating the stock market right now, and I do think the return would be significantly larger.
3) Iraq. His current rhetoric of $9 billion a month being spent in Iraq that could be diverted elsewhere will ring hollow if or when he outlines his future plans for the country. To leave, I think a Marshall Plan style system of wise investment in the nation itself (rather than outside contractors) has to be enacted, and I don’t see the amount of military support needed (or the amount of money required) falling any time soon.
I also think Hillary’s policies in each area would be virtually identical. Bill Clinton proposed investing some of the Social Security trust in 1999, for example. Her possibly fatal flaw was running the primary as if it was the general. By focusing only on swing states, she let Obama’s far superior ground game crush her in dozens of states. By focusing towards the middle on the war and NAFTA, she let Obama hammer her from the left.
* as an aside, I think insuring that NAFTA raises the standard of living for citizens in their own nation is the single largest (and essentially only effective) solution to our immigration issues. Make a Mexican citizen’s life better on their own soil and they won’t seek a better life here.