Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Real Legacy of Conservativism

One odd trait of many progressives is their insistence that Republicans have a great track record of being bold and creating their own reality, and that we need to emulate that strategy.  And that, of course, is in complete contradiction with reality, which clearly shows time and time again that conservative "boldness" almost always backfires in the long run. 

And sure, Republicans pitch an unpopular agenda, which helps explain a big chunk of their longterm failures.  But of course, if many of these progressives pushed their agenda, unfettered by the demands of popular opinion, I daresay they'd be as unpopular as the Republicans keep finding themselves to be. 

Whenever you listen to talk radio and marvel at the fantasyland Obama version of Obama is, remember this: The Obama they're caricaturing is the same Obama many progressives would like in the Whitehouse.  And were Obama to follow that lead and be the bold leader who ignores political realities and attempts to create a new reality, he'd be as unpopular as Bush was when he tried the same thing.  As it turns out, the reason they tell everyone that Obama is a socialist radical, is because that would be a bad thing for Obama to be and people would reject him.

Revisionist Empowerment

Anyway, over on TPM, I wrote:
At what point do we admit that boldness in politics is usually a handicap, and in the long run, d-bags rarely prosper?
To which AJM3 responded:
When we live in an alternate universe where neither Reagan nor Bush became President. 
And what's weird here is watching progressives rewrite history, in which Reagan and Bush both had successful presidencies based upon their bold ideological stands.  And that posits a reality in which a president COULD be successful by boldly following their ideology.  But why do that?  Why empower them?  By suggesting that Bush or Reagan were successfully bold, they're making conservative look better and more popular than it's ever been. 

Now, I understand why conservatives want to reimagine Reagan as a successfully bold leader, but I fail to see why a liberal would ever do such a thing.  Besides, even wingnuts aren't delusional enough to believe that Bush was successfully bold.  Rather, they insist now that he was too liberal and timid, even though they fully supported his policies at the time.

The Real Legacy

But anyway, here's my rebuttal, basically saying that:
Yes, because Bush had longterm success.  Oh, wait.  No, he didn't.  He is still considered a disgrace several years after leaving office, and a majority of people STILL blame him for the problems we're facing.  He tainted conservativism for years, causing them to lose two straight elections and the presidency.  Wow, what a legacy!

Meanwhile, it's only conservative-vision hindsight that posits Reagan as a successful and bold leader.  Reality shows that he was wildly unpopular during several periods of his presidency, he repeatedly compromised with Democrats, negotiated with Commies, ran away from terrorists, and by the end of his presidency, he was a doddering old man facing the onset of Alzheimers and mired in impeachable controversy. 
This isn't remembered as much now, but Reagan was very unpopular towards the end of his presidency, and it was only because they liked him personally that his popularity came back again and his legacy revised.  But he got hammered HARD for his boldness, and it was only by giving up key platforms that he was able to keep the popularity he had.  After all, Reagan wanted to kill Social Security and Medicare, and got hurt so badly by it that he actually saved them.  That wasn't boldness.  That was pragmatism.

The only two groups who cite Reagan and Bush as successfully bold are hardright ideologues and leftwing progressives who demand that we copy the conservative blueprint for success; despite the fact that they've lost more elections than they've won since they started this strategy; and their prospects dim with every passing election. 
And of course, not even conservatives believe that Bush was successful in his boldness; as they insist he was too timid and liberal.  It's only these progressives who will insist that Bush achieved much with his boldness, despite the small handful of items they can list that Bush actually did.  Sure, he got us wars, taxcuts, and lots of conservative judges and cronies.  But he got almost nothing else.  If there's a person who proves that boldness can backfire, it's George W. Bush.
These men failed when they pushed hard-right ideals, and did better when they compromised and quit.  I see no reason to pretend it was otherwise.

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