Friday, October 24, 2008

The Defectors

Sarah Palin seems to have become the catalyst for the Great Republican Divide.

After my initial Palin outrage subsided I began to notice that only a certain type of Republican voter seemed to be excited about her. I first noticed this in my Republican voting friends, several of whom were turned off by Palin, waffled, and then became apprehensive Obama supporters. I then noticed this trend among the punditocracy, when a few regular Republican supporters were openly critical of Palin. And finally, when a host of conservative ideologues (I call them the intellectuals) started jumping ship, I knew for sure something was going on.

The Republican party is splintering... a divide between the ideological conservatives (paleo-cons) and the religi-social populists that's been a long time coming. I couldn't be more grateful -- or more fascinated. I was not politically inclined back when Democrats went through something similar... it's history in the making.

I've written about some of the public defections that have caught my eye. There have been others, like Ken Adelman, but I've been busy and I can't blog about every little thing I read (nor would you want me to, I'm sure). But Charles Fried, the most recent defector, isn't just another Republican... he's a McCain advisor.

Charles Fried, a professor at Harvard Law School, has long been one of the most important conservative thinkers in the United States. Under President Reagan, he served, with great distinction, as Solicitor General of the United States. Since then, he has been prominently associated with several Republican leaders and candidates, most recently John McCain, for whom he expressed his enthusiastic support in January.

This week, Fried announced that he has voted for Obama-Biden by absentee ballot. In his letter to Trevor Potter, the General Counsel to the McCain-Palin campaign, he asked that his name be removed from the several campaign-related committees on which he serves. In that letter, he said that chief among the reasons for his decision "is the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis."

Fried is exceptionally thoughtful and principled; his vote for Obama is especially noteworthy.


UPDATE: Fried writes to TNR: I admire Senator McCain and was glad to help in his campaign, and to be listed as doing so; but when I concluded that I must vote for Obama for the reason stated in my letter, I felt it wrong to appear to be recommending to others a vote that I was not prepared to cast myself. So it was more of an erasure than a public affirmation--although obviously my vote meant that I thought that Obama was preferable to McCain-Palin. I do not consider abstention a proper option.


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