Thursday, June 23, 2011

The end of Republican "compassionate conservatism"?

Certainly, that's what the Republican governors have made clear. But at the national level, what's the perception?

Two observations this week, from admittedly liberal perspectives, say that's the case and - more important - it could become a growing perception by the electorate.

SALON: When the GOP doubled down on crazy
After the catastrophic Bush presidency, the Republican right had two choices: rethink or go crazy. A disturbing number chose to double-down on dogma. As a consequence, the estimable Fareed Zakaria argues in Time, the GOP has become as dependent upon abstract ideology as its worst enemies.

"They resemble the old Marxists, who refused to look around at actual experience," Zakaria writes. "'I know it works in practice,' the old saw goes, 'but does it work in theory?'" Indeed, watching the cast of Republican presidential candidates in their recent CNN debate reminded me of the ferocious certitude of Kremlin apparatchiks depicted in Vassily Aksyonov's brilliantly satirical novel "Generations of Winter."

No more "compassionate conservatism" for them. The GOP candidates competed to describe an imaginary paradise of sweeping tax cuts, vastly reduced spending, an end to government regulation, the bolstering of state's rights, and burgeoning prosperity for all. It's as if the presidency of George W. Bush never happened.
Jonathan Chait in TNR: Post-Compassionate Conservatism
Rich Lowry smartly holds up uncompassionate conservative Rick Perry as evidence of the Republican Party's rightward lurch post George W. Bush:
The backlash against Bush has long been brewing. Compassionate conservatism was a product of the moment when Bush began to run for president in the late 1990s. (...)

Bush-style conservatism never really took with the broader party, although it gained acquiescence. (...)

Now, [the anti-Bush feeling] in full flower and evident on all fronts, from spending and immigration to foreign policy, as Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns point out in Politico. Running on his message circa 1999, George W. Bush would be hard-pressed to gain traction in the current Republican party.
The problem, of course, is that the conditions that required Bush to present himself as a moderate still largely hold true today. The GOP is discredited among swing voters, and not because they think Bush cared too much about poor people and minorities. Now, it's possible that the economy is bad enough that the party can overcome public distrust of its extremism. But it's also distinctly possible that the economy is bad enough that a moderate-seeming Republican would be likely to win, but a Republican running straight from the party id would lose.


Bush's domestic spending policy was driven by the Congressional Democrats. "If you want us to fund Iraq and Afghanistan," they said, "you have to fund our social spending." Republicans never liked the big spending, but they let it go on because otherwise the Democrats would have defunded the military. So the wars got funded, and so did the big social spending.

Don't get the impression that Bush's big domestic spending was some sort of philosophical choice. It was blackmail, plan and simple, and come 2012 the political dynamic will be quite different, especially if Obama succeeds in dismantling the military, as he is now threatening.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/23/2011 6:22 AM  

"...especially if Obama succeeds in dismantling the military, as he is now threatening."

Cite, please. A specific and concrete example, and not the rantings of the right wing echo chamber.

By Anonymous Screamin' Demon, at 6/23/2011 9:49 AM  

Not sure how it could end when it was simply and empty phrase anyway. Sadly , I cannot find the video, but I recall seeing are reporter asking Bush the meaning of the term in 2000.

His response was something like, "It means your a conservative and you have compassion."

By Blogger JeffKay, at 6/23/2011 6:51 PM  

Anonymous uses quotes and perhaps could provide a cite or cites. Sure, Democrats needed blackmail tactics after 9/11 to get big social spending. But Anonymous doesn't spell out what that big social spending was for that Bush would not have spent but for the blackmail. Apparently Anonymous fears that Obama will dismantle the military - blackmail in reverse? - to get Obama's social spending? Perhaps Anonymous is confusing Bush tax cuts for the rich as social spending.

By Blogger Shag from Brookline, at 6/24/2011 2:05 AM  

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