In the months since John McCain became the GOP's presumptive nominee, the conservative political community has hardly coalesced into a unified front of support for the Arizona Senator. I've noted previously that some traditional conservatives have announced their support for Barack Obama's presidential bid, but events of late have frankly gotten out of control, and I'm both dismayed and embarrassed that purported partisans of the conservartive right would consider supporting the Democratic Party's most extreme left-wing candidate since the Vietnam War.
There's a lot of disturbing news available on right-wing dissension - I'll try to be brief but comprehensive.
First, Bruce Bartlett at the New Republic reports that many in the conservative movement - disillusioned with the George W. Bush administration - have gravitated away from the Republican Party in support of Barack Obama - these are the "Obamacans":
There have been a few celebrated cases of conservatives endorsing Obama, like the blogger Andrew Sullivan and the legal scholar Douglas Kmiec. But you probably have not have heard of many of the Obamacons--and neither has the Obama campaign. When I checked with it to ask for a list of prominent conservative supporters, the campaign seemed genuinely unaware that such supporters even existed. But those of us on the right who pay attention to think tanks, blogs, and little magazines have watched Obama compile a coterie drawn from the movement's most stalwart and impressive thinkers. It's a group that will no doubt grow even larger in the coming months.This passage is interesting for its diverse cast of characters. Some of these folks, like Andrew Sullivan, aren't really so conservative. As Neo-Neocon has suggested:
The largest group of Obamacons hail from the libertarian wing of the movement. And it's not just Andrew Sullivan. Milton and Rose Friedman's son, David, is signed up with the cause on the grounds that he sees Obama as the better vessel for his father's cause. Friedman is convinced of Obama's sympathy for school vouchers--a tendency that the Democratic primaries temporarily suppressed. Scott Flanders, the CEO of Freedom Communications--the company that owns The Orange County Register--told a company meeting that he believes Obama will accomplish the paramount libertarian goals of withdrawing from Iraq and scaling back the Patriot Act.
Libertarians (and other varieties of Obamacons, for that matter) frequently find themselves attracted to Obama on stylistic grounds. That is, they believe that he has surrounded himself with pragmatists, some of whom (significantly) come from the University of Chicago. As the blogger Megan McArdle has written, "His goal is not more government so that we can all be caught up in some giant, expressive exercise of collectively enforcing our collective will on all the other people standing around us in the collective; his goal is improving transparency and minimizing government intrusion while rectifying specific outcomes."
In nearly every quarter of the movement, you can find conservatives irate over the Iraq war--a war they believe transgresses core principles. And it's this frustration with the war--and McCain's pronouncements about victory at any cost--that has led many conservatives into Obama's arms. Francis Fukuyama, the neoconservative theorist, recently told an Australian journalist that he would reluctantly vote for Obama to hold the Republican Party accountable "for a big policy failure" in Iraq. And he seems to view Obama as the best means for preserving American power, since Obama "symbolizes the ability of the United States to renew itself in a very unexpected way."
You can find similar sentiments coursing through the Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich's seminal Obamacon manifesto in The American Conservative. He believes that the war in Iraq has undermined the possibilities for conservative reform at home. The prospects for a conservative revival, therefore, depend on withdrawing from Iraq. Thus the necessity of Obama. "For conservatives, Obama represents a sliver of hope. McCain represents none at all. The choice turns out to be an easy one," Bacevich concludes.
Sullivan’s an unusual case: a sort of liberal who became a sort of conservative and then did an about-face towards the end of the first Bush administration over issues of Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and gay marriage.Sullivan's actually a scholar of Oakeshottian conservative ideology, although I do think he's jumped ship from the movement with his schoolboy's crush on the Illinois Senator.
Some of the others that Bartlett mentions raise more troubling issues.
This "libertarian wing of the movement" is a bit hazy - even subterreanean - and includes a few crazed "tin hat" acolytes among its followers. For example, Robert Stacy McCain (no relation to the Arizona Senator) is a libertarian supporter of Bob Barr's presidential bid this year. I've communicated with Robert on a couple of occasions, and he's a jovial kind of guy. Yet I disagree vehemently with his politics, and I don't know if people like him are good for small-government advocates in the United States. Robert's obviously not a supporter of Obama, and it's no wonder: The Southern Poverty Law Center reports (SPLC) that Robert Stacy McCain's a former member of the League of the South who is on record as opposing interracial marriage.
I have no other sources to corroborate these claims, although I would note that Robert keeps abreast of neo-Nazi reporting in an effort to nip potential extreme right-wing associations in the bud.
