Monday, April 19, 2004

The Lost Presidency

Judging by the latest polls, there is a good chance that John Kerry may be the next President of the United States. If that happens I expect the Republican reaction to include a) enormous resentment towards Kerry and the Democrats (not that much of a shock) the disowning of George W. Bush and all his works by the conservate movement from the establishment to the grassroots. One of the most obvious reasons for Bush's possible repudiation by the Right is his conduct of foreign affairs. As Peter Beinart writes in this article for The New Republic:

[L]iberals can scale back their expectations of what is now possible in Iraq without abandoning democratic universalism--they can simply say the Bush administration has bungled the job. It is conservatives, who remain generally unwilling to criticize the administration's postwar stewardship, who will more likely be forced--if the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate--to blame Iraqis instead. If the Iraq project fails, and John Kerry wins the presidency, it's quite possible to imagine a headlong return to the right-wing cultural relativism of the late '90s.

In addition to a return to jingo-isolationism, I suspecte we'll see Bush's legacy get hammered on several more fronts. After the Iraq war, the next most likely target for Republican rage will be Bush's insane fiscal policies. Though conservatives love tax cuts, they at least are willing to pay lip service to the importance of balanced budgets and are likely to become incescned when the budget defict balloons not just because of tax cuts, but tremendous increases in domestic spending (which we have seen a great deal of over the last few years). On a host of other side issues, like campaign finance reform, Bush is likely to get railed by his former allies.

In general, political movements tend to reject those that have failed them. The Republicans are particularly enthusiastic at leaving behind those that have become too burdensome by the side of the road. Conservatives turned their back on George Bush Sr. even before he was defeated by Clinton in 1992 and George W. Bush contrasted himself favorably with the discredited congressional Republican in 2000. If the President gets his head handed to him by John Kerry, I don't doubt he'll suffer the same fate. I suspect the consequences of this fact will be quite harsh for neoconservatism. Bush's most talked about advisors have included many neoconservatives like Paul Woflowitz and Richard Perle, they are also seen as the architects of the Iraq war and their indifference towards to the libertarian sentiments of the GOP's base will probably raise the ire of more than a few bitter Republicans. If there is an -ism that can be readily associated with this administration, it is neoconservatism and if there is an group that will take the heat if Bush loses, it will the be the neoconservatives.


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