Another Conservative Activist Endorses Obama

With the Republicans in recent years becoming the party of big government, and with their support for both the Iraq war and the associated assults on civil liberties, many principled conservatives and libertarians are now backing Barack Obama instead of John McCain. I’ve posted many previous examples of this, with the most recent post here. There’s yet one more to add to the list. In an op-ed in The New York Daily News Larry Hunter explains why he supports Obama.

Hunter describes his conservative credentials:

I’m a lifelong Republican – a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp’s Empower America.

Hunter explains why a conservative activist such as himself is backing Obama:

The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies – this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.

Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats – these are of greater importance.

John McCain would continue the Bush administration’s commitment to interventionism and constitutional overreach. Obama promises a humbler engagement with our allies, while promising retaliation against any enemy who dares attack us. That’s what conservatism used to mean – and it’s what George W. Bush promised as a candidate.

Hunter has reservations about Obama on domestic policy but sees reason to believe that he is not as opposed to conservative views as many on the right are claiming:

…he says just about all the wrong things on domestic issues doesn’t bother me as much as it once would have. After all, the Republicans said all the right things – fiscal responsibility, spending restraint – and it didn’t mean a thing. It is a sad commentary on American politics today, but it’s taken as a given that politicians, all of them, must pander, obfuscate and prevaricate.

Besides, I suspect Obama is more free-market friendly than he lets on. He taught at the University of Chicago, a hotbed of right-of-center thought. His economic advisers, notably Austan Goolsbee, recognize that ordinary citizens stand to gain more from open markets than from government meddling. That’s got to rub off.

It would be more accurate to say that many Democrats are more “free-market friendly” than the right wing noise machine claims. At least many conservatives such as Hunter are more open to considering a Democrat such as Obama, seeing him as more of a centrist than a left wing extremist. At very least, Hunter believes that Obama would do less harm (from a conservative perspective) than the Republicans have done:

But overall, based on his embrace of centrist advisers and policies, it seems likely that Obama will turn out to be in the mold of John Kennedy – who was fond of noting that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Over the last few decades, economic growth has made Americans at every income level better off. For all his borderline pessimistic rhetoric, Obama knows this. And I believe he is savvy enough to realize that the real threat to middle-class families and the poor – an economic undertow that drags everyone down – cannot be counteracted by an activist government.

Or maybe not. But here’s the thing: Even if my hopes on domestic policy are dashed and Obama reveals himself as an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-wool, big-government liberal, I’m still voting for him.

These past eight years, we have spent over a trillion dollars on foreign soil – and lost countless lives – and done what I consider irreparable damage to our Constitution.

If economic damage from well-intentioned but misbegotten Obama economic schemes is the ransom we must pay him to clean up this foreign policy mess, then so be it. It’s not nearly as costly as enduring four more years of what we suffered the last eight years.


  1. 1
    mpower says:

    hunter’s migration to the center-left, and his rationale for doing so, mirror my own position and feelings.  this lifelong republican is also voting for obama, for exactly the reasons that mr. hunter describes here.

    if “conservatives” still loyal to the GOP are looking for something to blame for their collapse, look no further than the bush administration… bush didn’t qualify for conservative support (and nomination) in 2000, and he shouldn’t have been allowed to run the country into the ground (with full cooperation from a “conservative” congress).

    so-called “conservatives” need to look in the mirror and recognize the evil and wrongdoing that has been done in their name for the past 8 years. as more libertarians and other factions finally abandon the GOP, their ‘permanent majority’ is fast becoming a ‘permanent minority’. this will be the legacy of the bush white house – the death of imperialist conservatism.

  2. 2
    mpower says:

    …and the birth of the libertarian center?

  3. 3
    Jerry says:

    As usual, I find myself in complete agreement with your points, Ron, and I only write in order to extend one of them:
    ‘It would be more accurate to say that many Democrats are more “free-market friendly” than the right wing noise machine claims.’
    True enough, but the reason they can claim that with any believability at all has to do with the Hillary “nanny state” approach to government. I believe (though I have little proof other than Obama’s success) that most “liberals” have become much more in sync with market-driven economics than, say, ten years ago. As is so often the case, the “right” lives in a time warp of their own design. It’s simply easier to keep a defunct lie spinning than it is to spin up a brand new one.
    Just as the GOP was taken over by this weird belief that nation building and monstrous deficits are ok as long as it’s their guy doing it, the Democrats seem to be the new home of true conservatism with a social conscience. Some have arrived here via enlightenment that the two are not oil and water, while others have simply been pushed to accept a compromise, as Hunter has.
    Nevertheless, this is a tremendous opportunity for those of us who agree 90+% of the time with Obama. It means that an unlikely coalition is going to give these ideas a chance. The bigger the victory in November, the better chance Obama will have to get things through Congress and the longer he’ll have before he has to show results.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    “True enough, but the reason they can claim that with any believability at all has to do with the Hillary “nanny state” approach to government.”

    There is certainly a variety of views on economics in the Democratic Party–making right wing attacks correct at times, but their general argument lumping all Democrats together is way off.

    Many of Clinton’s nanny state views are on issues other than pure economics.  Despite her resorting to populism for political reasons this year, the Clintons are hardly anti-market even if wrong on a number of economic issues.

    The left includes those who are more anti-market and those who are more free market oriented such as Obama. Similarly the right still includes some who are more free market oriented, while the Republican Party has generally moved in a big government, corporate welfare direction which is further away from capitalism than the views of many Democrats.

  5. 5
    Jerry says:

    Ron wrote: “Despite her resorting to populism for political reasons this year, the Clintons are hardly anti-market even if wrong on a number of economic issues.”
    Actually, I was careful to say “Hillary nanny state”, because Bill didn’t go in for nanny-nomics the way Hillary does.  I don’t think you can lump the “Clintons” together on economic issues. Specifically I’m talking about Hillary approach to achieving universal health care.  No market-driven incentives, just require participation and punish those who don’t – or more likely can’t. This is an approach very in line with nanny thinking. Nanny states keep track of everyone and punish bad boys and girls; it is in fact  what they do best.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’m not sure if you can lump the Clintons together on economics or anything else. They don’t really have positions in the sense that the average person has positions. For them principles do change based upon what is politically expedient. Therefore if Hillary says something now which varies from what Bill in the past, how can you be certain if there is a difference in opinion as opposed to them differing a joint strategic position based upon which is politically more expedient at the time?

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