It's a good thing too, as it turns out the SPLC's got a story out suggesting that right-wing extremists are hoping for an Obama victory in November, which they hypothesize will lead to a race war in the United States:
With the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate clinched, large sections of the white supremacist movement are adopting a surprising attitude: Electing America’s first black president would be a very good thing.Now, I am not - I repeat - I am not broad-brushing all libertarians. Megan McArdle's on record as admiring Barack Obama's achievement as a historical milestone for our nation.
It’s not that the assortment of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, anti-Semites and others who make up this country’s radical right have suddenly discovered that a man should be judged based on the content of his character, not his skin. On the contrary. A growing number of white supremacists, and even some of those who pass for intellectual leaders of their movement, think that a black man in the Oval Office would shock white America, possibly drive millions to their cause, and perhaps even set off a race war that, they hope, would ultimately end in Aryan victory.
But some of these so-called "libertarian conservatives" mentioned by Bartlett are more accurately identified as "paleoconservatives," who are generally considered as outside of the mainstream conservative establishment in the United States.
Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history at Boston University, came out for Obama in an article at the American Conservative, "The Right Choice? The conservative case for Barack Obama." I have not spoken with Bacevich, but I'm familiar with his argument claiming a new American militarism, and his arguments in opposition to the Iraq war are perhaps made more compelling by the emotion of losing a son in the conflict. Be that as it may, I find paleoconservative arguments hard to take seriously, even offensive particularly as the movement's flaghip, the Amercan Conservative, routinely publishes outslandish stories, like the current issue's piece alleging Israel's complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Apart for the Obamacans and the crypto-racism of the tin-hat libertarian/paleo axis, we also have plain-old partisans of McCain Derangement Syndrome.
These folks actually irk me the most, for if they would just put aside issues of ego and pride, they might powerfully contribute to building a strong conservative coalition in furtherance of a John McCain victory in November.
As Patrick at Born Again Redneck has suggested, Republicans who don't like McCain ought just "grow up!" In question is Dee's entry from Conservatism With Heart, where she writes:
Even if all of us political junkies hold our nose and vote for McCain, he's going to have a hard time. Why? Because as I have been saying for months and Limbaugh points out in his article the conservative base are the foot soldiers in campaigns. Unless McCain can elicit some excitement, passion and trust among the base he's going to have a hard time getting people willing to volunteer. And without volunteers to get out the vote, you'll have an extremely difficult time winning.Dee and many like her are indoctrinated by conservative talk radio mandarins such as Rush Limbaugh, who in my opinion care more about their listenership than they do about maintaining conservative power. Calls for "purity" keep irrational Rush-bot "foot soldiers" in check while simultaneously facilitating Barack Obama's threatening shift to a 21st-century socialist utopia. (See the "Open Letter to John McCain," at Right Wing News, for more of what I'm talking about).
So think about it: The American people have now made their choices for the major-party standard-bearers, McCain vs. Obama. The ideological differences between the candidates are stark:
For me, the most important issue's long been the Iraq war. John McCain will maintain troops in Iraq to increase security and facilitate the independence of Iraqi forces. He sees victory on the horizon and envisions troops home by 2013. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has been one of the most vocal Iraq detractors in the Senate, and he'll implement an immediate troop withdrawal upon taking office, putting in jeopardy the hard work and great sacrifice of America's fighting personnel.
On taxes, John McCain wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He wants to maintain current capital gains tax rates at 15 percent and cut corporate taxes to 25 percent from the current confiscatory 35 percent level. Barack Obama on the other hand, will raises taxes dramatically, repealing the Bush tax cuts and hiking capital gains taxes, with more likely to come through efforts at "restoring fairness" to the tax code. Watch this YouTube for more:
On health care, John McCain wants to unleash insurance markets and use tax incentives to expand health coverage. McCain focuses on deregulation, choice, and affordability. Barack Obama, on the other hand, will socialize American medicine, launching a federal takeover of healthcare with a price tag starting at $110 billion, a program that includes punitive mandates on commercial owners certain to drive down small-business expansion.
On social issues, John McCain is a rock-ribbed conservative, opposing abortion rights, the distribution of birth control to minors, same-sex marriages, and restrictions on the rights of gun owners. Barack Obama' on the other hand, is implacably opposed to traditional social values. He would further shift American culture to the anything goes moralism of the Demoratic Party's multicultural, abortion-on-demand, and military-bashing ideology of the contemporary left.
Sure, John McCain's got his apostasies, on global warming and immigration, but if the deranged anti-McCainiacs remain intent on privileging purity over victory, then America may well be in for a long-period of Democratic Party Jacobinism.
The general election's now engaged. As far as the extreme right-wing surrender hawks and racists are concerned, cut them loose I say. Let these libertarian/paleos forage in the wilderness for a few cycles, until they come to their moral senses. But red-blooded conservatives still smarting over Mitt Romney's collapse or Fred Thompson's laziness should just suck it up and get with the program.
