Supporting Obama Reasonably
Recently, there has been a rash of conservative, or at least right-wing leaning, writers who have announced their support for Barack Obama. Christopher Buckley (whose conservative reputation, it must be said, is a living testament to the power of nepotism) endorsed Obama, as did moderates David Brooks and Christopher Hitchens. Kathleen Parker hasn’t yet endorsed Obama, but given she recently called the McCain campaign “divisive”, “anti-intellectual” and “ugly”, it’s not hard to see which way she’s leaning.
I can, at some level, understand the reasoning behind these endorsements. This line of thinking isn’t popular, and few agree with it, but there is a case to be made for it. There is nothing wrong with holding an unpopular opinion, and these writers don’t have to be ashamed that they are voting for Obama. But it’s odd that after endorsing Obama, each of these writers starting writing absolutely absurd articles trying to defend their choice.
Kathleen Parker wrote about the anger and hatred expressed towards minorities at Sarah Palin rallies. Parker exposes the truth about the phrase “palling around with terrorists”—it actually riles “xenophobic, anti-Muslim sentiment,” which must be difficult, given that that sentence doesn’t actually include any references to either foreigners or Muslims. Parker reveals that this tactic has been “effective with target audiences,” based on the airtight evidence of a YouTube video someone posted showing a few eccentrics at a Palin rally.
For the record, Parker is absolutely wrong about the level of anger at Palin rallies. I’ve been to two. And if the people who attend rallies in Cincinnati are typical of people around the country, then Sarah Palin rallies are composed of perfectly nice, rational people. If there were any angry xenophobes attending either gathering, I missed them. People who go to Palin rallies are perfectly rational; the idea that they are somehow dangerous is simply a lie. Kathleen Parker is better than this. Her beliefs may be unpopular, but she doesn’t need to stoop this low.
Christopher Hitchens is, possibly, a bit mad, but in a brilliant way. His likes and dislikes are passionately held—he is either for something or against it. He’s against Palin.
So he felt the need to write a stupid, poorly researched column attacking her “anti-intellectualism.” Palin may in fact be anti-intellectual, but not for any of the reasons Hitchens gives.
Sarah Palin criticized earmarks used for studying fruit flies in France. So Hitchens, reasoning that fruit flies are used for DNA research, and DNA research is scientific and good, reasoned that Palin’s opposition to a fruit fly related earmark must mean that she is setting herself against science.
Yeah, there are a few links missing in that logical chain. The earmark Palin was referring to had nothing to do with DNA research—it was a result of lobbying efforts by olive growers to control the fruit fly population. This might be a good idea—but this isn’t exactly Gregor Mendel discovering the existence of genes here. Palin’s opposition was wholly justifiable.
Actually, this is some of Hitchens’ stronger reasoning. Later on, he decides that since Palin favors mentioning creationism in public schools, it just follows that she must be a creationist who rejects the theory of evolution. And then he figures that since Palin doesn’t believe humans are responsible for global warming (which is an oversimplification of her beliefs), she must be a “premillenial dispensationalist” who believes that the world will end soon so there is just no point in protecting it. This reasoning is so dumb it makes one wonder why Hitchens needs to reach this much to prove his point. It is not as if there aren’t plenty of things to criticize about Sarah Palin.
Christopher Buckley doesn’t spend much time attacking Sarah Palin in his latest column, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for some dumb stuff. For some reason, Buckley was offended at Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of his Obama endorsement (though one wonders what he expected), and decided to take him on. Why he decided to do this is a mystery—he couldn’t hope to win, given Limbaugh’s large audience, and attacking Rush would only serve to damage his reputation with conservatives further. Perhaps deciding that he wouldn’t damage it any worse, Buckley started his column by using a lot of French phrases to prove his elitist credentials, which while a clever idea, served to make him seem utterly pretentious.
Anyway, Buckley found time to repeat the fruit fly canard before reaching the heart of his essay—that Limbaugh was unfair when he said that “even if [Obama] goes lefty when he’s elected, [Buckley]’ll have a problem with that” summed up Buckley’s position. When actually Buckley said that “having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves.” Which has precisely the same meaning as Limbaugh’s quote.
Buckley closes by reminding us that he knew William F. Buckley and Rush isn’t him. Because if there is one person who should decide who the next dominant conservative leader is, it would be Christopher Buckley, the guy who’s voting for an ultra-liberal Democrat.
Those rightists who endorsed Obama don’t have to be ashamed. Endorsing Obama is a defensible decision, and there is no need to embarrass oneself trying to defend it.