Boris Johnson is the mayor of London, a former Conservative Member of Parliament, a most intelligent, open-minded and genial man, and incidentally a friend of mine. He writes a very well-received column in the conservative Daily Telegraph, and he is endorsing Barack Obama with enthusiasm. Nor is he alone among Conservatives to be doing so. His colleague Charles Moore, one of the most thoughtful of commentators, is another who wants Obama to win. The Times, the self-styled paper of record, endorses Obama as well. One of its star columnists, William Rees-Mogg, (another highly intelligent man, also a friend of mine), has been an Obamaist since the start of the campaign.
The Left, and pretty well all the Europeans, hope that the United States elects a president who will be something of a socialist, and this might mean thrillingly that the country falls flat on its face, no longer a super-power but wracked with thoroughly European doubts and confusions. But the Right surely does not want anything like that to happen. Why, then, are the most informed and influential Conservatives with regular media outlets taking a position that contradicts their basic political convictions?
Boris Johnson’s latest article goes over this ground. He thinks that President Bush rocked democracy and capitalism, “the two great pillars of the American idea.” He himself supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but now in spite of growing evidence of success condemns it as “catastrophic.” In subjective mode, he then praises Obama for seeming talented, compassionate and offering hope. And the final kicker for voting for him – “the glaring reason” – is race. If Obama wins, we could see the end of race-based politics, the grievance culture and political correctness. And this is pretty much the main point Charles Moore, William Rees-Mogg and others come up with.
No doubt this is well-meant, but Obama has to win or lose for being the man and the candidate he is, and anything else would be no good. If color were really to play a part in Obama’s election, then it would also influence how people come to judge him in office. Suppose that he were a failure, that he made some domestic or foreign policy choices of the kind he proposes but they proved divisive and indeed made the country fall on its face. Then anyone and everyone who’d supported Obama on grounds of color would be caught in the wake of real and unwelcome race-based politics.