Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lying Athwart History Getting Run Over.

As the presidential campaign enters its last weeks with John McCain trailing Barack Obama, dissension is growing among conservatives. Several have jumped ship to support Obama, the latest being Christopher Buckley. Others have rejected McCain from the beginning. George Will is notable among those. Conservatives who support McCain, Victor Davis Hanson for one, are beginning to chastise the conservatives who jumped ship.

Ross Douthat at The Atlantic weighs in on his blog. This is his conclusion:
"Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on - note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren't Helping The Team these days - are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their 'seat at the table' is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point. And if I were Hanson or Levin or Steyn I'd be devoting a little less time to ritual denunciations of heretics and RINOs, and at least a little more time to figuring out how to build the sort of ship that will make the rats of the DC/NY corridor want to scramble back on board, however much it makes you sick to have them back. Who knows? It might just be the sort of ship that swing-state voters will want to climb on board as well." (Here.)
Douthat's last point seems doubtful. It's also doubtful that there's anything that can be done to bring the defecting conservatives back on board. It seems unlikely they are jumping ship so they can be popular in the liberal cultural milieu where the live and work. They have jumped ship for ideological or political reasons.

Some of the ship-jumping conservatives support Obama. Buckley is a prime example of this type. They believe Obama will be a moderate leader because he's got such an even tempered demeanor. His moderate temperament must mean he will practice moderate politics. There's little evidence of this. Take two issues on which Obama has announced moderate positions.

Obama says he opposes same-sex marriage. Yet he also opposes anything that will stop same-sex marriage from spreading nationwide. He opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. He also opposes a constitutional amendment clarifying that marriage is a heterosexual relationship between one man and one woman. He also has praised the California Supreme Court's decision finding that same-sex couples have a state constitutional right to marry. As a constitutional scholar, Obama must know that without a constitutional amendment, the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution will require states to recognize same-sex marriages enacted in other states. His opposition to same-sex marriage turns out to be words, just words.

Obama also says that he believes the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms. Yet his support of gun rights is limited to sportsmen. He supports the right of hunters to own guns. The right to own guns for self-defense or other purposes? Not so much. He has supported anti-gun legislation throughout his political career. His campaign never gave a straight answer to the very simple question whether Obama supported Washington D.C.'s unconstitutional gun ban that was struck down this year in the Heller case. Again, his support of the Second Amendment turns out to be words, just words.

Conservatives who believe Obama will advance moderate positions once in office are taking a huge leap of faith based on little more than wishful thinking.

Other conservatives don't support Obama but they oppose McCain because the Republican candidate is not a true conservative. Well, that's true enough. But he's more conservative than Obama and there isn't a viable third option. That doesn't matter because these conservatives prefer to lose this election and have the GOP and the conservative movement spend some time in the wilderness. They believe this will benefit the party and the movement by forcing the two to reconcile to each other, return to first principles, and come up with new ideas for new times. It's a foolish notion.

When Goldwater lost big and Johnson won we got the Great Society and conservatives have been trying to dismantle that for a generation. Politics is a zero-sum game. You either win or you lose. If McCain loses it will be conservatism's loss as much as it is the GOP's loss. Conservatives who let their quibbles with McCain and Sarah Palin get the better of them, will get an Obama administration with Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House, Harry Reid in charge of the Senate, and two to three vacancies looming on the Supreme Court. That's one hell of a price to pay to force the GOP and conservatism to reform themselves.

-tdr

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