Bush's Gift To the Democrats


The moment, for a conservative, is almost surreal, the world turned upside down.  A little more than two years before, the Presidency and both houses of Congress belonged to Republicans.  There had even been talk, at one point, of a permanent Republican majority.     

But with this most recent election, the process started in 2006 has run its course, and Congress now rests even more securely within the Democrat grip; and that most exalted of bastions of political power and symbolism, the Presidency, belongs to it as well.  And, so, the rejection of the Republicans is now complete, and the exile into political oblivion begins.

In the revelry of Obama's historic ascendancy as first black President, the Democrats, media, and many segments of the population in an understandable state of ecstasy, it is easy to overlook the events and decisions that led to this moment, and the Republican missteps that undid the nation's move toward conservatism. 

But the rise of the political left once more, the return of the Democrats to power, and particularly, Obama's rise itself, did not occur in a vacuum, nor by accident, and nor as a result of some “naturally” occurring political cycle, from left to right and back again, as in the swinging of a pendulum.  No, it was something else, indeed, something quite foreseeable and preventable if only eyes had been open to see.

The modern conservative movement began ostensibly with William F. Buckley's launching of National Review, his influential journal of opinion, in 1955.  Against the backdrop of a triumphant and seemingly invincible liberalism that originated with FDR's “New Deal,” Buckley pledged to “stand athwart history, yelling stop!” to the ever encroaching federal government.

A straight line can then be drawn to Barry Goldwater (routed in 1964 by LBJ), to Ronald Reagan (consecutive landslides in 1980 and 1984), to Newt Gingrich's “Contract with America,” and the Republican takeover of both houses of Congress in 1994.  Six years later, in 2000, George Bush won the Presidency, giving Republicans control of both the legislative and executive branches of government, a first since 1952. 

After some forty-five years then since Buckley began the conservative enterprise, a most unlikely and remarkable reversal in the political direction of the country had occurred, as the Republicans attained the pinnacle of power.

And, so, what happened?

In a word, George Bush.  He, the recipient of the Buckley legacy, of the crusade for limited government, of the untiring efforts of myriad activists, intellectuals, and elected leaders, promptly squandered it. 

The first indication of the nation's disenchantment with Bush and the Republicans occurred in 2006 (and before) with the Democratic sweep of the Senate and House.  By 2008, with the triumph of Obama (arguably the least qualified Presidential candidate ever), the Republican collapse was complete and the conservative edifice built over so many decades, reduced to rubble.

How did Bush accomplish this?  By abandoning the conservative principles that had brought him and the Republicans to power. 

Instead of limiting government, he expanded it by adding unfunded entitlements and spending recklessly.  Bush more than doubled the national debt and will leave ten trillion dollars outstanding to be paid for by future generations. 

He did not reform an insolvent Social Security program.  He attempted to ram amnesty and guest worker bills through Congress, providing a path to citizenship for some 12 million illegal immigrants.  He supported Affirmative Action and opposed efforts to make English the official language.  He did nothing to ensure energy independence.  He mismanaged Katrina and then added the rebuilding of whole cities (New Orleans in this case) to an ever-increasing repertoire of federal responsibilities.  He bungled the War in Iraq for three long years before finally shifting strategies in 2007 (after the “thumping” in 2006), by which time the entire project, rightfully or wrongfully, had been discredited. 

He has mishandled the current financial crisis, offering ad hoc and pointless bailouts and “stimulus” packages, culminating in the monstrous $850 billion Paulson plan.  None was well thought out or given proper scrutiny, nor have they helped; and together they have cost taxpayers more than a trillion dollars. 

Never once did he offer tax cuts as a solution to the current crisis, preferring instead an interventionist, “Keynesian” government wrapping its tentacles around the “free” market.  Nor did he bother to explain the origins of the mortgage meltdown, the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of the “Community Reinvestment Act,” of Democratic policies that required banks to make risky loans to subprime borrowers; he allowed, instead, the Democrats and media to frame it as a Republican failure, as having been caused by "deregulation" (code word for Republican), which is manifestly false. 

In fact, it had nothing to do with deregulation but government programs and policies that sought to achieve social engineering goals (increasing homeownership among minorities) while ignoring fundamental loan underwriting principles, a recipe for disaster: the unfortunate outcome has been the collapse of our financial system and a severe economic contraction.

Perhaps, Bush didn't understand it himself, or perhaps he didn't want to appear "partisan."  By foundering here, though, he cost McCain (who had been surging in the polls) the election.

Yes, early on, he gave us tax cuts and two conservative Supreme Court Justices, but all that pales in contrast with what has come since.

Where was the grown-up party of fiscal discipline, balanced budgets, prudent immigration reform, and effective war strategy?  Shattered by the free spending and multicultural tendencies of a big government liberal in Republican clothing. 

This, by the way, is not to ignore the part played by the scandal plagued, ear marking Republican Congress during his first six years, but responsible Presidential leadership by Bush would easily have curbed their excesses.   Instead, he went right along with them, never once vetoing a spending bill, however egregious.  A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate sound and coherent conservative governance was lost by self-serving and parochial politicians.

In eight short years, Bush dismantled the conservative movement; he frustrated and demoralized his base, many of which fled the GOP.  Americans have decided that one liberal party is enough for the country and have gone with the real McCoy.  Yes, as it turns out, approval ratings in the twenties do have consequences. 

If Republicans are to return to power, they will have to repudiate the Bush years as an aberration - and swear on pain of death never to repeat its mistakes.  They must provide an authentic conservative alternative or remain as castaways for generations to come.

Democrats, on the other hand, should reconsider their vilification of Bush, for he has been a most valuable asset, perhaps their greatest: he has given them, after all, both houses of Congress and now the Presidency. 

It is unlikely they could have done it without him.     




  • Barry W

    November 23, 2008

    Very well put. In the beginning Bush was a president I was proud of. In the end an embarassment.

    I do not believe the GOP can recover broadly enough nor in time to prevent a second Obama term.

    I worry about Obama's agenda and I hope for his intellect to succeed. Hopefully he'll be too busy to screw with the second amendment.

  • Al B

    November 23, 2008


    Good article. I would slightly disagree with the notion that President Bush dismantled the conservative movement. I think the conservative movement is alive and well, but as you noted, it fled from the Republican party. There was no conservative on the ballot to vote for.

    In his first presidential campaign, Bush claimed he was "a uniter not a divider." He was right. He united the electorate this year to put democrats in control of everything.

    Hopefully there won't be too much damage before 2010 and 2012, and the conservatives can regain control of congress and the White House.

    My best,

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