Monday, June 16, 2008

Republicans for Obama

I missed the story when it was news late in April, but in the new issue of ROLLING STONE I saw that Julie Nixon Eisenhower made the maximum possible single-person contribution to Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign.

Yep, she is the daughter of President Nixon and the granddaughter-in-law of President Eisenhower—still a Republican, but throwing her weight behind Obama, not McCain.

Other conservative Americans are also considering Obama. Besides Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of the current President, who announced on the Larry King show that she might vote for Obama, Obama gets favorable words (though not actual endorsements and contributions) also from Colin Powell (who basically said he would not vote for Obama just because he’s black any more than he would vote for McCain just because he’s a veteran) and Peggy Noonan, primary speechwriter for President Reagan.

Does this mean these folks are now liberal? Hardly. For the most part they are reacting against either “neocon”-brand conservatism, which basically has directed White House foreign policy for the past eight years, if not longer, or the scary influence of the military-industrial complex over U.S. politics in both major parties, which has existed at least since President Eisenhower pulled its lid off in his farewell speech in 1961.

These conservatives see Obama as a breath of fresh air in the corrosive world of politics, war-mongering, and corporate greed. Their brand of conservatism calls for fiscal responsibility, reluctance to enter into foreign conflicts, and libertarian views on matters of personal choice—like abortion and gay rights.

Does this then mean that Obama is conservative? Not exactly. In some respects, perhaps yes, if we accept the old-fashioned Goldwater sense of a conservative. Barry Goldwater parted company with Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s over the oppressive influence of the Moral Majority and similar religious-based groups in the Republican Party, and, despite his hawklike militarism of the 1960s, basically espoused the traditional rightwing ideals stated above.

Obama is hardly a libertarian, though. Yet he does not yet appear to be in anybody’s pocket—not the religious right’s, not corporate interests’. His avoidance of the jargon of fear and hysteria, which other politicians have exploited for so long now, appeals to the more rational, commonsense adherents to conservative politics.

Now that McCain so readily embraces Bushism and, in particular, the Iraq war, even thinking people on the right are turning away from him—and seeking a new approach, apparently even if it comes out of the Democratic Party.

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