Conservatives for… Barack Obama?
A story in the October 20th issue of Time Magazine (“You. A Voter’s Guide” by Jackson Dykman. pp. 61-69) it is revealed that 20% of conservatives are supporting Barack Obama for president. One out of five. Only 6% of liberals are supporting John McCain (one out of 17). Just who are these conservatives?
One of them is Wick Allison, the former publisher of National Review, the premier conservative political magazine in the country. Allison was a Barry Goldwater supporter in 1964 and was a invited to serve on the board of National Review by its founder William F. Buckley. In a recent endorsement, “A Conservative for Obama,” he says “the more I listen to and read about ‘the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate,’ the more I like him. Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan.” He writes:
Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.
But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.
He finds Obama “a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man,” someone who will “be a realist” and who has “actually read the Federalist Papers.”
I think it says something that a conservative Republican who was William F. Buckley’s protégé is supporting Obama in this contest. If this is so, then a fortiori it says something that William F. Buckley’s son is also endorsing Barack Obama. Christopher Buckley, who is a successful writer and commentator in his own right, says “for the first time in my life, I’ll be pulling the Democratic lever in November.” In his endorsement, “Sorry Dad, I’m Voting for Obama,” he describes how he’s known McCain since 1982 and supported himi in the primaries.
But that was—sigh—then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?
Buckley opines that Obama, contra McCain, has a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect. He has, however, several criticisms of the Democratic candidate and is far from thinking he’ll be a perfect president.
Though Buckley’s endorsement did not come in the pages of National Review, he decided to resign from the publication, for which he was writing a regular column, after it received a significant, albeit not enormous, number of protests from readers. I highly commend both his article and Wick Allison’s to my fellow conservatives.