Thursday, August 07, 2003

Politics: Bush support cracking on the right?

Bruce Bartlett wonders if President Bush's leftward turn hurts Republicans:

Conservative dismay over Taft's liberal agenda led directly to massive Democratic gains in Congress in 1910 and his own loss in 1912. The same dismay over Nixon's liberal agenda led to massive Democratic gains and his ouster from office in 1974.

I am sorry to say that I see Bush traveling the same path. He has concluded that the Democrats are very likely to nominate a candidate so far to the left as to be unelectable. Howard Dean's ascension to the head of the Democratic pack supports this conclusion. But ironically, rather than making Bush feel more comfortable pursuing a conservative agenda, he continues to move left on domestic issues -- especially the budget-busting prescription drug subsidy bill.

Bush has also signed into law a campaign finance reform bill that most conservatives view as blatantly unconstitutional, endorsed an education bill written by Ted Kennedy and initiated more trade protectionism by any president since Nixon. But against these, Bush continually plays his trump card: the war against terrorism. And just as Nixon played the anticommunist card in terms of the Vietnam War, it has been enough to keep most Republican voters under control -- so far.
Bartlett continues:

[I] think Bush is a "lock" for re-election, regardless of whom the Democrats nominate. Yale economist Ray Fair predicts he will get 56.7 percent of the vote based on economic data already in hand. If the economy does better than expected, his vote total will only rise.

But conservatives still need to ask themselves: to what end? Do we want another Taft or Nixon, who imposed liberal policies no Democratic president could achieve as the price for keeping a Republican in the White House? It is a question worth asking.
What we really need to ask is, "to what end the conservatives?" Republicans control the Congress and the Executive. Yet what should be a crowning achievement leaves one feeling under-whelmed.

Conservatives stand for tradition and tradition can mean literally anything. In the primary, President Bush ran on Christian “compassion” and there is nothing in the conservative lexicon that would see that as dangerous. Bush got through in the first place because the conservatives could offer no alternative. Only now do some conservatives scratch their heads.

I produce a rational advocacy of individual rights. I wonder, as I contemplate my career and its future, just what steps it will take to impact thinking in America for the better.

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