Jeffrey Hart argues in the LA Times that Bush is not a conservative, but a right-wing ideologue. Pointing to the foolishness of Bush’s Iraq endeavor, his extremist beliefs in the free market and privatization, and his contempt for science and choice, Hart makes a pretty good case. But as I’m beginning to see more and more of these apologias on behalf of conservatism, as conservatives try to rescue their political philosophy away from its association with Bush, all I can think is, “Bullshit.” Conservatives love to talk about The Ownership Society, but they refuse to own its spokesman.
Bush is undoubtedly a right-wing ideologue, but it’s because he’s a conservative—a conservative with no checks and balances, left to pursue every conservative wet dream with abandon. The certain destination for the wanton and unfettered quest for a conservative utopia was always going to be the revelation of the ugly ideology underwriting it all.
And now that the hideous underbelly of conservatism is exposed in a grotesque mosaic of avarice, antipathy, and corruption, the movement conservatives, who happily regarded Bush as the water-carrier for their movement during this hog wild run toward heaven on earth, now want to distance themselves from him as if the revolting montage of carnage is the singular result of his dogmatic incompetence, instead of the culmination of a mob-directed feeding frenzy that it actually is. Well, fuck you and the president you rode in on.
Bush was your Golden Boy—a corporate shill with the demeanor of a country bumpkin, who could hold together the unholy alliance between Big Money and Big Religion, standing at the altar and giving the blessing to the crackpot marriage between the business interests who sought to get rich off the stupid sods who marched in lockstep if only someone would protect the children from radical feminists and kissing boys. He didn’t just give good speech on Neocon dreams and working class nightmares; he believed that shit. And with a GOP-led Congress and a neverending stream of media mouthpieces willing to demonize anyone who dared to dissent, he tumbled headfirst into fulfilling every last one of your wishes, like a demented genie pulled out of a bottle in oil-soaked Texas.
He wrapped himself in the flag and told America to follow him down the Yellow Brick Road. He went to war, and he made you rich. And you cheered him all the way, over every last golden cobblestone. Then America got to Oz, and started getting itchy—and now you want to pretend you never knew what was there. Why, we had no idea there was just some shriveled old man behind the curtain! Please.
Let’s get real for a moment. Conservatives believe the free market and privatization is the solution to all our problems. Conservatives believe in social Darwinism. Conservatives believe in defense, defense, and more defense. And maybe, once upon a time, conservatives believed in privacy rights, but once you invited social retards into your Big Tent to give your corporate agenda the momentum it needed in the voting booths and supported the notion of a unitary executive, you relinquished your claim to that forever and ever, amen. You can’t now try to distance yourself from Bush by retreating to some retro definition of conservatism and accusing him of not meeting it. You championed that redefinition when it suited you, and now you’re stuck with it. You can’t have it both ways.
There are now twice as many billionaires in America as there were four years ago, and in the time of their making, we have seen soldiers die, felt our rights be stripped away, watched an entire American city drown—saw those for whom conservatives have the greatest contempt turn to their government for help in a time of crisis and quite literally be left stranded by the callousness of conservative philosophy. And all the while you wailed about how hard you’ve got it, and now you want to wail some more that your principles have been betrayed by Bush.
But Bush didn’t part ways with conservatism; Bush realized its destiny. And in the great tradition of so many martyrs who have gone on before you, that’s your cross to bear.
So bear it. It’s what you’ve always wanted.