Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bruce Bartlett's Complaint

See if you're empathetic with Bartlett:

One of the most frustrating things about being a conservative these days is suffering from both sides in the debate about George W. Bush. As soon as one admits to being conservative, one is assumed to be a supporter of the administration. It takes a lot of effort to explain why almost nothing this administration has done is “conservative” by the standards of what conservatism has meant historically.

Liberals don’t believe you and figure that you are just a rat deserting the sinking Bush ship. Independents don’t understand what you are talking about, because they have been told over and over again that this is the most conservative administration in history.

Meanwhile, many of those in charge of the institutions of conservatism — magazines, radio talk shows, think tanks, television news networks and such — have adopted the view that Bush defines conservatism. As comedian Stephen Colbert explained to me when I was on his show, a key tenet of conservatism is support for the president. Therefore, whatever Bush does is conservative.

To me, Ronald Reagan was a conservative. Yet conservatives constantly harped on him when he deviated from the conservative line. Reagan was continually berated for not doing enough to cut spending, for acceding to tax increases during budget negotiations, for appointing moderates to key positions, and for not doing enough to pursue a conservative agenda.

Today, many of those same conservative Reagan critics are among Bush’s strongest supporters. They robotically defend everything he does no matter how unconservative or even anti-conservative it is. This phenomenon truly baffles me.

One finds that Bush-adherence-syndrome (BAS) is most wretchedly asskissing immediately prior to elections. But then, there are "talk shows" to which I don't listen.

3 comments:

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Billiam said...

Bush is not a conservative, he's more a moderate. I support some of his ideas, others, no. I also won't hesitate to disagree with some of the things he does. I'm no lock-step person. Bartlett makes good points.

M.Z. Forrest said...

Liberals don’t believe you and figure that you are just a rat deserting the sinking Bush ship. Independents don’t understand what you are talking about, because they have been told over and over again that this is the most conservative administration in history.

This is probably the most important part of the piece. One could argue that liberals and independents are just idiots. Or once could surmise that 'conservatism' has not articulated a vision for leadership fundamentally incompatible with George Bush's leadership. I think this is most telling in the three areas Bush is often criticized by conservatives: expanding the Dept. of Ed, his immigration proposal, and the Medicare Drug Benefit. While not arguing the merits of these proposals, I think it is self-evident that this proposals enjoy larger support with liberal and independent voters. Hence opposition by conservatives goes under the category of crediting a blind squirel (Bush) with being able to find an acorn on occasion.

With regard to the war and the tax program, I think this is the area you see greater opposition from liberals and independents. Conservatives have been slow to offer criticism in either case, excluding a few notable examples. Even with the tax cuts, conservatives will criticize the unwillingness to limit discretionary spending while maintaining that tax cuts were a net positive. I don't see where the differenciation points would come for liberals and independents.