Obama and the Realists


The publishers of The National Interest — the policy journal of traditional Republican realist thinking — offer a split decision on the presidential election. A split is a bad result for McCain since, as they note, “Senator McCain would be a natural choice for both of us, as a fellow Republican and a friend who served with distinction on The Nixon Center board for many years.” The other point is that their complaints about Obama are overwhelmingly concerns about his domestic policy agenda, which I wouldn’t expect any kind of Republican to be enthusiastic about. But both authors are primarily national security people and their publication is primarily about foreign policy, and on this front they clearly prefer Obama, with their main reservation being that some Democrats (Richard Holbrooke is their example) are too neoconnish for their taste.

Clearly, this isn’t going to be the difference-maker in next year’s election. But in terms of the competition among elites and interest-groups that does a lot to shape the actual policy environment once the electoral die is cast, this is a sign of important things to come. Obama has a real opportunity to eschew the excesses of the neocon-lite wing of the Democratic Party and add the bulk of realist practitioners to his coalition. Alternatively, realists might do some work inside the Republican coalition and try to make a serious effort to retake control from the neocons.