Andrew Sullivan, who has been in the tank for Barack Obama ever since he realized that Ron Paul was pretty much a non-entity, posts about this critique of his support for Obama:
Sullivan, a Burkean by philosophy but a radical by temperament, is the most interesting critic of his former conservative allies, and I’ve learned a lot about conservatism agonistes from reading his blog. He says that conservatism isn’t about solving problems but about recognizing the limits of man’s ability to do so, especially in the form of organized activity called government. His breakdown can’t help stacking the deck: conservatism is modest, skeptical, narrowly focussed on what can be done; liberalism tries, promiscuously, to satisfy everyone’s needs. Sullivan believes that the Republican Party went astray when it forgot its philosophical principles and started throwing more feed at the hogs of the electorate than Democrats. He is, in the terms of my article, a purist rather than a reformist, but his unhappiness with the movement is so great that it’s driven him into the arms of his exact opposite, Barack Obama, who is philosophically liberal and temperamentally conservative.
Sullivan knows that his Oakeshottian version of conservatism is a very hard sell in a country that expects problems to come with solutions, and he seems to acknowledge that its future here belongs with the reformists like David Brooks, Ross Douthat, and Reihan Salam, who are readier than he is to accept that people have a right to want their government to improve their lives, not just to instruct them in the vanity of human effort. I read Sullivan every day, partly to find out how far his disenchantment will carry him in the very strange direction of Obama-style uplift—how long his temperament will win out over his ideas.
To which Sullivan responds:
It’s a little hard to know how to respond to such a perceptive critique. But, yeah, it’s true. Intellectually, I find so much of Obama’s substance domestically to be anathema. (This is not true of his tilt back toward realism and diplomacy in foreign policy, which could be seen as a return to conservative principles after Bush’s Wilsonianism). I haven’t sat through a single Obama speech without ideologically wincing at something. I fear that in the general election, his recourse to liberal tropes will begin to wear thin.
So why do I find myself still longing for him to win?
Because, I can’t see how domestic policy could become more statist and less responsible than the past eight years. Because I want to see such a record punished with electoral defeat for fear they still don’t know what they did wrong. Because I think Obama’s diplomatic skills and public relations brilliance could serve this country very well. And because of what Obama represents in our collective consciousness.
Umm, okay, let’s see how things could become more statist. Increased government involvement in health care to the point where individual choice becomes even more irrelevant than it is today. Increased “social welfare” spending. Increased subsidies to so-called distressed industries. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget the fact that he opposes a free trade agenda that has pretty much defined America since the end of World War II.
Sully goes on:
His candidacy is about renewing what America means to the world and to itself. It is about a collective cultural healing – especially on race. It is about representing the next generation and America’s less domineering but more inspiring place among nations. It is about transparency in government. It is about getting past this brutal cultural polarization for a while. It is about putting reason back into our discourse after the emotional manipulation of the Morris-Rove era. It is about ending torture, restoring Constitutional balance, and adding the power of words, of great words, to restore hope again.
This may sound lofty, but I do not think it is lofty in the way utopian liberalism suggests. It is lofty the way Reagan was lofty and Kennedy was lofty, which transcends ideology. Set apart from their actual achievements in office (on which scale Reagan dwarfs Kennedy), they both recast this country’s self-understanding – and the world’s understanding of America. This shift occurs in the heart, and it is not about promising heaven on earth. It is about being all we can be at this moment in history. It is about us – not policy; our self-understanding – not self-recreation.
Being all we can be ? Is this an advertisement for the United States Army or a debate on where America is headed over the next twenty years ?
Clearly, Sully’s still caught up in the Obama-mania that was sweeping the nation back in February.
Let’s be realistic about this. Barack Obama isn’t going to change the world and he isn’t going to make everything better. In fact, given the fact that he has absolutely no executive experience, it’s quite likely that his first two years in office would be something like the initial years of the Clinton Administration, only more incompetent.
I was with Sullivan when he support Obama as the best way to protect America from another four-to-eight years of Clintonism, but now we’re down to brass tacks.
It’s time to be logical here, folks. Barack Obama is a Democrat, and one brought up in the years when the Democratic Party drifted further and further to the left.
That’s the kind of President he’s going to be.
If you believe individual liberty and think that corporate profits are something other than a source of revenue for Barack and Michelle to launch their latest scheme, then even thinking about voting for him for a second is a tremendous mistake.