Do read Robert Novak’s column in today’s WaPo which riffs interestingly on Bruce Bartlett’s article “The Rise of the Obamacons” in The New Republic. Novak, Like Bartlett, is mostly concerned about conservatives in leadership positions who have either endorsed Obama or have expressed disappointment with McCain. Novak believes that,
Reports listing additional Obamacons do not add up to tides of conservative Republicans leaving their party… Nevertheless, Obamacons — little and big — are reason for concern by McCain. They also should cause soul-searching at the Bush White House about who made the Republican Party so difficult a place for Republicans to stay.
Novak shares Bartlett’s funny quote from inside-the-beltway supply-sider Larry Hunter:
The Republican Party is a dead rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of ‘Weekend With Bernie,’ handcuffed to a corpse.
They said it. We didn’t.
Both writers touch obliquely on a couple of things I have noticed in conversations with conservative acquaintances who have expressed admiration for Obama. First, Obama projects a sense of prudence. He just seems more thoughtful than McCain, who has some of that knee-jerk ideologue quality that defines Bush. Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war is based more on a sense of prudence about military entanglements, than pacifist/ideological beliefs, while McCain is more of an ideologue. True conservatives are not big on the notion of elective war, nor on open-ended occupations that cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars a week and overextend our military resources to the point where it imperils our military options in crises elsewhere. It’s easier to envision Obama engaging in productive diplomacy than McCain.
The other thing that makes Obama appealing to true conservatives is his flexibility. Obama’s switch in favor of telecom immunity, for example, may anger some of his progressive supporters. But to a conservative, it may show that he is not anti-business and he is open to changing his mind to adapt to new realities. Ditto for his reversed policy on receiving public funds. Yes, Obama has a strong liberal record. But he is not a rigid ideologue. It’s not so easy to say the same for McCain. His flip-flops seem more driven by rank political opportunism than thoughtful ruminations about policy.
I’m not so sure Obamacon opinion leaders are having all that much of an impact. More likely they are a reflection of what is going on in the minds of many conservatives who are troubled by the Bush mess and McCain’s inability to separate himself from it. At the same time, many conservatives are impressed with Obama’s work ethic, management skills, flexibility and refusal to dwell on racial injustice as a central issue. I would expect that Obama will get some of their votes, while others will vote third party or stay at home on election day.