Conservatives for Obama II
When I saw the headline “Hunter: This conservative activist is backing Obama” on memeorandum yesterday, I was intrigued. Duncan Hunter, arguably the most conservative of the 2008 Republican presidential aspirants was endorsing a liberal Democrat?! When it turned out the “Hunter” in question was Larry Hunter, a fellow of whom I’d never previously heard, my interest waned. After all, party activists switch parties on occasion, for all manner of reasons.
My interest was renewed, however, when my old friend Steven Taylor quoted the piece favorably, concentrating especially on “Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies — this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.” Taylor observes,
The main positive reason I can conjure for voting for McCain is divided government. However, since the current divided government situation has not generated much in terms of addressing these keys issues about executive power, one wonders about that argument as well. At a minimum I find myself for the first time in my life in a position where I could see myself voting Democratic, Republican or Libertarian. And, I suspect that I am not alone.
Steve Bainbridge helpfully replies, “Judges, judges, judges.” Taylor notes, though, that the worst Obama is likely to do is maintain the status quo on the Supreme Court, since it’s the more liberal Justices who are most likely to retire.
That this conversation is happening at all is remarkable. With few exceptions, John McCain is a rather mainstream conservative, period, and is considerably more conservative than Barack Obama. Further, on those issues where McCain diverges from conservative orthodoxy, such as campaign finance reform, immigration, and global warming, Obama agrees with him.
Presuming the reluctance to vote for McCain — let alone the willingness to consider voting for Obama — is something beyond visceral and personal, then, it’s about foreign policy. Hunter states:
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.
Taylor agrees as, I believe, does Bainbridge. My OTB colleagues, Alex Knapp (a libertarian) and Dave Schuler (a Scoop Jackson-Sam Nunn Democrat) have more than once expressed their fears that McCain is too “bellicose.” I can’t disagree. While I agree more with McCain than Obama on foreign affairs, I find both of them flawed for different reasons and prefer Obama’s tone.
The trouble, though, is that I see no reason to think that Obama would be less prone to interventionism than McCain. My strong sense is that he’d model himself after Bill Clinton and be eager to use military force for humanitarian and do-gooder reasons, whereas McCain would be more likely to use force aggressively in pursuit of security goals.
Nor do I have any reason to believe Obama would be less prone than McCain to overreach in his use of executive power to advance what he believes to be legitimate and necessary goals. Indeed, Obama’s seeming lack of sense of humor and condemnation of any and all criticism as beyond the pale worries me greatly on that front.
Ultimately, though, both Taylor and Bainbridge have the luxury of living in states (Alabama and California, respectively) that are highly unlikley to be in play come November. As a resident of increasingly purple Virginia, however, a protest vote would be an abdication of the duties of citizenship.