This year represents the most important election in my lifetime. The stakes in '08 are of the highest order, between traditionalism and radicalism, and it's about time that right-wingers of all (good) stripes pull together in support of the GOP nominee. History's in the making, so let's do right by our nation's historical vision of goodness, honor, and values. I firmly believe Barack Obama is genuinely opposed to upholding that heritage.
UPDATE: My good friend Stogie, in the comments, vouches for Robert Stacy McCain:
I know Robert Stacy McCain and he's no racist. I remember when the Bell Curve came out and the subject of IQ variances by race were a hot topic of discussion. Robert, who is a devout Seventh Day Adventist, refused to believe that God would cause some races to have lower IQ's than others. He also knows that I have an Asian wife and never said boo about it. The Southern Poverty Law Center should never be taken as a credible source.My response to Stogie is here.
Morris Dees is an extreme leftist and manufactures "racists" for his group to oppose...
I have no particular beef with Robert Stacy McCain. As I noted at the post above, Robert is a friendly man, but we have political differences, and it looks now as though these include questions of race. And as always, my purpose here is to simply clarify differences of opinion among various factions on the right.
For corroboration, here's some additional information on Robert Stacy McCain's views, from Michelangelo Signorile:
Last week I quoted the scary Washington Times’ backer, the Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon ("Satan’s harvest is America," was just one of that charmers’ comments), whose paper Al Gore two weeks ago charged was "part and parcel of the Republican Party." Some people wrote in with the rather weak but nonetheless entertainable argument that Moon funds the paper but he has a "hands-off" approach and let’s the editors do what they want....Signorile's essay does not include links, and I imagine he's got his own axes to grind.
So, let’s take a look at the views and not-so-hidden agenda of one of the actual editors of the paper, specifically, assistant national editor Robert Stacy McCain, who has a habit of posting commentary on message boards and elsewhere around the Internet:
"[T]he media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us."
Yes, you read that right: a "natural revulsion" and "THIS IS NOT RACISM."
That was posted by Robert Stacy McCain (who has contributed to New York Press in the past) on a website called Reclaiming the South. The Washington Times editor posts a lot on the right-wing FreeRepublic.com as well, using an assumed name (BurkeCalhounDabney) but often linking back to his personal website, where there are photos of him and the rest of his large family of Seventh Day Adventists (and which identifies him by his real name and as a Washington Times editor). Editor McCain, who hails from Rome, GA, is one of those Confederate types who still hasn’t gotten over the Civil War and is trying to get the South to secede. He’s a member of a Southern secessionist organization called League of the South....
Perhaps attempting (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) to distance himself just a bit from this repugnant and totally kooky extremist stuff, McCain has written, in a piece he posted on the Web titled "Down On Dixie: The Confederate Cause and the South’s Scalawag Press," that "We may never all agree that The South Was Right!...but the least we owe our ancestors is a fair hearing and a balanced portrayal to our readers."
McCain, an editor and sometimes commentator at a paper that the gay Andrew Sullivan, the African-American Thomas Sowell and other right-leaning members of minority groups are only too happy to write columns for and take cash from, believes that Abraham Lincoln was a "war criminal" who should have been tried for "treason." (His reasoning, he writes, is that Lincoln and the Northerners were the true racists; something tells me–actually, studying his other comments and affiliations is what tells me–that that is not the real reason at all.)
In his Web postings McCain has stated that Harvard president Lawrence Summers should be "persecuted and run out of town" for supporting gay rights. He also believes that the civil rights movement directly resulted in "black criminality" because people were encouraged to break the law by getting arrested at demonstrations!
"I am disturbed…by [Jesse] Jackson’s idea that ‘breaking white folks’ rules’ was somehow inherently just," he wrote on FreeRepublic.com. "If rules were to be broken merely because they were work of white folks, then hasn’t Jackson gone a long way toward explaining the explosion of black criminality that began in the 1960s? This shows how the civil rights movement, to a great extent, represented a direct assault on tradition and law."
These viewpoints offer background for and insight into some of McCain’s pieces in The Washington Times. This past October he warned about the "Backlash Building in White America," as the headline of his article blared, and he interviewed and promoted an obscure professor who claimed "that society should combat white nationalists in part by acknowledging the legitimacy of some of their grievances" and that white nationalism is "the monster that identity politics created." (Yes, blame it all on blacks themselves!)
Check, in any case, a separate SPLC article on Robert Stacy McCain, "Defending Dixie."
The discussion here is useful in that so far we've all agreed that such views are not acceptable for conservative discourse.
We on the right are better than the hate-addled leftists against whom we're fighting this election season. My goal is to help clear disputes among right-wing partisans, and marginalize those who continue to spew hatred.
Additional feedback and comments are solicited.