Doctor Biobrain would like to add an addendum to his previous post about conservatives and Liberal America:
There is a piece of conventional wisdom that states that Bush deceptively ran as a moderate in 2000, but ran as conservative in 2004; thus, his 2000 victory was illegitimate (along with that other reason), but his 2004 victory was legitimate because he ran on his true agenda. And while even intelligent people push this wisdom, it is wrong nonetheless. Bush did not run as a conservative in 2000 or 2004. In both cases, he ran as a moderate-liberal and deceived America in the process.
As I stated in the previous post, conservatives have successfully altered what the terms "conservative" and "liberal" mean, and it is only by changing the definitions that they have been able to control our discourse. And the same is true in this case. And unfortunately, many on the left also push these definitions, so they can denounce Bush as a right-wing nutcase, just as they did with the previous popular Republican president. But this perception of Bush is just as wrong as the perception of Conservative America, as I will attempt to show.
It goes like this: Bush is a conservative. We all know it. Therefore, whatever he does must be part of a conservative agenda. During the 2004 campaign, Bush stood behind his actions during the previous term, and vowed to continue a similar agenda into the future. As such, people interpreted this as meaning that Bush supported a conservative agenda and ran as a conservative. But this belief is only correct if one assumes that Bush's first term agenda was run as a firm conservative.
The problem is that Bush is not a real conservative. Or, more accurately, Bush's first term agenda was not a conservative agenda. His domestic agenda pushed any idea necessary to get re-elected, including anti-free-market farm/steel/timber subsidies. And his foreign agenda was largely driven by neo-conservatives, who should not be confused with real conservatives. And beyond that, this agenda was pushed from a liberal perspective of using the federal government to make life better. And that is the antithesis of conservatives. (ed: while writing this post, we came upon this excellent piece (via Mr. Drum) which better explains many of Bush's motivations)
To understand this, we must understand what it actually means to be "conservative". As I said in the previous post, conservatives have lost the ideological war. And so, in its place, they have redefined the terms and gotten us to lose sight of what it means to be "conservative" or "liberal". And their strategy has worked so well that most liberals have no idea what a conservative is, or what they stand for. We now define "conservative" as meaning "Bush supporter", but that isn't what a conservative is. A conservative is someone who believes that the government should not interfere with the lives of citizens, beyond enforcing basic criminal laws protecting life and property. And for the federal government, these powers should be limited to those given in the constitution. And I respect that. I think it's totally wrong, but I respect that. (The inalienable Publius at Legal Fiction wrote more about this here)
But that's not what conservatives are today. Conservative leaders still have these ideas, but typical Joe Conservative does not. For them, being "conservative" means that you support Bush, and you're a tough individualist, and you're...well, you know all that crap. But it's just a bunch of turdball tribalism. The reason they support Bush's agenda isn't because they've had long held beliefs that these are the right policies. Just as they do with the bible, they come up with their preconceived idea first, and then scour their literature looking for the rationalization which justifies the belief.
Gay-haters don't hate gays because the bible tells them to. They hate gays, and they find justification in the bible. Anti-abortionists don't oppose abortion because their god tells them to, nor do they do so because they love everyone including unborn babies. They oppose abortion because they're damn puritans and want to keep everyone from having sex and the only way to do that is by making the punishment severe; but abortion and birth control remove part of the inherent punishment, so they're against it. Similarly, most conservatives don't support states rights because they think that's what the founding fathers wanted; they're for states rights because it justifies their beliefs on various issues. And they aren't far lower taxes because it helps the economy; they want lower taxes because they're cheap bastards who don't want to pay for the society that they want to live in. And the proof of what I'm saying is that their rationalizations stop once they get what they want. They ignore any part of the bible that they choose, and they ignore welfare kids, and they ignore states rights, and they gladly take tax funding just as soon as they can. And to call them hypocrites about this is just as absurd as thinking they're principled. They'd have to have the principals in the first place before they could sell them out.
And the worst part is that they don't even realize this. They think that they're being rational when all they're doing is rationalizing. And the moment you attempt to show that their supposed ideological beliefs don't extend past their preconceived notions, their rationalizing brains will flip a switch and you'll never be able to pin them down for what they actually are trying to say.
And all this is a round-about way of saying that Bush supporters are not necessarily conservative. They may think they're conservatives, but it really just comes down to supporting their team, and supporting Bush. And President Bush is the exact same way. He thinks he's principled because his preconceived notions are too ingrained to supplant. But we should make an earnest effort to separate the two and realize that many of Bush's agenda ideas are not at all conservative. And that even the conservative ones are being pimped for solely partisan reasons.
And all this is a round-about way of saying that when Bush ran on his first-term agenda during the election, he was not running on a conservative agenda. He has never run as a conservative and he never will. He ran on the Bush Agenda, which has the rhetorical toughness of a conservative, yet the soft underpinnings of liberals; because that's what polls well. People like to think that they're tough, but they like to be coddled. And part of the reason Bush ran on his first-term agenda is because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, admitting fault serves only to give your opponents a weapon to club you with. So when Bush ran on his first-term agenda, it was as a deceiving huckster, not a right-wing nutcase. And when people voted for Bush, they were not showing their support for the conservative agenda; they were showing their support for Bush. And the reason for that is, as I said earlier, America is not a conservative country. They may like the idea of being conservative, but they like the liberal ideas better.
Moral: Despite perceptions to the contrary, America is not a conservative country. We are a country of liberals, many of whom were unfortunately tricked into believing they are conservative. But this trickery only applies to perceptions and the more the conservatives attempt to truly push their agenda, the more they'll realize that the name change didn't fix anything. You can call your prom date Britney Spears, but she's still just your mom.