Mark at Publius Endures explains why he could support Barack Obama:
I find myself drawn to supporting him – passionately, even – because his goals are liberal in the classical sense. I repeat – I do not think his means are libertarian in any way, and are arguably not even classically liberal means. But the goals, so far as I can see, ARE classically liberal. His are not goals centered entirely around maximizing his own political power, and thus he is a candidate worthy of my deep respect. These ultimate ends are the same ends as exist for us perjoratively-named cosmo-libertarians (as well as for other derivations of classical liberalism).
Much of Obama’s appeal to me is in his apparent desire to encourage rather than require moral behavior. If government is necessary, a libertarian should be much happier with a government that relies on encouragement more than mandates. Though this is nothing compared to a lack of any government or a government confined to truly libertarian principles, it is still a vast improvement over most politicians’ views of government.
This, I think, is one reason that many people, regardless of their political ideology support Barack Obama. Rhetorically, he’s a great speaker and he’s basing his campaign on a vision of America that resonates with the electorate. In that respect, Caroline Kennedy is right to compare him to her father. As with Kennedy, we are witnessing in Barack Obama something that has the potential to shift the ground in American politics significantly.
The question is whether there’s anything there that libertarians and classical liberals can admire, or even support.
Politically, the answer has got to be no. Rhetoric aside, Barack Obama is as much of statist as Hillary Clinton. While he seems like he’d be more open to free market ideas, it’s clear from his positions and his rhetoric that he views governments as a force for good, rather than the cause of problems. Yes, he’d be better on civil liberties than George W. Bush, but you can forget about reducing the size of government if Barack Obama is President.
That said, I will admit that I agree with Mark on some level. There is an appeal to Barack Obama. For me, it’s the appeal of watching someone slowly but surely bring the Democratic Party around to realizing just how poisonous the Clinton Machine really is (and for evidence of that, just consider Bill Clinton comparing Obama’s overwhelming win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s win 20 years ago). Every time Obama beats Hillary, I raise a toast and I wouldn’t mind raising a lot more toasts between now and the Democratic Convention.
Right now the Presidential choices for those who believe in liberty are grim indeed. On the Republican side, the race is down to a man who believes the First Amendment is optional and one who changes his positions the way most of us change socks. On the Democratic side, it’s down to Hillary and Obama and, given a choice between those two, I’d rather spend the next four years with the Senator from Illinois than the Senator from New York.