Noah Millman observes that by most measures, Barack Obama is a conservative. Excerpt:
In the core areas of policy, the goal of the Obama Administration has been the preservation of the status quo, and where the Obama Administration has sought to move longstanding Democratic priorities, it has generally done so with an eye to minimally disturbing existing economic and political arrangements.
I think this is basically right, and this is why I have such a difficult time getting worked up about Obama. A conservative friend said to me the other day that if Obama was re-elected, “we might lose America.” He was totally serious. I don’t get this at all. I would much rather have Obama running US foreign policy than Mitt Romney. On the economy, with regard to the outsize power of the banks, Obama has been too Republican. I do worry about Obama and the Democrats’ unwillingness to rein in entitlement spending, and I have serious concerns about this administration’s understanding of religious liberty. Aside from that, though, I don’t see that there’s much of a meaningful distinction between Romney and Obama.
I look at the Romney campaign and see the third George W. Bush term, minus the possibility, however remote, that Paul Ryan’s budget views will guide actual Romney administration policy. What am I missing?
UPDATE: Daniel Larison writes:
If we define conservative simply as preserving the status quo, Noah is right, but that isn’t how contemporary conservatives of any stripe define the word conservative. Preserving the status quo would mean rejecting all of the following things: breaking up the banks, significantly scaling back the warfare state, reducing overseas commitments and deployments, curtailing the power of the executive branch, and practicing fiscal responsibility in budgeting. That is far from an exhaustive list. Most or all of these are among the more important priorities for many traditional conservatives. Judging by what he has done, Obama doesn’t support doing any of these things.
Daniel is right, and he’s also right when he goes on to say that many people who identify as conservatives don’t support these things either. I call Obama “conservative” only in that he is not all that different in terms of policy from the conservative Republican president who preceded him in office. Which tells you something about the meaning of the word “conservative” these days, dunnit?