Bruce Bartlett, a conservative writer, has a fascinating article in the new New Republic speculating on how many conservatives are defecting to Barack Obama. He finds a fair number of libertarians, such as Andrew Sullivan, in the camp of Obamacons, as well as Republicans who oppose the Iraq War and even a smattering of supply-siders.
Some of this has to do with style: Obama's respect for history and tradition and stable social structures such as churches, as well as his Burkean skepticism about how easily society can be changed by bold ideas. His hints along these lines have been eagerly listened to by some conservative think tanks. As Bartlett notes, A broad swath of the movement has been in open revolt against George W. Bush--and the Republican Party establishment--for some time. They don't much care for the Iraq war or the federal government's vast expansion over the last seven-and-a-half years. And, in the eyes of these discontents, the nomination of John McCain only confirmed the continuation of the worst of the Bush-era deviations from first principles.
Then there's Obama's neighborhood, Hyde Park, the home of the University of Chicago and the bastion of free-market economics. As Thomas Frank, a fellow Chicagoan, notes in a column on Chicago politics, Obama will be attacked by the Republican populists as hailing from "the Hyde Park section of Chicago, where liberal professors mingle in an academic world that is alien to most working-class voters." Horrors! Another Berkeley?
Problem with this slur is that the University of Chicago professors, from the Milton Friedman Institute on down, are generally beloved of conservatives for their lusty defense of free trade, salary gaps, and their attacks on the New Deal.
Obama may be able to have it both ways: darling of the university districts but also a creature of that rare university that harbors free-market conservatism.