Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, May 15, 2015

Republicans vs. History

Jon Chait makes an interesting point about the Cult of Reagan and how that Cult demonstrates a distortion in Republican thinking.

It has been well-established that Republican veneration of Reagan bares little resemblance to the actual president.  Reagan raised taxes.  Reagan negotiated with the Soviets and gave arms to Iran.  Reagan saved Social Security by compromising with Democrats.  Reagan offered amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Chait notes that George W. Bush provides a strange litmus test for Republicans, because Bush ultimately was the president that Republicans thought Reagan actually was.

And it was a disaster.

Jeb "JEB!" Bush is merely the most awkwardly placed Republican to wrestle with this question.  He has family ties to his father - who was falsely considered a squish - and his brother - who palpably demonstrated the folly of Republican mythology translated into policy.  Jeb winds up with very little room to maneuver, and so he is stuck trying to thread a very small needle.

The broader question of how could he be so unprepared for that question is a good one.  But I think the more profound implication of Jeb's stumbles on the Iraq question is that he represents a cognitive dissonance surrounding his family name.  As several people have noted, few conservative voices have rushed to Jeb's defense over his fumbling answer on whether he would have invaded Iraq.  Usually, Fox News can be counted on to rally around the front-runner, which suggests maybe Bush isn't the front-runner.

The implication has always been that Jeb was saddled by being associated with his father in the minds of Republican primary voters - as a RINO, as a squish - whereas he will be associated with his brother by independent voters - as a war mongering incompetent bent on destroying the global economy.

The reality might be that Jeb reinforces Digby's famous assertion that "conservatism never fails, it can only BE failed."  And Dubya was the Man Who Failed Conservatism.  He brought the perfect crystalline ideals of Pure Conservatism into disrepute by flubbing Iraq and Katrina.  And he expanded Medicare and wanted to start a guest worker program, so maybe he's a squishy RINO like his dad.

So for conservative primary voters, Jeb represents a combination of his father's sins and his brother's incompetency.  And rather than wrestle whether their IDEAS are bad, they will simply reject that man who bears the sins of his family.

Conservatism - unlike liberalism - is intensely wedded to personages.  Reagan was popular, so he is Ronaldus Magnus.  Bush 41 was not popular, so he was a RINO.  Bush 43 wasn't, so he betrayed conservatism.  When Scott Walker goes down, they will find a way to blame it on his lack of charisma or some other exigent factor.

Their ideas are terrible.  They don't know how to or want to govern.

And they will continue to misread their own history.

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