Obama a good choice for Utah conservatives

By By James Sewell

By James Sewell

Less than two weeks from now, you will (I hope) go to the voting booth to cast a vote for John McCain or Barack Obama. Both candidates are good, decent men who sincerely believe in America and hope to make it better.

However, the extreme liberal-conservative antagonism that has marred the last decade (at least) of politics has also marred this campaign and skewed voters’ perceptions about each candidate.

Utah, as a conservative stronghold, will undoubtedly bequeath its electoral votes to McCain and the Republican Party. Many of you will vote for him as well. But before you do, keep in mind that Obama is far less liberal than many of his supporters, and his campaign’s narrative of change entails a move to the center, not a leftward lurch.

McCain still seems caught in the knee-jerk, cut-taxes-and-shrink-the-government paradigm.

Obama recognizes that the government, with its sure-to-exceed $1 trillion bailout of the financial sector, has become inextricably tangled with the marketplace.

This is a reality that cannot be dismissed with ideological inflexibility. The next president is going to spend much of his first term in office trying to manage two wars and a huge financial and economic problem.

Fiscal conservatives should like Obama’s plan of reducing our troop presence in Iraq, which is costing billions and gaining us little. National security hawks should like Obama’s plan to allocate the money and military forces currently in Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the true front for the War on Terror. Social conservatives might not like Obama’s support of Roe v. Wade, but he supports active community involvement of local churches and will make federal money available to church-based programs, following Bush’s lead on faith-based initiatives.

On the issue of judicial nominees and Roe v. Wade, if you believe McCain’s assertion that he has no litmus test for judicial nominees, then it’s possible that you’ll end up with a McCain Supreme Court nominee who supports abortion rights anyway, though without the support for church-based community service programs that McCain says must go as a result of taking a hatchet to the government’s budget. However, if you don’t believe him, then he’ll probably be stifled in the confirmation stage by the Democratic majority in Congress, leading to the kind of bipartisan stalemate Obama will earnestly attempt to avoid.

Obama will not be weaker than McCain on foreign policy and national security; fighting the War on Terror means putting resources where they’ll be most effective. That means there will be more money spent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as money to upgrade national infrastructure here at home. After all, Obama might bring some credibility to our efforts at stabilizing the Middle East, instead of antagonizing those nations with hawkish rhetoric and misunderstanding the internal political dynamics of Iran, Iraq and Islam itself (Sunni, Shia, etc.), as McCain has consistently done.

Obama was ridiculed for saying he would hold talks with the leaders of North Korea, Iran and other enemies without preconditions. But if you want to negotiate the disarmament of a nuclear Iran, you can’t make the nuclear disarmament of Iran a precondition of the negotiation. This is another instance where McCain’s tough talk only further serves to erode the goodwill necessary for two sides to come together and work things out. It won’t work for America’s foreign policy, and it won’t work for domestic policy either.

Do you think a McCain administration will respond better to disasters like Hurricane Katrina than an Obama administration? Emergency response is a national security issue that Republicans have failed to grasp.

The bottom line is that the conservative movement, in its traditional, Reagan-esque sense, is dead. We’ve seen throughout the Bush administration what the effects of deregulation can be, what a bullyish foreign policy can do to alienate our allies and how the presence of an unthinking ideologue in the Oval Office affects the direction of the entire country.

But what’s exciting about Obama is that he gives even some conservatives the warm fuzzies. His candidacy is about tearing down the old distinctions, while McCain’s has been to reinforce them. Obama is the future face of conservatism.

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James Sewell