Why can’t I muster any enthusiasm for the Republican Party? The core reason is my suspicion that were they returned to power tomorrow, things would turn out exactly as they did when the Republicans last controlled Congress and the White House. It’s a concern you addressed a year ago in a Los Angeles Times column titled “The GOP Looking Glass: Does the Defeat of George W. Bush Mean a Defeat for Conservatism?” You and I agree that President Bush’s worst failures weren’t particularly conservative, and shouldn’t reflect badly on that political philosophy.
But I think that your column – like the rest of your writing – elides the significant responsibility that the conservative movement bears for the candidacy, election, policy agenda, and grave failures of the Bush Administration, and the Republicans that controlled Congress for much of his tenure. You wrote, as apologia, “Dissent from Bush was muted for years, in large part because of 9/11 and the Iraq war. Conservatives, right or wrong, rallied to support their president, particularly in the face of shrill partisan attacks from Democrats who seemed more interested in tearing down the commander in chief than winning a war.”
I see that as damning. The conservative movement’s reaction to an ongoing war and shrill attacks from partisan Democrats is to rally around a Republican president, even as he pursues ill-conceived agenda items – and the problem this augers for the future is that when a Republican is next elected to the White House, there are inevitably going to be an ongoing war on terrorism and shrill partisan attacks from Democrats. Is there any evidence that the conservative movement has unlearned its damaging habit of meting out loyalty in direct proportion to the ferocity of liberal attacks?