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Can you conceive of a situation where you wouldn’t vote for Obama?

centaur 5


I try to avoid too much of the politics here. My experience of blogs that dip political is that they’re often shrill, partisan, and most likely to make mistakes about the things they’re most likely to post – the same trap I usually fall in when I post to my friends’s shared mailing group. When you’re engaged enough to respond, you’re enraged enough to gaffe.

But a friend and I were discussing the recent election, I said something complimentary about Romney “even though I wouldn’t vote for him” and my friend responded: “Can you conceive of a situation where you wouldn’t vote for Obama?” And that gave me pause.

I try to be open minded. I currently vote liberal, but I was a College Republican, with deep admiration for President Reagan and President Nixon (no that wasn’t a typo), and even though accepting reality forces one to lean to the left (and trying to be moral leans one even moreso), there are very important values on the right we can’t just throw out with the bathwater. Economic freedom. Gun rights. Lower taxes when possible. Limits to the size and reach of government. Promoting the needs of families, businessmen, farmers, soldiers. I’d call myself a libertarian, but that’s not a good descriptor either. Short story, i try to keep an open mind.

The last election cycle was ideal for me: a Republican I admired and had supported up against an eloquent technocrat who finally broke the color barrier. I couldn’t lose. I printed out Obama and McCain’s political positions and went through them with a fine tooth comb, and found myself on the fence, 50-50. I was undecided right up until August 29, 2008, when McCain selected Palin as his running mate. I take running mates very seriously, especially with an older headliner, and while McCain had earned my admiration and reflected my values, Palin … hadn’t, and didn’t. So (big surprise) I voted for Obama. A Democrat.

Fast forward almost 4 years, and our conversation about Romney. I saw this article, and was impressed enough to write:

“I’m very pleased with the campaign, its organization. The candidate sometimes makes some mistakes, and so I’m trying to do better and work harder and make sure that we get our message across,” Romney told reporters during a visit to his campaign headquarters here. “In the final analysis, I anticipate becoming the nominee.”

Q: Candidate Romney, where does the buck stop?A: Where does the buck stop? The buck stops here. Next question.

But (based on other conversations) my friend’s a bit bitter, as he thinks there’s nothing that’s going to stop Obama, and was probably frustrated to see me say I’d never vote for him. That lead to the question: “Can you conceive of a situation where you wouldn’t vote for Obama?” … and this (correcting a few typos) is what I wrote:

TL;DR: No.

Conceive of? Sure. He’s unmasked as a space alien or secret Communist plant or something. Or contrafactually, had McCain selected almost anyone else with real credentials combined with appeal to a moderate base (Pataki? Powell? Rice?) it could have happened in 2008.

Realistically? No, for three reasons.
  • The Republican establishment has moved too far to the right, becoming deliberately obstructionist (you can verify this with their public statements) turning their backs on even hardline conservatives (you can also verify this with their public statements) and now see “moderate” as a dirty word. When you vote for a President, you vote for his party, and I cannot in good conscience vote for the Republican party. When the current conservative movement implodes and the party once again is open to a variety of opinions then I’ll reconsider.
  • Obama’s values, governance and style reflect my values, understanding of the facts, and preferred way that politicians should operate. He’s not a Dukakis, or Carter, or LBJ, or one of the scarier people the Democrats have waiting in the wings … he’s more like a Clinton or JFK. SO he’s not a bad choice to have up there, regardless of the Republican opposition, with the possible exception of his positions on space and domestic spying.
  • You don’t change horses in a river … or a President in wartime.

Put another way, from the perspective of a liberal moderate, Obama is one of the most successful presidents in history, so no, too much would have to change. The Republicans would have to radically shift to the center, and Obama would have to turn into some kind of monster.
In 2016, however, who knows? Bloomberg? Romney? Christie? Could it be … Jeb Bush? (And yes I looked up their political positions before making that statement, though I reserve the right to change my mind if they have diarrhea of the mouth in the 2016 campaign).

Partisans may pshaw at this, evidence free as their reasoning is, because I’m not even a RINO (Republican in Name Only). If you have to put a name on what I am, I’m a left-leaning moderate. I haven’t voted for a Republican President since Bush’s dad. But Republicans are doing nothing to sell me on their party. I listen carefully to their positions. I’m trying to learn from their wisdom and defend their important values: the steering wheel of state needs to turn both ways.

But they’ve been drifting to the right since Bush lost to Clinton, since Bush violated his campaign promises and drifted to the right, and people like me ended up voting for the other guy. I still remember that day when a conservative shopkeeper, who had in front of him a voter telling him he switched parties because Bush went too far to the right, stood up enraged and told me that the reason Bush lost was because he wasn’t conservative enough.

Keep telling yourselves that.

In the meantime, the left of us are going to vote for the guy who passed healthcare reform, repealed don’t-ask-don’t-tell, ended the war in Iraq, repaired our relations with the world, and made a good-faith effort to close Guantanamo, and the moderates among us are going to vote for the guy who saved the auto industry, passed the stimulus, refused to prosecute those who were prosecuting the war on terror, repeated Bush’s surge trick in Afghanistan, piffed Osama bin Laden, and finally put the smackdown on Gaddafi the way Reagan wanted to oh so many years ago.

I’m sure if I went through and extensively fact-checked this article I’d have to blunt some of my criticism and praise; the real story is always too big to fit in the boxes that we want to fit it in. In particular, I know Obama’s not perfect. But I’m going to go with the guy who’s willing to take on ideas from the other side, if not their votes, because all the other side is trying to do now is make him fail – even if it means turning on their own ideas … or turning on their own. There’s a lot of good on the right … but right now, on many issues, the right’s in the wrong, and is extraordinarily resistant to accepting facts, reason, or even their own history, even in areas where Obama’s choosing to follow firmly in Bush’s footsteps to the point some of the left want to tear their hair out.

In the end, it’s not about parroting the current set of litmus positions to establish one’s group identification.

It’s about being effective at doing what’s right.

-the Centaur

P.S. For the record, while I admire Ron Paul’s clear moral compass, and would love to see Newt Gingrich debate Obama just for the fireworks of seeing two powerful minds clearly articulate their conflicting ideals, if I did have to pick a Republican candidate I would pick Mitt Romney because I think he’s the most experienced, levelheaded, and dare I say moderate of the current pack. I agree with my friend: he is the best choice out of the Republican field, even though I have the option of selecting a different candidate from a different party that better reflects my personal values. Best of luck, Mitt, though I will be voting for the other guy.

Pictured: White Flag by Jasper Johns, currently hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.