The thing is that conservatism, true conservatism, is needed in this country. Just as yin needs yang, as dark needs light, as up needs down, so liberal needs conservative. Everything requires balance. Bush proved that. When the Dems were rolling over and playing dead, acquiescing to everything he asked for in his first term instead of using the fact that his majorities were slim to negotiate better bills, Bush rode roughshod over the Constitution, deceived us into an immoral and very costly war, became the king of the unfunded mandate, and spent years rewarding the richest people in the land and ignoring everyone else so that, just before everything went to hell, the gap between executive and worker pay was by far the largest it had ever been in history. The rich got richer and richer and the middle class and the poor could not make ends meet.
These were his legacies, Greg. His legacies, not Obama's. Because he was a neocon, not a true conservative. I do not agree with conservatism, as you are well aware. But I respect it. It is honorable and sincere and those who believe in its philosophies truly have the best interests of America in mind when they run for offices under conservative banners. But the neocons? Uh uh. History will record--if they have not started us on an irreparable path to our own national destruction--that they were one of the greediest and most self-righteous groups of leaders ever, that their hypocrisy was matched only by their amorality, and that they presided over the systematic and intentional undermining of a system of checks and balances that had been in place since the Great Depression which, once gone, unleashed a torrent of cash into their coffers and aggressively destroyed the economy for everyone else.
Sadly, there would be no place in today's GOP for any GOP President in American history save Bush and (maybe) Reagan. Pappy Bush would never make it. Nixon? He's practically a liberal. Ford? Forget it. Ike? No way in hell. Do you what the taxes were like under Ike? The highest progressive tax rate was 90% for the income in the highest margins. 90%. Imagine that! And what did the poorest pay? Nothing.
Where is the party of these Presidents? Where is the party of William F. Buckley? Where is the party of Russell Kirk? Hell, Barry Goldwater, who was considered so outrageously conservative in 1964 that Lyndon Johnson's voters actually believed the "daisy ad," would be in the Democratic Party today. William Safire defined himself as a "libertarian conservative"; is there even room for that in today's GOP?
This GOP has earned its "Party of No" moniker. John Boehner's office actually began circulating templates opposing Obama's SCOTUS nominee with "INSERT NAME" on them, the templates proclaiming (basically) the downfall of civilization as we know it if this nominee (whoever it happened to be apparently was unimportant) gets through. Despite the fact--the fact--that Obama has, from the outset, reached out to them time after time after time, angering his own constituents in the process by (in the opinion of many on the left) giving away the store before negotiations even start just to show his good faith, the GOP insists on maintaining the lie that he refuses to include them in anything. The health care bill is chock full of Republican ideas, but all you heard from them was "he's shoving it down our throats." The first thing Obama did in the Recovery bill was to agree to tax cuts despite the fact that Keynesian economics tells us that they are utterly counterproductive because it would, he thought, bring the GOP to the table. In the final Stim Bill, there were I think almost $200B in cuts. My taxes were lower this year; were yours? A study just today says that we are being taxed at the lowest rate since Truman. Good Lord! What does anyone have to complain about the job the government is doing with the little we are still giving them?
Don't get me wrong. I don't want to give them more. I can't afford to. But I'll tell you what: unlike the idiots who took the Washington Metro to anti-government rallies to chant against all taxes and government interference in their daily lives ("but keep your hands off our Medicare!") and then b*tch about the long waits to get back home on the (government-run) trains, saying that someone should have put more cars on duty for the rallies, I understand what I am paying for. I am paying for the infrastructure of this nation. Much of it is old and crumbling and in desperate need of repair, and, yes, in need of our tax dollars to make those repairs happen. But I wouldn't be driving on interstate highways with excellent police protection to places that won't burn down because fire codes are strictly enforced where I can eat healthy food that I know won't kill me because health codes too are enforced (and I could go on) if it were not for those tax dollars. That's just the truth. And I for one would not wish to do without any of these things. And, seeing the excellent job that the banks and the insurance industries have done of keeping college and health costs down through good old fashioned capitalistic free enterprise, and watching the way Wall Street has consistently screwed the middle class while padding its pockets, even during the current crisis--even while taking taxpayer handouts!--I think I'd rather have the government in charge and take my chances.
