Monday, November 01, 2004

Bush's Base

Matthew Yglesias posts the following. Notice the self-contradiction:
BUSH'S TOLERANT BASE. In today's column Ron Brownstein reminds us that Karl Rove once had much grander ambitions than trying (and most likely failing) to eke out a narrow win based on Election Day dirty tricks and random character smears. Instead, just as Mark Hannah allegedly did for William McKinley (I have some doubts as to the soundness of this history) Rove and George W. Bush were supposed to broaden the Republican base and lay the groundwork for an enduring GOP majority. It hasn't happened, and according to Brownstein it hasn't happened because he has "aimed his proposals squarely at the preferences of his Republican base."

The really striking think [sic] about the failure of the new Republican majority to emerge, however, is how little substantive conservatism has advanced under Bush. Federal spending has grown, not fallen, and we've seen the largest growth of domestic entitlement spending since the days of Lyndon Johnson and the dread Great Society. On immigration, Bush has badly upset his base, while failing to make any inroads among non-Cuban Latinos. The number of abortions has risen, rather than fallen. Gay rights have actually advanced considerably, no thanks to the president, of course, but without him doing anything effective to stop it. Even the least popular elements of conventional liberalism like affirmative action are still alive and well. What's more, while part of the Bushian subtext has always been a desire to de-fund and thus destroy the opposition party, the Democrats are actually better-financed than ever, albeit desperately out of power.

* * * The message in all this seems to be that conservative activists are pathetically easy to buy off -- give them some cheap talk about God and country along with a gay-bashing constitutional amendment that everyone knows won't get through Congress, and they'll give you a free pass on virtually every substantive ideological issue. As long as Bush continues in office, I suspect his core supporters will remain under his spell. But the great risk for the Republican Party is that if he loses, its base will wake up the next day and realize how little they got in exchange for their loyalty. Whether that results in simple conservative demobilization, or in renewed Republican interest in their deeply-unpopular ostensible agenda of rolling back the state, it doesn't spell good news for the GOP.
So, we're to believe two things:

1) Bush has alienated the rest of the country by aiming all of his actions "squarely" at the "Republican base."

2) Bush hasn't actually done anything for the Republican base except for a little "cheap talk."

In other words:

1) Bush is too conservative, yet

2) Bush never does anything for conservatives.

Quite a trick, I'd say.


Blogger Doc said...

It's not a contradiction. Bush's base in the Republican Party is the religious right. It is at this contingent that Bush has "aimed his proposals." But there are plenty of other flavors of conservatism than just the religious right variety. Classic conservatism is all about small government, low government spending, and, in some circles, isolationism. Bush has done very little for these conservatives. The "trick" is in getting conservatives to support a president who has betrayed so many conservative ideas.

Plenty of conservatives are fed up with Bush. Some are even endorsing Kerry as a way to reform the Republican party.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

1) Yglesias didn't mention the "religious right" per se. You don't think Bush's "base" includes small-government conservatives, religious or not?

2) The rest of what you say just proves my point: Bush has done little that is conservative in any sense. If you want to blame him for that, you can't simultaneously blame him for being too conservative.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

I think that's the whole point. Bush has done little that is actually conservative. (On my blog, I asked how any conservative can actually support Bush.) His policies have been targetted at the religious right portion of the party, rather than the broader ideals of the Republican party. His re-election strategy has been to mobilize those 4 million evangelical Christians who supposedly didn't vote in the last election, rather than reaching out across the ideological spectrum to pull in the more moderate voters, the way Reagan did.

Reagan broadened the party base to even bring in moderate and conservative Democrats by looking beyond the right-wing of the party. Bush has not.

You see a contradiction because you equate the base with the party as a whole. It's not that he's too conservative. It's that he is not at all conservative, but that he is not at all conservative and just knows how to snow right-wing conservatives. Yglesias' point, as I read it, is that Bush, in serving the interests of one segment of the party, is doing a disservice to the party as a whole. In the 80's, liberal Democrats like Mondale focused on the hard-core liberals in the party, which served to alienate the rest of the party, many of whom ended up voting for Reagan. Bush is doing the same.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

No, my comment has nothing to do with the "base" versus the "party as a whole." It has to do with the simple fact that Bush can't simultaneously be criticized for being too conservative and too little conservative.

You're falling prey to the same contradiction. You say that Bush isn't really conservative, but then immediately turn around and say that he is "serving the interests of one segment of the party." Well, how is he "serving" them if he isn't conservative in the first place?

10:00 AM  

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