Republicans Should Applaud Obama

Better his optimism than Hillary's dirty tricks.

As Hillary and Obama continue to duke it out right up through the Democratic convention, neck-in-neck, fighting increasingly dirty (and for Hillary, that's saying something), many Republicans are seizing upon this one small ray of hope with glee.  If Hillary manages, by hook and by crook, to gain the nomination then she will be a very weak candidate, which John McCain might possibly beat.

Not only did Hillary have the highest negatives of any candidate before the primaries got under way, she would no doubt have so angered the Obama supporters that it would be a very, very tough row to hoe to get them back on board for the general election.  This is surprisingly similar to the way conservatives feel about McCain.

In accordance with Napoleon Bonaparte's sage advice to "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake," a good many Republican voters think that they should do whatever is feasible to ensure Hillary's nomination - if necessary, by actually voting for her over Obama in their state's open primary.  The thinking goes that we are better off with a weakened Democratic nominee that McCain might possibly defeat, as opposed to one who is seen as the Second Coming of the Messiah by the liberal base.

This is a somewhat understandable reaction.  However, for the Republican party in general and for conservatives specifically, it is a critically serious mistake.

What is it about the Clintons that conservatives and Republicans have hated so fiercely and for so long?  It's not their actual policies - we have had far more liberal presidents (such as Jimmy Carter) who did not generate anything like the fury and passion.

Obviously the Clintons have proposed a healthy helping of socialism; Hillarycare comes immediately to mind.  But Bill also took many actions that conservatives could, if not wholeheartedly praise, at least gently nod their heads.  Welfare reform is a major one; NAFTA and other actions furthering free trade as well.  All things considered, the Clinton administration was not nearly as leftist as it first appeared that it would be.

Hillary is generally considered to be less pragmatic and more ideologically socialist than her more malleable husband.  But even there, Hillary takes a practical (as distinct from rhetorical) position on the War on Terror and in Iraq which, were she in the Oval Office, would likely translate into a halfway tolerable result.

Why, then, the intensity of the hatred?  The problem with the Clintons is not so much the actual policies they espouse; rather, it is their mindset - their style - how they play the game, as it were.

Clintonian politics, and especially Hillary, is notorious for an absolute ruthlessness, a "no-holds-barred", scorched earth policy.  They take Vince Lombardi's famous credo of "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing", and take it to extremes that the great coach never would have countenanced.

Mudslinging?  Check.  Lies?  Double-check.  Illegal donors?  Illegal opponent espionage via illicitly-obtained FBI files?  Vote fraud?  Dirty tricks?  The politics of personal destruction?  Standard operating procedure for the Clintons.

When the Clintons employed these scurrilous tactics against their opponents on the Right, their supporters on the Left and in the mainstream media naturally applauded them.  But now Hillary is in the fight of her life against, not a member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, but in fact an upright, well-spoken young man (minority, no less) from the further left.

She's deploying exactly the same full panoply of political grenades, shivs, and back stabs that she perfected against Bill's Republican opponents (and his illicit lady-loves, too).  This has horrified their erstwhile supporters, so much so that some leftists have even begun to publicly wonder whether the Right was right about the Clinton's evils all along.

Barack Obama is a superb orator, and thus far he has spun a campaign from the candy-floss of hope and dreams.

He has cast himself as a man beyond party, and certainly beyond race.  But Obama's limited record only shows an absolutely unmitigated, unreformed far-leftist, with a socialistic, authoritarian, big-government voting inclination that out-liberals Teddy Kennedy.  We can expect a President Obama to be even worse than a President Hillary.

In an important sense, it does not matter.  Barack Obama believes what he believes - most of it dead wrong.  But he does not believe in his own moral perfection - that is, the moral imperative of doing what he Knows Is Right by any means necessary, fair or foul.

He honors the rules of the game; respects his opponents; and wants not merely to claim the moral high ground, but in fact to occupy it and never stray therefrom.  A tremendous number of Democrats - and people all across the political spectrum - have seized on this essential aspect of Obamaism as something urgently needed in our politics today - as in fact it is.

No matter what conservatives do, no matter what candidates are proffered, no matter how much better the policy proposals may be, one side cannot win all the time.  There will be Democratic presidents.  There will be Democratic governors; in fact, there will be states wholly controlled by the Democratic party.

There will be times when the Democrats are in the majority in both houses of Congress; there will be Democratic judges, and mayors, and city-councilmen, all the way down to dogcatchers.  It has always been thus, and in a democracy, it always has to be.

It's essential for power to rotate, and not to rest with one party for too long.  Was it healthy for the Republicans to hold the Presidency and both houses of Congress?  A simple reflection over the scandals of 2006 answers that question.  The Republicans deserved to lose, and in a two-party system, that means a Democrat will win.

