My friend Hadleyblogger Gary was complaining about George Bush yesterday. Now, this is nothing new for Gary. As I’ve commented before, Gary would only be completely satisfied belong to a political party named after himself.
What I think is worth mentioning about Gary, and the reason I bring this up, is that until a few years ago most people would have called Gary a staunch Republican type (he eschewed party affiliations himself, but it would have been one of those “if the shoe fits” cases), and he remains a staunch conservative. He supported George Bush in 2000 - he was truly convinced that the younger Bush was different, more conservative, than his father. Perhaps even the heir to Ronald Reagan.
This feeling had, for the most part, dissipated by 2004. I can’t remember if he voted for Bush then, but the ardor had clearly worn off. Today, it’s totally gone – replaced by a withering contempt. In his mind, and in the minds of many like Gary, George Bush has betrayed not only the principles of the Republican party, but those of conservatism as well – the growing federal bureaucracy, the runaway spending, the increasing intrusiveness of the government, the continual erosion of national sovereignty, the war.
Gary is by no means a lone voice in this. What makes it so difficult for many in the conservative movement is that George Bush’s presidency has created such a distorted image, a totally inaccurate picture of what conservatives stand for. Bush isn’t a conservative – at best, he’s a moderate Republican, a return to the party’s pre-Reagan country club roots – but many people, trained over time to link “Republican” and “conservative” are presented with a grossly unfair depiction of what many would think of a “conservative” presidency. The best one can do when discussing politics with others is to stress to them that George Bush isn’t a conservative at all, that he’s not representative of how many conservatives really feel. Don’t judge us by what you see in him, we plead. There is an intelligent, comprehensive, logical ideology out there called “conservatism.” Trust us. We aren’t that bad, we aren’t that stupid.
George Bush has done incalculable damage to the conservative movement, creating stress points, confusion, co-opting the Republican party in the process by forcing many conservative Republicans to choose between party loyalty and ideological belief. Perhaps the worst aspect of this is the seeming tin-ear with which Bush and his administration have gone about alienating the very people to whom they should be looking for support.
The latest fiasco, the immigration “compromise,” just adds fuel to the fire, and in fact it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Many wonder if Bush really cares about this country at all, about its history, its heritage, its common culture – all of which have been diminished during the past 6+ years. David Frum, at NRO, makes the following prediction as to the battle:
As we have seen in both the Harriet Miers fight and the Dubai ports deal, this White House's first instinct when faced with dissent in the ranks is to insult and abuse its strongest supporters. "Sexist"; "elitist"; "registered bigots" were some of the terms cast during the previous fights. Brace yourselves for much, much worse. This is no way to win friends and influence people. And triggering an internecine party conflict on the eve of a difficult and dangerous election is no way to re-elect a damaged incumbent party.When I spoke with Gary about this, he threatened to become unintelligible altogether, so choked with fury was he. Gary sees in this president a man who has sold out his party, conservative principles, and ultimately his country – and from here, it’s hard to say anything other than that Gary has 20/20 vision.