Conservatives and Obama

There are some conservatives who practice a knee jerk opposition to Obama, believing that labels like “liberal” and “conservative” mean far more than they do.  As I’ve noted many times before, such labels can be misleading, and will often artificially separate people who agree on more matters than they might realize and can also lump together people who disagree on a number of issues. Some conservatives who have actually paid attention to what Obama believes, as opposed to assuming that every liberal Democrat believes the same things, have actually come to support Obama. One example was in the recent endorsement of Obama by Douglas Kmiec.

Needless to say, many conservatives blogs have been bashing Kmiec for his endorsement of Obama. I did find one astute comment via Andrew Sullivan–another conservative who went from suspicion of Obama to support after he studied his views.  Sullivan quotes this response from a comment at The Volokh Conspiracy:

I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in more than knee-jerk reactions to actually read Kmiec’s piece, and actually read The Audacity of Hope, and actually read Senator Obama’s position summaries online; and seriously ask why a prominent, intelligent conservative would endorse Obama. I’d go so far as to suggest that, for those of us interested in forward-thinking conservativism, Senator Obama provides the best hope since Reagan. He’s the only candidate that has the potential, and an expressed desire, to change the debate and actually face questions like: when should government intervene at all? when it does, how can it be useful and limited? We might not agree with all of Senator Obama’s answers, but he’s the only one that I’ve seen even express an interest in wrestling with the questions.

This is why many conservatives and even libertarians are supporting Obama. I’ve noted many times that Bill Clinton is correct that voting for Obama is a gamble. However given a choice between politicians like John McCain and Hillary Clinton who are unquestioning supporters of massive government intervention and someone like Obama who questions this philosophy I will gamble on Obama.  As I’ve also noted in the past, I anticipate that if Obama is elected I’ll often disagree with what he does–but probably far less than if McCain or Clinton is elected.

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  1. 1
    Politivine says:

    I in fact know many Republicans that will be voting for Obama. I have been doing a good bit of phone banking for the Obama campaign and I have talked to probably 80-100 people that have proclaimed themselves as Republicans, yet they will be voting for Obama. It appears as though there are many more than will be coming over to the Obama side in the general election.

  2. 2
    Wayne says:

    Call me a skeptic, but I would be a lot more willing to believe Obama’s change line if he wasn’t beholden to the remnents of the Chicago Political Machine that believes that the best answer to any question is “raise taxes.” Clean up a bloated, corrupt system, no can’t do that. Obama’s support of Todd Stroger puts a big strain on my trust and faith in him.

  3. 3
    Charters Of Dreams says:

    I think Andrew has a not-at-all secret agenda, and that’s (quoting): “Supporting Obama may well empower liberalism for a generation. I’ve said that for almost a year now. But it might also help defeat the corruption and degeneracy of “conservatism” that now dominates the Republican Party.”

    I think he’s more disappointed with the GOP than anamored of Obama. Obama is, as you’ve convincingly argued, a better choice than HRC, and McCain is another long nightmear waiting to happen. Who’s left to support? That would be my position, if I vote for a leading nominee at all, and I think that’s Andrew’s position (and I’m sure you’ll have no hesitation about correcting me if I’m wrong).

    Second, at least as of this morning, Andrew is calling Obama what he is, a BIG GOVERNMENT Liberal:

    “This guy is a liberal. Make no mistake about that. He may, in fact, be the most effective liberal advocate I’ve heard in my lifetime. As a conservative, I think he could be absolutely lethal to what’s left of the tradition of individualism, self-reliance, and small government that I find myself quixotically attached to”

    he continues:

    “From the content and structure of Obama’s pitch to the base, it’s also clear to me that whatever illusions I had about his small-c conservatism, he’s a big government liberal with – for a liberal – the most attractive persona and best-developed arguments since JFK.”

    P.S. Congratulations on the new blog — it looks great, but I think your comment’s website input box is buggy: links back to my blog are broken or misdirecting . . . it’s weird.

  4. 4
    Marion says:

    I’m hearing of more republicans switching to support Obama in my little desert community in California for the very same reasons in this article. He shows integrity, wisdom, maturity and a comprehensive grasp of the critical issues America faces. The other two candidates are either liars and cannot speak before a group without teleprompters. Now McCain says he doesn’t know much about fiscal matters. We also know he doesn’t know much about who we are fighting in Iraq, where he wants to keep us there for 100 years.

    Clearly, Obama is our best bet and more conservatives are realizing that.

