Conservatives for Obama II

Conservatives considering voting for Barack Obama?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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    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.

    You lost me here, James. I’m not aware that Obama lacks of sense of humor. I thought his “We’ve already got one Dr. Phil” was pretty funny. I’m more worried about McCain’s tin-eared sense of humor, I mean he seems prone to make lame jokes about the wrong things, no? And I’m not aware that Obama condemns any and all criticism as beyond the pale. I’m more worried about McCain’s well-attested volatile temper. (Google “McCain temper”)

  2. G.A.Phillips says:

    ******A protest vote would be an abdication of the duties of citizenship.******

    One liberal favors abortion, one don’t, maybe we with a vote for John can save the next 45 million form being murdered, I think we only need one more judge with a conscious and an under standing of the Constitution.

    please every one you can do you part maybe McCain will do his.

  3. Rick Almeida says:

    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

    Assuming for the sake of argument that you’re correct here, it could very well be the case that the military needs a real period of recuperation & replenishment before any type of large-scale intervention is possible. Obama might be inclined to such actions, but reality & his service chiefs (whom I don’t think he’d be anywhere near as willing as the current administration to override) might compel him to much more limited operations in truly international coalitions.

  4. Derrick says:

    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.

    James,

    I’m disappointed that you’ve fallen so quickly for this right wing meme. The guy who “brushed his shoulder of” and whose speeches before he even became a candidate were about how he was the “skinny guy with big ears and a funny name” is now humorless. The only criticism that he’s found below board are those of his wife and his religion which are the two things that most people would find unacceptable.

  5. Wayne says:

    “Obama might be inclined to such actions, but reality & his service chiefs (whom I don’t think he’d be anywhere near as willing as the current administration to override)”

    Liberals have contempt for the military and generally believe they the liberals are smarter and better inform than the military. This usually results in disregarding any advice they the get from military personnel or surround themselves with the very few uniform personnel that share their ideas.

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    I’ve noticed academics like to play this game of protest votes. Most Americans don’t think that way. Ask the average Joe what constitutional overreach is and see what answer you get.

  7. Bithead says:

    However that falls out, Steve, I have to say I’m bemused that nobody else has picked up on the idea that the very reason this conversation is even taking place is that the Republicans nominated a centrist, and that thereby the differences between he and Obama are less than they might have been.

  8. Ask the average Joe what constitutional overreach is and see what answer you get.

    Varied ones, I suppose. By the same token, they might not be very good ones. I suspect if you asked the average Joe about economics, taxes, evolution, electronics, nutrition, surgery and any number of other things that you might get some pretty poor answers.

    I believe very strongly in government by democratic processes, but one has to admit that the summation of opinion (or the random sampling thereof) is not the best way to find the rightness of a given answer, especially on items that are not common knowledge.

    I would disagree, by the way, with the characterization “protest vote” per se. The notion that the only reasonable vote is for someone who win diminishes the overall exercise of voting.

  9. James Joyner says:

    I would disagree, by the way, with the characterization “protest vote” per se. The notion that the only reasonable vote is for someone who win diminishes the overall exercise of voting.

    Certainly, voting has many functions, especially in uncompetitive races. At the end of the day, though, their primary purpose is to elect leaders to office.

    I think McCain and Obama are both upgrades over the 2004 choices, by the way.

  10. I think McCain and Obama are both upgrades over the 2004 choices, by the way.

    I can’t argue with that.

    In terms of the protest votes, I suppose one could argue that in Alabama any vote except a vote for McCain is, in fact, a protest vote as I don’t see that there is any chance that anyone can win the state aside from him.

    Beyond that, I would argue that the act of voting goes beyond simply electing a leader, as it is also the one clear chance for a citizen to express preferences–and there is nothing wrong with being willing to express a minority preference.

    I also see it as a personal endorsement and I am not convinced as to which of the candidates deserves my personal endorsement.

    And for those who didn’t read my full post, I did not come out in favor of Obama, but stated that I could, at this stage, see myself voting for Obama, McCain or Barr and I have not made up my mind. I could vote for different candidates for different reasons. (I just note that for clarity purposes).

    Ultimately, the fact that I live in Alabama almost nullifies my vote, given the exigencies of the electoral college (which I find myself increasingly disenchanted with–even before this cycle). I guess I am getting grumpy and cantankerous as I approach 40 (next week, in fact).

  11. RW Rogers says:

    As one of Obama’s main campaign planks is improved communication and cooperation with our allies, the well-publicized problems caused by his plan to speak at the Brandenburg Gate has to make one pause. Surely, someone amongst those 300 advisors could have helped him avoid embarrassing the German government, the German Prime Minister, and Obama himself.

  12. davod says:

    Hey strong sense is that he’d model himself after Bill Clinton and be eager to use military force for humanitarian and do-gooder reasons..”

    I don’t not recall Clinton coming from a background where he had Marxists for mentors.

  13. Jon H says:

    “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”

    He might were it not for the condition the military is in, and the poor financial state of the union (who knows how high the deficit will be when Bush is done bailing out every financial institution).

    Clinton was operating in a very different set of circumstances. Obama’s options are going to be limited by the mess Bush is leaving behind.

    (Wouldn’t McCain also be limited that way? I don’t think so – the GOP clearly doesn’t mind running up deficits or breaking the military.)

  14. FireWolf says:

    a protest vote would be an abdication of the duties of citizenship.

    Call my citizenship duties resigned then James because this conservative isn’t the only one who’ll vote for Barrack.

    HeH

  15. vwcat says:

    Excuse me because I’m out of my element here but, followed a link to this article.
    I would say, as someone who supports Obama that the man in no way wants to be Bill II. Actually, anyone who has followed Obama senses a little disgust for Bill. Obama is a pragmatist more than anything. He probably views Bill as too prone to his own whims and temper and emotion and too self absorbed.
    As for the executive power, well the man was a constitutional professor for 10 years (as the university does concider him). Obama is a constitutional scholar who is wedded to this and would not be comfortable with expanded powers or the abuse of them.
    His humor is something else. Try being the first african american nominee of a major party and be seen as serious and capable and you too would be sure to be sparse with humor.
    Those are my opinions and something to take into concideration.

  16. steve says:

    Obama does not have strong ties with any group which sees military power as the main method of achieving its foreign policy goals. I think he is much more in line with what gates said on his 7/15 speech, i.e. we have militarized too much of our foreign policy.

    McCain remains aligned with the neocon group that wants to use military power to remake the Middle East. That is a huge difference. Obama may be tempted to use force in resolving a crisis somewhere, but I see no reason to expect that he will go looking for reasons to deploy our military.

    Steve