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Matt McIrvin

But the Republicans will increasingly have the flip side of the problem: they won't be able to run against the government when they are the government. You can't have a one-party state consisting solely of an opposition-- not for long, at least.


Bush is actually closer to Lincoln then any other President. The Demorats need to be careful. If Howard the Duck gets the nomination, it will be the end of the party. He will suffer a defeat of Biblical proportions. Plus President Bush's coatails will get a filibuster proof Senate and the house will fall to double digits in democrats. The really wacko left will go to the Greens and the center to the Liberarians. As a Palo-con, I would hate to see that. America needs a two party system. A single huge party and several splinter groups would be a diaster in the war we are facing.
919 (A vote for Dean is a vote for Osama).

James R MacLean

Well, Ableiter, I suppose you might as well have a cluster of hallucinogenic observations in one place.

Martin Smith

Bush as a Nixonian political pragmatist - whatever it takes to stay in power. Seems like a well reasoned commentary to me.

At least Nixon was competent. Dems shouldn't be charging "he's a radical" when there are more fundamental, tangible issues like a fiscal train wreck and a military quagmire to proclaim.

It's the stupid incompetence. Or to borrow a well-worn cliche': It's the incompetence, stupid!


First time visitor to your blog. I plan to visit more often.

It seems that the Republicans, and Bush in particular, have broken the code. Spend like a liberal and tax like a conservative, and damn the torpedoes. Republican missteps in the past have all been marked by a foolish regard for consequences. Bush saw what happenned to his father when he chose reponsibility over pandering. He won't make the same mistake.

Angry Bear

The "screw everything up so people will dislike the government and vote Republican" (aka cake and eat it too) concept is one I hadn't thought of before, and it's just screwy enough to be scary.

For success, it hinges on Republicans not becoming the party of big government, in spite of the current massive spending increases and huge deficits. That seems largely dependent on the press coverage.

Will Republicans be able to avoid the big government appellation? Well, Tim Russert sat meekly by on Sunday while Tom DeLay claimed that (1) current deficits are small by historical standards, (2) Spending growth under Bush II has been 4% (more like 7%!), (3) Republicans get credit for balancing the budget under Clinton (even though they all voted against). And besides, DeLay added, balancing budgets is what they did in the Soviet Union, there's no need to do it here (No, really, he said it. I swear.) So, I am, sadly, not hopeful.

Still, policies this bad (i.e., massive spending and regressive tax cuts) will have to come home to roost at some point. But in 2004? 2008? 2012?


P.S. By 2012 seems like a certainty, given that the sunsets in the tax cuts mostly kick in between 2008 and 2010, so the President at that time will have to allow substantial tax increases or further damage the budget outlook--just as the baby boomers retire in force.


You have to strip out Bush' necessary responses to events, and Karl Rove's political tactics and expediencies, to get to Bush' (or Bush Administration's) radicalism. Even if they only moved forward by a few inches, his initiatives are defined by a view that what's good for corporate America is good for the whole. Tax cuts, Medicare, school vouchers, forest policy, energy policy, defense operations policy, pension fund investment, SEC reform, media ownership, and so on: all these policies and initiatives aren't guided simply by political fund-raising as the left accuses. They represent a belief that goes beyond elitism and privatisation to an acceptance that corporate wisdom and management style is best for the country. Perhaps Cheney is part of the backbone of this thinking; Enron was there too, but shook GW's beliefs a little.

This is pretty radical, if you take David Brooks' Sunday NYT piece at face value, that Bush is going to promote recasting all sorts of safety basket functions, government or corporate, as contracts between individuals and specialist for-profit providers.

Now, as with Medicare they might not get very far, and even end up going in reverse. But that doesn't make him any less radical for trying; it's a WSJ editorial page view of the world, and that's pretty radical.

paulo, http://whosecapitalism.typepad.com/


Outstanding blog. I agree that many of Bush's actions are not conservative. His expansion of government benefits, his huge homeland security department and his anti-federalism when states don't do what his Administration wants are not hallmarks of an ideologically consistent conservative philosophy.

However . . . if as you allude, his support of a prescription drug benefit turns people against government and leads to privatization of Medicare (and perhaps social security) then Bush may end up being the most conservative president ever. Coupled with a huge deficit, Bush and Rove may be paving the way for reversing the New Deal.

If this is intentional (and Grover Norquist quotes give us every reason to believe that it is) then the claims about Bush's conservatism may not be off base.


"But the Republicans will increasingly have the flip side of the problem: they won't be able to run against the government when they are the government. You can't have a one-party state consisting solely of an opposition-- not for long, at least."

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at December 22, 2003 07:21 PM

Actually, I think that you can - how long did communists call opponents 'counter-revolutionaries'? Even when the people in power were second-generation.

Reagan, who was (IIRC) a two-term governor of one of the largest states in the US, had no problem casting himself as opposed to government. The WSJ editorial page ranted about 'inside the beltway thinking' throughout the decade I read them - and there're few people who are more concerned with the details of federal government than they are.


Shorter Caldwell: Don't saddle us conservatives with George W. Bush. He's such a bad president he's beneath ideology.

Jim Ausman

Well written piece.

I think Bush is more of a Big Government Conservative than a liberal. The historical precident is worrisome.

Dan Morelli

I think there is one fundamental difference to point out between Bush and Nixon (besides many obvious ones). Nixon was politician, he knew politics, played politics, knew government, and could get smart reforms passed (which actually worked to the benefit of many people, such as American Indians), whereas Bush is a businessman (and a poor one at that), and seems not to understand good social policy (the energy bill for pete's sake) or even care as long as he is doing right by the wealthy (hey the dow is rising, everything must be fine). The best ideas he can come up with are new and old ways of transfering taxpayers money to wealthy people (starting wars, not closing tax loopholes for war contractors, starting back up nuclear program, adding prescription drug coverage, opening anything he can to government subsidized extraction, sticking public with environmental cleanup whenever possible). I don't think Dean will be able to reform all the many things in america that need common sense reform, but at least he has an overarching moderate agenda 70% of the country can agree with (if only the lazy media would read his damn website that has outlined his views for nearly a year now instead of reporting uninformed attacks from desperate rivals).


actually, they're even cutting funding for now child left behind.


The old left/right divisions are crumbling. There is now only pro-corporation vs. pro-democracy. We haven't come up with pithy names for them yet, but "left" and "right" are dead. Bush Jr. is clearly a pro-corporation radical. Bush I, Clinton, and our President Gore were pro-corporation moderates. (Michael Moore calls Clinton "the best Republican President we've ever had", and he's right). Kucinich's and the Libertarians' are the only real pro-democracy presidential platforms I've seen so far. Dean and Clarke are flirting with anti-corporate rhetoric but they want to get elected, so don't expect anything better than moderation from them.

The exciting part of this is watching the far-"left" Greens and far-"right" Freep'ers find common cause in opposing NAFTA, the WTO, the WIPO, the World Bank, the WEF, the USA-PATRIOT Act, the FTAA-- in short, if pro-democracy forces put our old "left" vs "right" differences aside, we can possibly make some gains against the global corprorate-droids and maybe even forge a new populist majority. In fact, it's the only way it'll happen.

What I really want to do is shrink corporations down until they're small enough to be drowned in a bathtub.

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