When I checked with it to ask for a list of prominent conservative supporters, the [Obama] campaign seemed genuinely unaware that such supporters even existed. ~Bruce Bartlett
I expect that they are as mystified by the phenomenon as I am, because they would also have great difficulty understanding why conservatives would support Obama. Such is their concern for transcendence and unity–be forewarned, hopesters. Indeed, the emphasis of Bartlett’s piece on Obama’s rhetoric and style underscores the lack of substantive reasons for such support. “Sympathy” for school vouchers is like so many other examples of Obama’s interest in policy reforms that conservatives and libertarians find attractive–it is a line used to show that Obama is thoughtful and reflective, but it ultimately suggests no strong interest in advancing said reform and it commits him to nothing. The campaign knows as well as anyone that the following statement is not really true:
Conservatives of almost all ideological flavors (even, gasp, some supply-siders) have been drawn to Obama–out of a genuine affection and a belief that he may actually better embody movement ideals than McCain [bold mine-DL].
Yet this is exactly what several of them are not saying at all. This is what their critics accuse them of saying as a way of ridiculing them. A couple of them have said something like this from time to time, but on the whole the enthusiasm for Obama derives from the important reality that Obama is not John McCain. There is a desire to punish the GOP for Bushism, and so they rally around the most practical vehicle for defeating the inheritor of Bushism. This is very clear from what most of them say in their own arguments.
Prof. Bacevich’s oft-cited article, which is indeed much more interesting as a discussion of what conservatism is rather than as a justification for why conservatives should opt for Obama, is a perfect case in point. The article offers a fine definition of conservatism and a brilliant, withering assault on the failures and flaws of the GOP and McCain. The positive case for Obama is all but non-existent (there is reason to think he would end the war), and it is laced with caveats:
None of these concerns number among those that inspired Barack Obama’s run for the White House. When it comes to foreign policy, Obama’s habit of spouting internationalist bromides suggests little affinity for serious realism. His views are those of a conventional liberal. Nor has Obama expressed any interest in shrinking the presidency to its pre-imperial proportions. He does not cite Calvin Coolidge among his role models. And however inspiring, Obama’s speeches are unlikely to make much of a dent in the culture. The next generation will continue to take its cues from Hollywood rather than from the Oval Office.
If this is an endorsement, who needs criticism?
P.S. Ambinder has some useful graphs that make it quite clear that almost no one thinks of Obama as conservative, and not all that many think he is a moderate.