Hell has officially frozen over.
National Review is a reliably conservative magazine which can usually, though not always, be counted upon to defend the Republican party line. William F. Buckley was the editor-at-large for many years, and now that role is filled by John O’Sullivan. Today Mr. O’Sullivan makes the case that an Obama presidency might, just might, conceivably, perhaps be in the conservative interest. Mr. O’Sullivan is British, and he makes his case with examples about Tories and Labour, including this gem:
Then there is the McCainiac position. Disraeli expressed this best in his rebuke to Bulwer Lytton who was rattling on about his principles: “Damn your principles, stick to your party.” As Disraeli also declared when someone (Bulwer Lytton again, I think) said that he would support his ministry when he was right: “That’s no use. Anyone can support me when I am right. What I need are people who will support me when I am wrong.”
This in a fascinating article, and you really ought to read it, regardless of your political orientation. But O’Sullivan’s case can be captured in these statements: (please forgive the long quotes.)
That argument does not apply quite so effectively to an Obama candidacy — and for an interesting reason. In addition to conservative parties and conservative principles, there is a third consideration: what might be called “the conservative interest.” A political event is in the conservative interest if it strengthens and stabilizes the country. At times that greater strength may be to the disadvantage of the conservative party or come at some (temporary) cost in conservative principles. But when the smoke of battle clears, conservatives will see, sometimes with surprise, that the nation is better for the change from a conservative standpoint.
A British example: in 1923 when there was a three-way split in parliament with no single party having enough votes to rule alone, George V asked the Labour Party to form its first government with the argument (I quote from memory) “Labour must have its turn.”
The king’s decision inflicted a bad government on Britain for less than two years. But it reconciled the working class to the British system of democracy (in the difficult economic circumstances after the Great War) and it demonstrated to everyone that British democracy was not a façade for class rule that the Marxists claimed. Ultimately it meant that the Britain which went to war in 1939 was a socially united country.
What does the conservative interest indicate on this occasion? It seems possible and even likely that a victory by Barack Obama would be the climax of this long policy of fully integrating black and minority America into the nation and putting the querulous politics of race behind us. As I have argued elsewhere, the mere fact of a President Obama would strengthen and stabilize America just as a Polish pope undermined Soviet rule in Eastern Europe. Black and minority America would be fully integrated into the nation as the British working class was fully integrated into the British political nation by George V. Americans would feel better about themselves and the world would feel very differently about America. The conservative interest, as defined above, would therefore smile upon a vote for Obama.
And if it should turn out to be Obama, Republicans will take cautious comfort from the possibility that his presidency will advance the wider conservative interest in a less fractured America. For that would be a permanent gain for conservatism under any president.
1. Who do you think will get Mr. O’Sullivan’s vote?
2. How do the Brits manage to come up with such great names? I’ve never heard of Bulwer Lytton, but I like his handle.