Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Cult of Bush?

This great article from Glenn Greenwald goes a long way toward explaining some of how I feel as a former republican. There's a lot more to it than I'm quoting here, so I recommend reading the whole thing, but here are a few short exerpts:
Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is. Whether one is a "liberal" -- or, for that matter, a "conservative" -- is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush.

One can see this principle at work most illustratively in how Bush followers talk about Andrew Sullivan. In the couple of years after 9/11, Bush followers revered Sullivan, as he stood loyally behind Bush, providing the rhetorical justifications for almost every Bush action. And even prior to the Bush Administration, Sullivan was a fully accepted member of the conservative circle. Nobody questioned the bona fides of his conservative credentials because he ascribed to the conservative view on almost every significant political issue.

Despite not having changed his views on very many, if any, of those issues, Sullivan is now frequently called a "liberal" (at best) when he is talked about by Bush followers. What has changed are not his political views or ideological orientation. Instead, he no longer instinctively and blindly praises George Bush, but periodically, even frequently, criticizes Bush. By definition, then, he is no longer a "conservative."
He then quotes Sullivan at length, who offers numerous examples of just this dynamic. I admit to accusing some supposed democrats of not really being democrats (*cough* *joementum* *cough* *cough*), but I do so when they betray the ideology of the party, not because they fail to support the positions of an individual.
That "conservatism" has come to mean "loyalty to George Bush" is particularly ironic given how truly un-conservative the Administration is. It is not only the obvious (though significant) explosion of deficit spending under this Administration – and that explosion has occurred far beyond military or 9/11-related spending and extends into almost all arenas of domestic programs as well. Far beyond that is the fact that the core, defining attributes of political conservatism could not be any more foreign to the world view of the Bush follower.

As much as any policy prescriptions, conservatism has always been based, more than anything else, on a fundamental distrust of the power of the federal government and a corresponding belief that that power ought to be as restrained as possible, particularly when it comes to its application by the Government to American citizens. It was that deeply rooted distrust that led to conservatives’ vigorous advocacy of states’ rights over centralized power in the federal government, accompanied by demands that the intrusion of the Federal Government in the lives of American citizens be minimized.

Is there anything more antithetical to that ethos than the rabid, power-hungry appetites of Bush followers? There is not an iota of distrust of the Federal Government among them. Quite the contrary. Whereas distrust of the government was quite recently a hallmark of conservatism, expressing distrust of George Bush and the expansive governmental powers he is pursuing subjects one to accusations of being a leftist, subversive loon.

Indeed, as many Bush followers themselves admit, the central belief of the Bush follower's "conservatism" is no longer one that ascribes to a limited federal government -- but is precisely that there ought to be no limits on the powers claimed by Bush precisely because we trust him, and we trust in him absolutely. He wants to protect us and do good. He is not our enemy but our protector. And there is no reason to entertain suspicions or distrust of him or his motives because he is Good.

We need no oversight of the Federal Government’s eavesdropping powers because we trust Bush to eavesdrop in secret for the Good. We need no judicial review of Bush’s decrees regarding who is an "enemy combatant" and who can be detained indefinitely with no due process because we trust Bush to know who is bad and who deserves this. We need no restraints from Congress on Bush’s ability to exercise war powers, even against American citizens on U.S. soil, because we trust Bush to exercise these powers for our own good.

The blind faith placed in the Federal Government, and particularly in our Commander-in-Chief, by the contemporary "conservative" is the very opposite of all that which conservatism has stood for for the last four decades. The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who – at least thus far – have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us.

And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader.
Just to be clear, I don't think this is a trait that is limited to the lunatic fringe people like Malkin, Coulter and others of their deranged ilk (like the bloggers to which Greenwald repeatedly refers). Blind loyalty is required from republicans even by those in the supposed mainstream of the party -- loyalty not only to Bush, but also to his principle retinue -- just look at the way people reacted to criticism of Dick Cheney's disasterous handling of a hunting accident (before he'd even said a word, people were tumbling over each other to deflect the blame for the accident from Cheney as though he were some sort of diety, instead of a human); or look at the way mainstream republicans (with no objections from members of the party) are bending over backwards to make it possible for the unbelievably sleazy Tom DeLay to continue slithering his way through Congress (and even onto the committee that is investigating his close friend and financier, Jack Abramoff).
For a glimpse of how actual conservatives quite recently used to think, one should read this article at, which decries the dangerous loss of liberty and privacy as a result of the Clinton Administration's use of a "secret court" (something called the "FISA court") which actually enables the Federal Government to eavesdrop on American citizens! Worse -- much worse -- the judicial approval which the Government (used to) obtain for this eavesdropping is in secret, so we don't even know who is being eavesdropped on! How can we possibly trust the Government not to abuse this power if they can obtain warrants in secret?

Conservatives used to consider things like this to be quite disturbing and bad -- and the eavesdropping then was at least with judicial oversight. Now, George Bush is in office, and all of the distrust we used to have of the Federal Government exercising these powers has evaporated, because we trust in George Bush to do what is best for us. He should not just have those powers, but many more, and he should exercise all of them in secret, too, with no "interference" from the courts or Congress.

That is why I say that whatever else these Bush followers are, they are not conservative.


chad edwards said...

Great post, Alice.

Words like liberal and conservative have totally lost their meaning and are now merely tag words to pin on someone who just simply disagrees with someone else.

glen said...

The emporer has no that is an ugly graphic!LOL

thanks for the great post. What is an X-republican?

best regards

Joe P. said...

Many great points there about blind loyalty and the philosophy that it encourages. As much, too, as fault can be found in government, the same outrage needs to be directed at the ever-failing media.

Thankfully, individuals and groups who blog are far ahead of the press.

chad edwards said...

Not to stray too far from the subject, but you mentioned the media, Joe. Yesterday- front page, of the Parkersburg News and Sentinal, there was a big write-up about Dennis Hassert coming to town to promote a candidate running against Democratic incumbant, Alan Mollohan for Congress. The whole article was about how the Republican Party more reflective of the people of West Virginia with a critiques of Mollohan since he's been in office. No response from Mollohan or any of our local Democrats- just simply "hey, check out our new Republican candidate, he's got a lot to offer!"

I'm no fan of Alan Mollohan, not even in the slightest. But newspapers billing themselves out as newspapers should not be allowed to run campaign advertisements for their favored candidates on their front page of their paper and pass it off as "the news". Of course, if you follow the money trail, West Virginia Media who owns the Sentinel and several other state papers donated thousands to Republican candidates in 2004 and not one dime to Democratic ones.

I had to get that off my chest. I'd write a letter to the paper about it, but the Sentinel along with most WV newspapers don't seem to want print anything in their "letters to editor" section that has a Green Party header on the top of the page. Only the Huntington Dispatch, the Charleston Gazette, and the Dominion Post out of Morgantown have been square with us.

Thanks for hearing my rant, you all.