Libertarians and Conservatives for Obama

I’ve discussed several time how Barack Obama is receiving support from many libertarians and conservatives, as well as libertarian aspects of Obama’s views. This includes favorable comments from David Friedman. Bruce Bartlett has an article on this support in The New Republic:

The largest group of Obamacons hail from the libertarian wing of the movement. And it’s not just Andrew Sullivan. Milton and Rose Friedman’s son, David, is signed up with the cause on the grounds that he sees Obama as the better vessel for his father’s cause. Friedman is convinced of Obama’s sympathy for school vouchers–a tendency that the Democratic primaries temporarily suppressed. Scott Flanders, the CEO of Freedom Communications–the company that owns The Orange County Register–told a company meeting that he believes Obama will accomplish the paramount libertarian goals of withdrawing from Iraq and scaling back the Patriot Act.

Libertarians (and other varieties of Obamacons, for that matter) frequently find themselves attracted to Obama on stylistic grounds. That is, they believe that he has surrounded himself with pragmatists, some of whom (significantly) come from the University of Chicago. As the blogger Megan McArdle has written, “His goal is not more government so that we can all be caught up in some giant, expressive exercise of collectively enforcing our collective will on all the other people standing around us in the collective; his goal is improving transparency and minimizing government intrusion while rectifying specific outcomes.”

In nearly every quarter of the movement, you can find conservatives irate over the Iraq war–a war they believe transgresses core principles. And it’s this frustration with the war–and McCain’s pronouncements about victory at any cost–that has led many conservatives into Obama’s arms. Francis Fukuyama, the neoconservative theorist, recently told an Australian journalist that he would reluctantly vote for Obama to hold the Republican Party accountable “for a big policy failure” in Iraq. And he seems to view Obama as the best means for preserving American power, since Obama “symbolizes the ability of the United States to renew itself in a very unexpected way.”

You can find similar sentiments coursing through the Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich’s seminal Obamacon manifesto in The American Conservative. He believes that the war in Iraq has undermined the possibilities for conservative reform at home. The prospects for a conservative revival, therefore, depend on withdrawing from Iraq. Thus the necessity of Obama. “For conservatives, Obama represents a sliver of hope. McCain represents none at all. The choice turns out to be an easy one,” Bacevich concludes.

How substantial is the Obamacon phenomenon? Well, it has even penetrated National Review, the intellectual anchor of the conservative movement. There’s Jeffrey Hart, who has been a senior editor at the magazine since 1968 and even wrote a history of the magazine, The Making of the American Conservative Mind; and Wick Allison, who once served as the magazine’s publisher.

Neither man has renounced his conservatism. Both have come away impressed by Obama’s rhetorical acumen. This is a particular compliment coming from Hart, who wrote speeches for both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. They both like that Obama couches his speeches in a language of uplift and unity. When describing his support for Obama, Allison pointed me in the direction of a column that his wife (who has never supported a Democrat) wrote in The Dallas Morning News: “He speaks with candor and elegance against the kind of politics that have become so dispiriting and for the kind of America I would like to see. As a man, I find Mr. Obama to be prudent, thoughtful, and courageous. His life story embodies the conservative values that go to the core of my beliefs.”

But, if you’re looking for the least likely pool of Obamacons, it would be the supply-siders. And you can even find some of those. Take Larry Hunter, who helped put together the economics passages in the Contract with America and served as chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He concedes that Obama is saying the wrong things on taxes but dismisses it as electioneering. Of far greater importance, in Hunter’s view, is that Obama has the potential to “scramble the political deck, break up old alliances, and bring odd bedfellows together in a new coalition.” And, what’s more important, he views the Republican Party as a “dead, rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of Weekend at Bernie’s, handcuffed to a corpse.” Unless the Republican Party is thoroughly purged of its current leadership, Hunter fears that it “will pollute the political environment to toxic levels and create an epidemic that could damage the country for generations to come.”

PhDiva has a listing of prominent Obamacons. (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan)

Update: Another sign of the continued influence of Chicago school economics on Obama. Greg Sargent reports that Austan Goolsbee is back acting as a surrogate on economic matters. (Now if they can return Samatha Power from her exile due to calling Hillary Clinton a monster we can return to the Austan-Power team of advisers).


  1. 1
    Nick says:

    This principle of conservative values not being only a GOP thing is a new concept that I read about in Current Events, Conservative Outcomes by Freiman.  Freiman believes that conservative values are what make America great and successful and should be an American thing not just a right wing thing.  If Obama can tap this vein of support he will have a cake walk in November.  It was not until the last 30 years or so that the Democratic Party lost its conservative values through the abortion issue and the coming of the flower children.  It would be great to see the DNC go back to its positive roots.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    I’m glad if you see what you consider conservative values in Obama, however the example you give might not work very well. Flower children aren’t an issue this year (if they ever really were) but Obama does support abortion rights. Hopefully he can convince people that he embodies American values (regardless of whether different people label them conservative or liberal values) and conservatives can look beyond the abortion issue.

  3. 3
    Funkool says:

    Libertarians & conservatives both believe in economic freedom, but the latter are inconsistent in less on social freedom. Aware of the Nolan chart?
    Abortion is clearly fine & the fetus is not yet a full human, having no awareness what-so-ever. It is protected in the Constitution, under the amendment of no involuntary servitude. A woman has a right to remove a growth in her body.
    One strange thing about abortion, is that if not allowed, it becomes an economic issue. Who is going to pay for the unwanted being? We would also need more prisons, in about 18 years.
    To not allow abortion, a welfare state & an authoritarian state are needed. Religiously, if a fetus has a soul–no sin, go to heaven. However, I wonder about communication, any thought processes or any kind of understanding for a being that has no awareness & no experiences.

  4. 4
    Nick says:

    Unfortunately those flower children from the 60’s and 70’s are the wild left that has kidnapped the DNC.  Most of us are not that far left. 

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:


    The flower children have little to do with the libertarians, although there might be some overlap.

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