Obama's Conservofans

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Reading what Ross says here, I realize that what I wrote about Barack Obama's admirers among the conservative pundit class is open to misinterpretation. Here's something that people I talk to sometimes say, but that I don't believe:

Conservative pundits like David Brooks like to praise Barack Obama because they think he'll be an easy mark in the general election.

What I do think is that praising Barack Obama appeals to conservative pundits in large part because, right now, praising Obama is a useful means by which to denigrate Hillary Clinton. As such, I think part of the background for things like Brooks' praise of Obama is belief that he's likely to lose the primary. I think there's a desire on the right to make the 2008 election mostly about the Clinton family rather than being about contemporary American conservatism's horrid record in office. Portraying the current Democratic primary as an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of light and the forces of Clintonism nicely sets up the general election as a second round between light and Clinton. Do I see this as a machiavellian scheme hatched out of Karl Rove's front office? No. But that's my diagnosis of the function of Obamafandom. If Obama loses the primary, Obamafandom becomes a reason to vote Republican -- the Democratic Party is so rotten that it rejected the One. If Obama wins the primary, I assume that Obamafandom will rapidly wither away. It will turn out that the Democratic Party is so rotten that tainted the One. Or something like that.

Meanwhile, what I'm trying to say about the real world is that there's just no justification for viewing the Obama/Clinton choice as some kind of night and day Moment of Decision for America. There are differences between the two of them, but in the scheme of things they're either small differences or fuzzy ones, not the gaping void that many on the right seem to perceive.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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