Obama’s Appeal To Conservative Collegues

One of Obama’s strong points has been his consideration of all viewpoints, allowing him to transcend many of the differences between the left and right in order to seek solutions to today’s problems. This is certainly a needed change after eight years of someone as closed minded as George Bush in the White House (and for the benefit of those discussed in the previous two posts, one of the many reasons to stop Hillary Clinton was to prevent yet another four years of the same problem.) This is a quality which has contributed to many conservatives and libertarians who do not generally support Democrats being able to support Obama. (Recent examples here and here).

Obama’s closest colleagues at the law school tended to be the more liberal members of the faculty–such as Cass Sunstein and Geoffrey Stone–but many conservatives were fond of him, even though they often didn’t see eye to eye. Saul Levmore, the school’s current dean, whose politics are hard to characterize but generally right-leaning, says, “We were intensely interested in him. We were looking for him to say, ‘I’m giving up politics, I want to be an academic.’ We were always in recruiting mode with him.” Epstein, who once almost sold his Hyde Park home to Obama and would buttonhole him to talk about things like state mandates for health insurance, offers one reason why: “He was always a terrific listener. He’d sit there and cock his head, take it all in.”

Of course, as Epstein points out, Obama’s willingness to listen didn’t necessarily mean he was willing to be convinced. “What you don’t get, alas and alack, out of all this is a change in point of view,” Epstein says. “If you ask me whether I had any influence on his intellectual or moral development, I’d say no, not even a little.”

But other Chicago conservatives seem content with the fact that Obama tried to understand their point of view, even if he didn’t wind up adopting it. “What I know from my dealings with him at the law school is that he does really attempt to understand the points of view of other people who look at the world or a particular issue differently than he does,” says Fischel. “He’s much more intellectual, much more thoughtful, much more interested in discussion, debate, and dialogue than the typical politician. And that gives me some confidence about him, even though from my perspective he’s much too liberal. I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my entire life. He’s the first one I might vote for.”

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