On account of Pascha, for the rest of today and all weekend I won’t be blogging after this, except perhaps to put up some icons and troparia. Besides being part of the greatest feast of the Church, the days leading up to Pascha are also very, very busy.
Before I go, I wanted to respond to this post by Ross. We agree entirely that Obama will disillusion a great many people. I have said that the Obama campaign is a disappointment-generating machine, and it has already generated a fair amount during the campaign. Disillusionment will happen partly because it is inevitable that a politician will disappoint some of his supporters on account of the constraints and pressures of governing and political pressure, but it will be worse in this case because Obama has cast himself as some great transformative leader and people have been drawn to him in large part because they expect him to practice the “new politics” he keeps talking about. One of the causes of disillusionment will be that the “new politics” doesn’t actually exist and never will exist, so long as it is premised on the ideas that lobbying and partisanship are fundamental parts of the problem, when it is the lack of representation provided by the two-party system and the excessive concentration of power in government (facilitated through direct taxation) that protect the status quo. In principle, lobbying is a necessary function of representative government; it is the power of government that lends lobbying its particularly sinister cast. Partisanship isn’t blocking “solutions” from being enacted–bad policy priorities that are shared by members of both parties are the obstacle to making the desired changes.
Obama will necessarily disappoint those from the center and the right who think that Obama respects or appreciates their views, because he really doesn’t, and even if he did he isn’t going to do anything when setting policy that will offer any but the most meaningless nods to their concerns. When most people say they want respect, they really mean that they want agreement. (This is related to the habit of crying about intolerance when one is not accepted by others, as if tolerance and acceptance are the same.) A lot of conservatives who mistakenly believed that Obama respects pro-life views have expressed shock that he is, in fact, an absolutely staunch pro-choice Democrat who takes the hardest line on this question of any of the remaining presidential candidate. As I have said, his nods to other views are head fakes. That’s not surprising, since it is in the interest of a left-liberal to make non-liberals believe that he is not as far to the left as he is, just as a very conservative politician would need to make some gestures that suggest he is not as far to the right as he really is. It’s also not as much of a criticism as it sounds–head fakes of this kind help to throw the defense off guard and put them out of position, so they are politically smart things to do. However, once your opponents recognise that they are intended as misdirection, you can’t use them as effectively. So Ross and I view the enthusiasm for Obama from antiwar, libertarian and conservative people as a case of people setting themselves up for serious disappointment. Indeed, should Obama win he will go from being broadly trusted to deeply mistrusted by almost everyone, as all will feel that Obama misled them in one way or another.
However, Ross has incorrectly described the arguments of Kmiec and Bacevich, saying that they “have concluded that the Illinois Senator is a more conservative choice than John McCain.” That is definitely not what either of them has said. Both proceed from the assumption that the Bush administration has proved to be a disaster, and argue that McCain represents a continuation of the same disastrous policies. Prof. Bacevich further argues that the GOP should not be given the benefit of the doubt about any issues important to conservatives after its record of failure or inaction, which he believes makes objections on pro-life or other grounds moot. Ross disagrees quite strongly with this part of the argument, and now is not the time to go over that ground again, but at no time do Bacevich or Kmiec say that they think Obama is “more conservative” than McCain, even if Bacevich is arguing that McCain and the GOP hardly measure up to his definition of conservatism. Bacevich backs Obama as the less terrible option, because he sees McCain as irredeemably bad on so many things, particularly the war, and so supports Obama in spite of acknowledging all the reasons why Obama is also pretty terrible. In contrast, Prof. Kmiec wants to believe the best about Obama and so proposes ideas that Obama could use to show his good faith and willingness to bridge great divides over contentious issues, but as Ross points out today this hope is completely misplaced. Even so, Kmiec has never said and presumably does not think that Obama is ”more conservative” than McCain; his arguments for him do imply that he thinks Obama is more competent.
Also, following up on Ross’ old item from The Current, the Pennsylvania results drive home just how unrepresentative of general Catholic opinion about Obama Profs. Kmiec and Bacevich seem to be and the profile of his supporters does suggest that as academics they are drawn to Obama the academic. They also cite particular foreign policy issues that have driven them towards him out of necessity, which underscores how atypical they are, since most voters are not voting on issues and very few issues voters are focused so much on foreign policy almost to the exclusion of everything else. This is not a complaint about academics, a category of voter that Barone keeps flogging so much that it is becoming unrecognisable, and I obviously am not one to make such a complaint in any case, and it is not even one of my usual complaints about single-issue voters, but simply an observation that academics tend to support Obama so heavily because of the war and probably because they prefer his cerebral style to Clinton’s interest group laundry list and McCain’s apparently blissful ignorance of policy detail.
P.S. Worrying about whether or not Obama will disappoint people may be a futile exercise: Rasmussen shows a nine-point swing against Obama in Pennsylvania in the general election poll during the last two weeks. He was leading by eight, and now trails by one. Since everyone has been talking about Obama and working-class voters, this crosstab seems most significant: those making $40-60K back McCain over Obama 56-27. Lower income groups back Obama, while they split the higher income voters ($75-100K back Obama, $100K back McCain), and the $60K-75K give McCain a seven point advantage. If we don’t think that white working-class voters matter for Obama in the general election, it’s worth noting that he’s also currently losing independents in Pennsylvania 44-39. The bottom line is that he has to poll better than 43-47% in states such as Pennsylvania if he is going to win the election, and that hasn’t been happening.