Thursday, June 25, 2009

Obama is a Conservative


When you get past the social issues that go in and out of favor with different parties (abortion being legal is actually an example of limited government and was not always anathema to conservatives) and consider conservatism as a posture toward governing, Obama is more conservative than his predecessor.

For starters, Obama believes in incremental rather than radical change. Even though he believes that single payer government run healthcare is how we'd do it if we started from scratch, he's going to work within our current system because he's sensitive to the impact dismantling the healthcare industry, however corrupt and incompetent, would have on the economy.

Even though the banks and the car companies were inept and reckless, he opted to bail them out because he did not want radical disturbances to ripple through the economy. On Iran, he showed restraint in not siding with one presidential candidate over another, but merely condemned the violence against peaceful protesters. In other words, he didn't not meddle or involve the United States in a conflict that on this occasion had nothing to do with us.

It would seem that being conservative (in its most positive sense) is to be humble and restrained. You are rightfully wary of radical change because you can't possibly know the outcome (unlike the neocons who arrogantly and wrongly assumed things would go smoothly after they invaded Iraq and dismantled its army). You act only out of necessity (as when the financial system nearly collapsed), but not out of choice. You regulate financial markets to ensure they serve their function - to grease the wheels of commerce, and so they don't devolve into casinos that produce short-term revenue but ultimately destroy long-term wealth creation.

Changing the health care system is also a move of necessity with long-term costs threatening to destroy our fiscal outlook and already bankrupting millions of citizens. Moreover, our outcomes are among the worst in the civilized world and our costs are the highest. To do so without starting from scratch is the conservative way to go about it.

There are times I wish he were far more radical and willing to take the hammer to the crooks in health insurance, banking and other corrupt industries that have stolen from the public for decades. I'd like to see him prosecute the Bush administration for torture and take on the corn lobby that helps poison our food supply. But if Obama were that guy, he would probably not have been elected president. And even though a more radical approach that emphasized instant justice would be more satisfying, its side effects and potential backlash are impossible to know.

2 comments:

Jonah Keri said...

Tremendous post. The part about legal abortion being at its core a conservative idea was particularly well stated.

Chris Liss said...

I actually heard that the other day on NPR - that initially the conservatives were for it (though it wasn't a big deal), and it was not until the Christian right co-opted the Republican party that it became part of the platform.