Conservatives seems to be splitting into two groups over this election: intellectual conservatives and cultural conservatives (well, there's a group of plain old dumbasses like Hannity).
In the end, I couldn't do it. My California ballot arrived in the mail today, and I opened it fully intending to vote for John McCain. I filled out the state propositions first -- yes on 8, no on everything proposing a new bond or new spending -- then the local offices, straight Republican excepting Kevin Johnson for (nonpartisan) Sacramento mayor. Finally, the vote for President of the United States: an academic exercise in California, where Barack Obama will surely win by a crushing margin. But good citizenship demands voting as if it matters. Do I believe in John McCain? Not as much as I used to. Do I believe in Sarah Palin? Despite my early enthusiasm for her, now not at all. Do I believe in the national Republican Party? Not in the slightest -- even though I see no meaningful alternative to it.
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.
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.
Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.
This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.
Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.
Obama's realist and pragmatic world view is perhaps best reflected in his time as a professer of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, as Alexandra Starr writes in the International Herlad Tribue.
When Jaime Escuder, a University of Chicago law student, was searching for a professor to supervise an independent project on prisoners' rights, he turned to Barack Obama, but not for Obama's politics. As a student in Obama's constitutional law class in 2001, Escuder was impressed by his teacher's ability to see both sides of an argument.
"I figured Obama would respect the stance I took in the paper, whether or not he agreed with it," said Escuder, now a public defender in Illinois.
...the men and women who studied with him at Chicago echo Escuder's observation that Obama was much more pragmatic than ideological. Even as his political career advanced, Obama's teaching stuck to the law-school norm of dispassionately evaluating competing arguments with the tools of forensic logic.
"You could tell from the course evaluations and enrollments that students had really taken to him," [Douglas] Baird said.
Dan Johnson-Weinberger, who lobbies for progressive causes in Illinois, said he thought his former professor was unlikely to emerge as an ideological liberal if he makes it to the White House. "Based on what I saw in the classroom," he said, "my guess is an Obama administration could be summarized in two words: Ruthless pragmatism."
"I don't think he's wedded to any particular ideology," Johnson-Weinberger told me. "If he has an impatience about anything, it's the idea that some proposals aren't worthy of consideration."
These last two points are perhaps what has swayed many intellectual conservatives who have looked at his history and actually read his books and read his policy manual (extensive). McCain likes to paint Obama as an inexperienced and liberal know-nothing, but the fact of the matter is that such a portrait could not be further from the truth. His appeal lies in his ability to evaluate ideas without bias and his willingness to hear both sides of the argument.
It will be interesting to see how the Republican party is reshaped after this election. It has brought the worst aspects of the party to the forefront of the discussions and I think this has effectively turned away many intellectual conservatives in disgust while the cultural conservatives cheer on ther pit-bull hockey mom, with McCain almost as an afterthought.
By the way, as an interesting note, as I noticed that Jill Biden's name was prefixed with "Dr.": Barack, Michelle, Joe, and Jill all have post graduate degrees (Jill and Michelle have multiple). In addition, it often goes unnoticed, but Obama majored in political science with a specialization in international relations.