Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Excommunicating Bush

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Greenwald: "The great fraud being perpetrated in our political discourse is the concerted attempt by movement conservatives, now that the Bush presidency lay irreversibly in ruins, to repudiate George Bush by claiming that he is not, and never has been, a 'real conservative.' This con game is being perpetrated by the very same conservatives who -- when his presidency looked to be an epic success -- glorified George W. Bush, ensured both of his election victories, depicted him as the heroic Second Coming of Ronald Reagan, and celebrated him as the embodiment of True Conservatism."

This, of course, is what conservatives do. They like winners, and when a winner becomes a loser, as Bush has, they not only distance themselves from that loser, they excommunicate that loser, making the case that the loser is a loser, or has become a loser, because he (or she, but usually he) isn't, or never was, a genuine conservative, or has abandoned conservatism, or has succumbed -- and this is the greatest heresy of all -- to liberalism.

But of course this assumes that conservatism of monolithic, which it isn't. There are many forms of conservatism -- paleo-, neo-, social, corporate, libertarian, etc. -- and these forms, or strands, are often incompatible with one another. What has held these forms of conservatism together is money and the desire for victory, as well as opposition to its mythical enemy, liberalism, and the "conservative movement" has over the last few decades been extremely successful both in holding together its disparate elements and, through the Republican Party, in winning at the polls.

And Bush was -- and is -- a conservative. He was celebrated by conservatives in 2000, he was essentially deified by them after 9/11, and much of his presidency -- including but not limited to his tax cuts for the wealthy, his energy policies, his expansion of executive power, his efforts to privatize social security, and his theocratic policies on stem-cell research, abortion, same-sex marriage, and the like -- has been dedicated to a specifically conservative agenda. Many conservatives may not approve of his position on immigration, but he has always been somewhat more "liberal" on that issue, as well as on education -- his position on immigration, as Greenwald notes, is hardly new.

So why the "discontent"? Why the "rebellion"? "There is really only one thing that has changed about George W. Bush from the 2002-2004 era when conservatives hailed him as the Great Conservative Leader, and now. Whereas Bush was a wildly popular leader then, which made conservatives eager to claim him as their Standard-Bearer, he is now one of the most despised presidents in U.S. history, and conservatives are thus desperate to disassociate themselves from the President for whom they are solely responsible. It is painfully obvious there is nothing noble, substantive or principled driving this right-wing outburst; it is a pure act of self-preservation."

Remember that Simpsons episode where Bart knocks over Krusty's set and then says, "I didn't do it"? Well, that's basically what's happening here. Conservatives are looking at Bush and saying, "We didn't do it. He's not one of us. He never was. So don't blame us. In fact, if he was like us, he'd never have become such a failure." It's a way for conservatives to pretend that all is well with conservatism. It's a way for them to lie to themselves, and to us, and to the media. "Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed," as Digby put it so well, explaining this phenomenon. The problem is, conservatism fails all the time. Whatever its many electoral successes, whatever its success in bullying the media into submission, it is becoming increasingly clear -- and it should have been clear all along, and it was to many -- that conservatism itself is a failure.

The massive failure of George W. Bush is just the most blatant expression of the decay and corruption in conservatism's soul.

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