  5. 5
    Politivine says:

    Marion, I think you are right. While Obama is certainly not perfect by any means, he is clearly the best choice of the 3 remaining candidates. I think that McCain is nothing more than another Bush term and I simply can’t trust Hillary Clinton any further than I can throw her.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Charters of Dreams,

    Your quote is not from this morning but is a quote from Andrew Sullivan back in the spring of 2007 when he first started following Obama and didn’t really understand his views. He came to better understand Obama over time. Sullivan, like most who have actually paid attention to what Obama is saying, realize it is a mistake to categorize him based upon old liberal/conservative labels. After all, how many liberals get their economic advice from the University of Chicago?

    Sullivan’s view of Obama has changed as he has reviewed his positions. For example last month he wrote:

    In general, they represent different strands of liberalism, and it’s reflected in their campaign rhetoric. Obama tends to emphasize people’s ability to help themselves and their capacity to do so independently of government. Clinton tends to emphasize the neediness of people for government support and help, and she’s much more comfortable with coercive government action.

    It’s “Yes, We Can,” vs “I’ll Take Care Of You.”

    And that’s why a simplistic Obama-is-a-leftist critique won’t work as well as some seem to think. He’s a liberal, but a reconstructed one. He’s the kind of liberal who sees dependency as a problem not a solution. And he’s not a statist in the way previous liberal generations have been. He actually listened to and absorbed some of the conservative critique of liberalism these past two decades. And he has changed not just to protect his right flank.

  7. 7
    Charters Of Dreams says:

    Your agurments are sounds, but how things will play out if/when he’s in the White House is anyone’s guess (look at the 180 degree turn about GWB performed on everyone).

    The Austrian Economists Blog has mis-givings similar to my own, but he too notes the pragmatism of Obama’s economic advisors:

    “Barack Obama sounds like a populist. In fact, his rhetoric often sounds like classic class warfare populism of a William Jennings Bryan where the poor masses are extolled while the rich are ridiculed. But Obama’s actually policy advisors are more mainstream academics, if still more or less left of center compared to the US population.

    But the reality is that he runs on a populist program that says very little of substance, except that he represents hope and change. But why can’t he run on the more “reasonable” policies that his economic advisors are designing to address the economic problems he deems as vital for implementing a program of hope and change? Is this because even a fairly left leaning but respectable economist is more ‘right wing’ from the point of view of the population than is popularly acceptable? I guess the recognition of scarcity, the necessity of trade offs and the importance of incentives is just too much.”

    The Charters of Dreams

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    As I said, it is a gamble. Just as George Bush campaigned against nation building, nobody can predict what anyone will do once in office. Our chances are much better with someone who has shown an understanding of different viewpoints.

    I’m sure you will find many on the right who will express the types of arguments that you again quote. These generally come from people who have a mind set which prevents them from considering the views of someone they see as a liberal Democrat. The last few months I’ve presented many contrary views from conservatives and libertarians who have actually paid attention to what Obama believes and moved beyond biases based upon labels.

  9. 9
    Ryan says:

    Here is another conservative, Andrew Bacevich, supporting Obama. In The American Conservative no less.

    The essential point is this: conservatives intent on voting in November for a candidate who shares their views might as well plan on spending Election Day at home. The Republican Party of Bush, Cheney, and McCain no longer accommodates such a candidate.

    So why consider Obama? For one reason only: because this liberal Democrat has promised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq.

    Granted, his argument is based nearly entirely on one issue, but still.

  10. 10
    Chuck Tinkham says:

    “Yes We Can” instead of “I Will” certainly is a new concept in this country after 16 years! I have never witnessed anyone since I have been alive for 58 years with the exception of JFK who has inspired or motivated so many Americans. Senator Obama is the guy I want to speak for me as an American. He is cool, calm and collect. In my opinion this man has the potential to achieve what many thought was just a dream!

  11. 11
    hiimallen says:

    I am a libritarian conservative who would never vote for a big government socialist like Obama except I will be this fall. The reason is the Republican party sold us small government spending cutters we need another liberal in office so the Republicans will start acting like conservatives instead of just pandering with phony rhetoric.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    hiimallen ,

    It sounds like you have half caught on in your frustration with the Republican Party. You realize that they haven’t practiced a small government philosophy. What you still need to learn is that they never will. They’ve alway stalked small government but have favored big government in practice.

    The Republican Party is about power, not small government. They talk abut small government purely to pick up votes, but once in office their desire for power leads to them wanting a bigger and bigger government under their control.

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