When that happens, as it inevitably will, it is far, far better to have a sane Democratic party - a Democratic party that does not truly believe in their hearts, as so many of the DailyKos,, and Clintonian operatives do, that Republicans eat little babies and drink the blood of Iraqis.

Barack Obama disagrees with Republican policies, but he doesn't hate Republicans.  He seeks solutions - his solutions, preferably, but solutions nevertheless.

If you view your opponent as the Devil incarnate, how can you possibly hope to work with him?  All your efforts will be expended in kneecapping him, shoving him six feet under, and dancing on his grave.  That's the method of the Clintons; nothing could be further from the intent of Barack Obama.

What happened in 2000, when Republican George W. Bush defeated Al Gore, the heir to the Clintons?  Fury.  The left created the myth of the chads.  They asserted the never-dying mantra that Gore "really" won, and that Bush was illegitimate, holding the Oval Office unearned.  Political relations went downhill from there.

A President Hillary would be viewed as a restoration, and when a royal restoration takes place, what always happens to the usurper and his supporters?  The guillotine, or the firing squad.  How is this good for the country?

The best thing that could happen for the Democratic party, for the United States, and in the long run for the Republican Party too, is for Hillary to be defeated and rejected - not by the Republicans, nor yet by the country as a whole, but by her own party.  The Democratic Party must excise the cancer all on its own, to purify itself.

If the price of this essential cleansing is President Obama, it is a price well worth paying.  The Democrats may be the political opponents of the Republicans; but they are an essential part of the body politic.  A cancer eating at their hearts affects us all, and its removal benefits us all.

Republicans and Democrats will never agree on fundamentals.  But they can, and must, at least agree to be civil and respectful as people.  Barack Obama's nomination, and the Clinton's political demise, is a giant step in this direction.  And isn't it an essential aspect of conservatism to take the long view?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
I am very very torn on this issue. I love what you are saying here on what is fundamentally an issue of respectability. For decades now, the Democrats have been run by very unrespectable politicians, Bill and Hillary leading the pack. Obama brings with himself a sense of respectability that makes one at least nod in his direction.

HOWEVER, I can imagine many ways in which a President Obama will lead to a great deal of strife in the country. Since he has no experience and a partyline record, he is bound to be hated by the youth that put him in office after they see later see that he really is no different.

I guess I'm saying that in order for Obama to maintain his respectability he really must implement some kind of change, good or bad.
February 23, 2008 8:40 AM
IMO, Obama simply doesn't have the experience to be an effective president.

But, frankly, even if he is, I think the long term implications are good for conservatism - can you imagine the overall reaction the country would have if he really DID implement most of his socialist ideals?

Socialism is becoming more and more popular, it seems, and nobody really understands the implications of it. Maybe the country needs a really good taste of socialism again, so we can remember why we have, as a nation, rejected that philosophy.
February 24, 2008 6:43 PM
The problem with getting "a really good taste of socialism" is that nations don't recover. The cycle takes several hundreds years to correct. Socialism looks after itself, first and foremost.

(Also, not sure why you said "again". We never had it to begin with. Don't want to be picky; just noticed it)
February 24, 2008 8:03 PM
The scariest thing about yielding power to the democrats is that from the conservative's perspective, they can do far more damage than a conservative President could do to the democrat's agenda. This is because conservatives primarily resist bigger government while liberals advocate bigger government. When a conservative holds office, he simply buys America another 4 years of not getting any worse, but when a liberal holds office, he can establish things that will probably never go away. Once bad programs and institutions are in place, they rarely get removed (as twibi said, "socialism looks after itself, first and foremost"). Take pretty much anything established under FDR. Those things brought our country much closer to "socialism" and we're still very much stuck with them and their consequences today.

If a conservative gets in office, we get things to stay the same (that's what conservatism is). If a liberal gets in office, we may get something like nationalized health care. Won't that be a fun albatross to hang around our neck.

So, while Obama could bring "balance" back to the bipartisanal world, the risk of irreparable damage is pretty darn scary!
February 27, 2008 3:19 PM
The risks pointed out concerning Democratic presidents are certainly true. The problem is, McCain is highly likely to do just as much damage as the Democrats, although in different places. For instance, if he has his way concerning the illegal immigrants, there will never be another conservative elected to national office in any of our lifetimes. At least, if there is a Democratic president, the remaining Republicans in Congress will have a much easier time resisting. It's a lot harder to do no-holds-barred resistance when the president claims your own same party affiliation.
February 27, 2008 9:19 PM
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