Sunday, October 19, 2008

Obama as the conservative darling

You can now add Colin Powell to the growing number of conservative/Republican endorsements of Obama. A moderate Republican with military and foreign policy credentials, Powell and his endorsement have been the target of multiple campaigns including Hillary's and McCain's. However, neither serving under Clinton nor his two tours in Vietnam and friendship with McCain were enough to put him in either camp. Coming out in support of Obama, Powell mentioned what, I think, are the most important qualifications that Obama has:

...[Obama] displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems . . . a definitive way of doing business that I think would serve us well...

Imagine that, an intelligent president in the White House who actually doesn't think that reality has no bearing on his actions or decisions.

This latest event just further emphasized my view that there is a growing break in the Republican party. At first it started with Kathleen Parker's article at NRO, raising doubts about Sarah Palin. Sure, that article came after such an awfully cringe inducing interview that only the most rabidly partisan hack could have closed their eyes at Palin's obvious lack of simple intellectual curiosity. Or even the wherewithal to understand the basic ideas of national governance. However, even that seemingly obvious conclusion generated a backlash of those on the right who are so far stuck in their arrogance that even a well reasoned explanation from someone in their own ranks is rejected outright. Then came the Buckley bombshell of an endorsement that, in the end, cost him a position with the National Review. We had a well thought out view from someone who had actually taken the time to actually meet and talk to the person and once again it's met with derision and hate.

You can't help but feel that the coalition of fiscally conservative intelligentsia and the socially conservative religious right, that Goldwater and, coincidentally Buckley's father founded is in some way fracturing. Maybe it's not nearly the end of the incessant culture wars and partisan hackery that has permeated politics for the last 15-20 years. Maybe, if elected, Obama will abuse his mandate just as much as Bush did and will re-light the fire that could meld the alliance back together. However, you can't help but think that we could be looking at a brand new chapter in American politics. It's completely conceivable, that if Obama actually delivers or even makes some significant progress on things such as merit pay for teachers, charter schools or infrastructure improvements. If he stays away from protectionism and some other policies favored by the fringe left.

Then we could actually have a new species of political animal. A technocratic, socially liberal and fiscally moderate leader. Someone I would call an "Economist Conservative", after the eponymous magazine. Someone who just might take the best ideas and the brightest people and let them do what works, regardless of their political slant or views on abortion. Someone who wouldn't scream about welfare reform killing innocent children while at the same time understanding that basic scientific research cannot be effectively outsourced to a stock price obsessed private sector. Someone who would reason intelligently and act decisively. Someone who would be pragmatic enough to play the political game while at the same time idealistic enough to keep the long-term score in mind. Someone, who wouldn't cynically gamble the future of the country on an Alaskan bumpkin with a beauty pageant education to shore up his base. Someone who could inspire people to actually value intelligence and learning instead of denigrating and devaluing brains. Someone to lead a shaken, divided country back to prosperity and confidence.

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