Why Some Conservatives and Libertarians are Backing Obama

Over the weekend I had a post on a poll which showed that more libertarians support Obama than McCain. Support from libertarians and conservatives for Obama has also been receiving quite a bit of attention from the news media. The latest example comes from the San Francisco Chronicle. Following is a portion of their article from this morning (which got delayed in posting due to intermittent internet access while traveling):

“I do know libertarians who think Obama is the Antichrist, that he’s farther left than John Kerry, much farther left than Bill Clinton, and you’d clearly have to be insane to vote for this guy,” said David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. “But there are libertarians who say, ‘Oh yeah? Do you think Obama will increase spending by $1 trillion, because that’s what Republicans did over the past two presidential terms. So really, how much worse can he be?’ And there are certainly libertarians who think Obama will be better on the war and on foreign policy, on executive power and on surveillance than McCain.”

Libertarians are tired of Christian evangelicals, who they believe captured the GOP under President Bush. Evangelicals, for their part, are skeptical of McCain, who in 2000 called Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance.” McCain has tried to make amends, promising to stand firm on abortion and same-sex marriage, and appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, but mistrust runs deep.

Douglas Kmiec is former chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and now a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University and a devout Catholic. Kmiec endorsed Obama earlier this year, despite his conviction that Obama “believes in a pretty progressive agenda.”

Kmiec said his support deepened after meeting with Obama and other faith leaders last month, during which the busy candidate spent 2 1/2 in a freewheeling discussion with people who differed with him.

“I think he’s the right person at the right time to re-establish principles of constitutional governance that have been ill treated by the current administration, and to free us from the tar paper that we know is Iraq,” Kmiec said, adding that many Republicans privately agree. “I think he’s a man in the market for every good idea he can find, and he doesn’t care what label it comes with.”

David Friedman, the son of late conservative icon and Nobel economist Milton Friedman, has also endorsed Obama. Calling McCain a “nationalist,” Friedman, an economist at Santa Clara University, thinks Obama could turn out like the liberals who deregulated New Zealand’s economy.

“Of the two, Obama is less bad and at least has a chance in some ways of being good,” said Friedman. Friedman likes Obama’s University of Chicago advisers such as Austan Goolsbee and Cass Sunstein, who he believes are trying to forge a new leftism that incorporates free-market views. “I don’t expect to agree in general with them,” Friedman said, “but I certainly would be happy if the left became more libertarian, since the right seems to be less libertarian than it used to be.”

Many see the Iraq war as hostile to conservative values and as a “friend of the state” – something that inherently expands the reach of the government, as Milton Friedman once described war.

“People don’t understand that there has always been a small but very significant element of conservatives who have been against the war from day one and who, like me, also hate George Bush and think he’s the most incompetent president in American history,” said Bruce Bartlett, a supply-side economist who coined the term Obamacons. “The few people who are slavishly pro-Republican, live or die, slavishly pro-Bush like the Weekly Standard crowd, have gotten lot more publicity than they deserve.”

Not surprisingly, not all libertarians go along with supporting Obama:

Many conservatives are looking for a Clintonesque “Sister Soulja” or “end welfare as we know it” moment from Obama, a concrete demonstration of a willingness to abandon Democratic dogma.

“The Republicans have left the libertarian baby on the doorstep, but Democrats won’t open the door,” said Boaz. “There are people saying Obama’s a University of Chicago Democrat, and you can’t spend 10 years at the University of Chicago without having some appreciation for markets. I’d like to believe that. I just don’t see the rubber meeting the road.”

Matt Welch, editor in chief of the libertarian Reason Magazine and author of “McCain, the Myth of a Maverick,” thinks Obama’s conservative support “comes as much anything else from people being exhausted with the Republican coalition, who are mad at one wing or another, and they just think it’s time for them to lose. It’s just, ‘Look, we’re out of ideas, we’re exhausted, it’s not working, we don’t know what our principles are anymore, let’s take one for the team and have a black guy be the president for a while.’ “

Some additional related posts:

The Libertarianism of Barack Obama
Barack Obama’s Libertarian Support

David Friedman on Barack Obama

Libertarians and Conservatives for Obama

The Differences Between Obama and Clinton

Military Officers Association of America: Congress Playing Chicken With Military Family’s Health Care

The New York Times has an story on the battle over physician reimbursement under Medicare, which will be a big issue when Congress returns after the Republicans blocked a measure to resolve the issue before Congress went on recess. The story pretty much repeats material I have discussed here and here.

There is one new piece of information of interest. Previous stories noted that physicians, the AARP, pharmacists, and many medical organizations were in favor of the Democratic bill. The insurance industry is on the other side as the bill would take away the tremendous subsidies they receive to care for Medicare patients. Despite Republican beliefs that the market is always more efficient than government, they pay insurance companies about 13% more than it costs to care for patients under the government program–with most of this money going to increase insurance company profits.

Today’s story reports another group which is backing the Democratic bill. The Military Officers Association of America is also weighing in as Medicare fees schedules are used by Tricare, which covers relatives of active-duty military personnel, military retirees and their dependents. The group told members in a bulletin that Congress is “playing chicken with your health care.”

The A.M.A continues to target Republican Senators who were responsible for blocking the bill which will hopefully put an end to the traditional Republican support from physicians despite supporting policies which have often failed to be in the interests of either health care or of physicians.