Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Coming Conservative Crack-Up?

The Moose reiterates that even the right can benefit from a Bush loss.

The Moose has never been a big believer in the notion that Bush is a genuine right wing ideologue. When it serves his political purposes, the President is more than willing to stray from the conservative reservation - steel tarriffs and runaway government spending come to mind. He has never met an appropriations bill that he didn't sign. Bush clearly has no problem with welfare dependency if it benefits his well-heeled supporters. On domestic issues, Bush is first and foremost a coporatist - he deeply believes that what is good for the upper echelon of the Fortune 500 is good for America.

Bush realized that the Republican Party is dominated by two wings - the Money Wing and the Bible Wing. In order to initially win the nomination and then not to suffer his father's fate - he calculated that he must generally govern as a conservative.

And the leadership of the conservative movement tied its fate to Bush. The leaders of that movement love being stroked by the West Wing - Rove has truly domesticated them. That is why a Bush defeat will be interpreted by many as a crushing loss. This is cogently stated by Ramesh Ponnuru on National Review OnLine -

"You may think that conservatism has gone astray in recent years, but it is hard to deny that any president besides Reagan has been as closely allied with organized conservatism. (I am not, in other words, making a claim about what the proper definition of "conservatism" should be, just about what it is.) It follows that, in a certain sense, Bush's defeat next Tuesday would be the most crushing blow that organized conservatism has received since 1964 — or, really, ever. Reagan, our most conservative president, was not repudiated when he ran for reelection. Bush's father and Bob Dole had too distant a relationship with conservatism for their defeats to be attributed, by conservatives or even plausibly by others, to their conservatism; in the case of Bush's father, it was easy to make the case that it was precisely his unconservatism that doomed him."

The Moose begs to differ a bit with this view. Although it clearly would be a huge psychological defeat, a Bush loss could also be a liberating moment. Conservatism has thrived when it was in opposition - "standing athwart history yelling stop!" as the founder of the National Review put it. In the past decade since the Republicans took Congressional power, however, countless one-time conservative revolutionaries have merely become shills for corporate power. Note how tepid and ineffective the conservative opposition was to the big government and coporatist Medicare drug bill. Today, the lefties are as robust as the right once was.

A Bush loss will allow conservatives to once again revel in the joy of being the besieged and aggrieved opposition. And the last time we had divided government, we enjoyed restrained spending, tax cuts and genuine entitlement reform.

Sure, conservative big-shots will miss their visits to the West Wing following a Bush loss. But the movement might find that it is the best thing that could happen.
-- Posted at 3:30 PM | Link to this post | Email this post