My Thomas Jefferson Street colleague Bonnie Erbe is reveling in the right's reaction to Christopher Buckley's decision to vote for Barack Obama. Buckley, of course, is the son of the late conservative godfather William F. Buckley Jr. but also a bright mind in his own right, so his defection deserves to be noticed.
Bonnie takes a few jabs at conservative reaction, which is justifiably indignant but, admittedly, in many instances downright nasty. Well, yes, the right has its share of impolite radicals too.
Far more important, however, is the substance of Buckley's dissent.
Buckley decries John McCain for being "inauthentic," for saying things he can't possibly believe. Fair enough: As a fellow libertarian-conservative, I share Buckley's skepticism that McCain will balance the budget by the end of his term. I'll even raise him one further: McCain's never shown particular facility with economics, and I doubt he will stick to his pledge to lower taxes. (I don't agree, however, that Sarah Palin is such a terrible choice for veep. She may not be, as Buckley's father was, a revolutionary for conservatism, but she is an accurate representation of many in the movement.)
But if inauthenticity is the chief reason Buckley won't vote for McCain, what are his reasons for voting for Obama? As he writes:
But 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. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.
In other words, inauthenticity. Despite what Obama says he'll do, Buckley prays (secularly) that he'll do the polar opposite.
Buckley's rationale is puzzling, particularly for we libertarian-conservatives who temper our ideals with a healthy dose of skepticism. I have little doubt that McCain, as president, would backslide on his promises. But I see no reason to blindly hope that Obama would suddenly perform a U-turn.
The best I can make of Buckley's decision is that he's been swept up by what has characterized the modern Western Left and its latest protégé, Obama: the triumph of hope over reason.