The Problem is Conservatism
by tgeraghty, Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 04:51:30 PM EDT
Their neo-Wilsonian theory is correct, they insist, but the execution was botched by a Bush team that has turned out to be incompetent, crony-filled, corrupt, unimaginative and weak over a wide range of issues.
We cannot let them get away with this.
The vivid images from the Superdome were just too much for these folks. Recently, a prominent Republican businessman, whom I saw in a typical CEO haunt, astonished me with the severity of his attacks on Bush's competence. And Bush had appointed this guy to a major position! Amazing.
Fineman believes that Bush still has the "supply siders" on board. But check out what Bruce Bartlett, the supply-side guru recently fired by the hard-right National Center for Policy Analysis, has to say about Bush's economic policy:
Like many economic conservatives, he has grown increasingly disenchanted with the current administration's fiscal policy, arguing that Mr. Bush has tolerated if not encouraged a federal spending spree, dashing conservative hopes for progress toward a smaller, leaner government. . . .
In his next column, to be published on Wednesday, Mr. Bartlett wrote that it is dawning on many conservatives "that George W. Bush is not one of them and never has been," citing the administration's positions on education, campaign finance, immigration, government spending and regulation. The choice "of a patently unqualified crony for a critical position on the Supreme Court was the final straw," he wrote. . . .
In The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy which is scheduled to be published in April by Doubleday and has already attracted attention on conservative Web sites, Mr. Bartlett expands on many of the themes he has struck in his columns and other writings. He is critical of the administration for policy decisions like backing away at times from its commitment to open trade and for failing to sell conservative ideas like introducing investment accounts to Social Security.
So there we have it. A political strategy for saving the conservative ideology based on the argument that the failures of the Bush administration are not about ideology, they are about competence.
Again, I repeat: we cannot let them get away with this. Paul Waldman explains why in the American Prospect:
Indeed, large portions of the conservative movement can be understood as an effort to crush liberalism in all its manifestations. Conservatives understand that their main enemy is not a law, government program, or social condition they don't like. Their main enemy is a competing ideology, and that is what they spend their time fighting.
In contrast, liberals spend very little time talking about conservatism. They talk about their opposition to President Bush or the policies proposed by the Republican Congress, but they don't offer a critique of conservatism itself. When was the last time you saw a book-length polemic against conservatism? Liberals have failed to understand that a sustained critique of the other side's ideology not only defines your opponents, it helps to define you by what you are against.
We must make the case that the failures of the present administration are NOT simply due to the incompetence of one or a few people at the top.
Our current economic and national security predicament is a direct outgrowth of the application of modern conservative ideology to governing the country.
All of our economic problems - slowly rising living standards, rising inequality and poverty, massive and unsustainable private and public, domestic and international debt levels are all, each and every one, a direct outgrowth of the application of "trickle-down,""supply-side" economics to the making of economic policy.
At home, reckless tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest segments of the population, the evisceration of labor unions, government regulation of labor and financial markets, and social programs that are a prerequisite for broadly distributed prosperity, skyrocketing health care costs driven by an inefficient private-sector health care delivery and insurance system, and so on. Despite the whining of people like Bartlett, is there anything on this list that is not a direct outgrowth of conservative "free-market,""low-tax,""small-government,""pro-business" economics?
Abroad, worldwide distrust of the United States, a failed war, rising levels of terrorism, a broken Army, unchecked global poverty and disease; again, anything here, Bill Kristol's protests to the contrary, that cannot be directly attributed to the conservative vision that rejects liberal internationalism in favor of a world dominated by unchecked U.S. military and business power?
We must make the case that the problems we face as a nation are not just about incompetence. They are also about ideology. They are about the abject failure of conservatism in its modern American form. The problem is conservatism.
Don't let them get away with it.
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