(Oh, and before you say "but Medicare is a shambles," just stop. It's not. It's just underfunded. Thank you, Bush tax cuts. There is a reason those tea partiers are holding those "hands off my medicare" signs, and it isn't because they like crappy health care.)
I don't usually bother trying to get you to see "my" side of the political argument, Greg. Frankly, it's not worth it. You are an amazingly smart guy, but you've spent too many hours watching Fox News and believing that you are seeing something that actually is true. Heck, I think Rush Limbaugh has even begun to believe the garbage he spews into the ether, and he was perfectly willing to admit several years ago that he is, first and foremost, an entertainer. (FWIW, I don't think that Ann Coulter believes a word she says. I think she is a huge hypocrite saying whatever she thinks will sell books, and she's found a ready audience on Fox. She's become such a caricature of herself that she simply cannot be taken seriously and, unlike Rush, she never was an entertainer, so there's no excuse.)
But anyway, for whatever reason, I just thought I'd give this a shot, even if it falls on the deaf ears I suspect it will. You think I have swallowed Obama's Kool-Aid and I'm just echoing the party line, but I'm not. It's the Fox News types, the Tea Partiers, who have swallowed the Kool-Aid, and it really is poison. As for me, well, I question Obama all the time. I'm very unhappy with the fact that Guantanamo is still open, for instance. And I am deeply disturbed by the fact that he has not issued an Executive Order--as would be within his authority--halting execution of DADT until Congress can eliminate it. I think that at least one of these SCOTUS nominees should have been a flaming liberal; Bush did not hesitate to appoint ardent conservatives. I also think he appeases the GOP too much, especially when they have shown again and again that they are utterly unwilling to compromise in any way. My feeling is that he should just say "screw it" and use his Democratic majorities to forge powerful left-leaning legislation, just as Bush did on the other side with far smaller majorities (and even with a Senate tie): if the GOP doesn't want a part in things, the heck with them. But he continues to be a statesman despite everything. And you know what? After eight years of having a class clown as President, I sort of like that.
I do hope that you have read this thoughtfully and recognize that I am, though unabashedly liberal, ardently in favor of a strong, thoughtful, rational opposition party. At this moment in time, the GOP is not that party. I fear that it is heading down a road from which it may not be able to recover for a very long time, if ever. When the Democrats were in a similar position--hijacked by their fringes--in the early 70's, they turned inward, re-examined their priorities, and ended up nominating Jimmy Carter. You'll argue that he was a disastrous President. I have two responses: first, it was circumstances, not policy, that caused the problems of the late 70's, and anyone in the White House at that time would have been in the same boat. He was tremendously unlucky and, distrusted by the still very active fringes of the party, received little support in Congress. Second, because of the above, he lost in 1980, setting in motion both the ensuing twelve years of Republican rule and the rise of the neocons, which ultimately led to Bush and the near-destruction of the American economy. A party hijacked by its fringes fails. Even winning the Presidency in 1976 became a failure for the Democrats because those fringes within their party refused to let Carter govern, aligning themselves again and again with the GOP across the aisle. So the fringes caused what amounted to two decades of disaster for the party.
And I hate to say this, but the Democrats on the fringe, though clearly outside of the realm of political reality, stood for something morally good. They stood for basic human dignity and welfare, for equal rights for everyone, for helping those in need. What does the fringe of the right today stand for? Hatred and distrust. Hatred of Obama, hatred of gays, bigotry, anger, distrust of government, lack of faith in even the evidence right before their eyes that Obama is in fact a US citizen. I am worried that a party that gives in to this kind of fringe will implode, never to return. A new second party will emerge, perhaps the Libertarians, who are in a good position, but it would be a shame.
Abraham Lincoln is often cited as the standard bearer of the GOP. They like Teddy Roosevelt too. And Ike. But these guys would not recognize the party of today. And they sure as heck would not want to be a part of it.
But that's OK: they wouldn't be welcome if they did.
UPDATE: Wow, go away for an hour and I'm on the rec list. If I knew that was how to do it, I'd leave right after posting every time! :-) (Thanks, folks.)