Monday, April 14, 2008

Good reading

I bought a book this weekend that really sums up a lot of what I have been trying to say on this blog for the past year.
The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing by Greg Anrig gets right to the point I’ve been wanting to make: It’s not just Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rove and DeLay, etc. It is the whole rightwing ideology that underlies their actions that needs to be addressed.

Mark Schmit said it well in a review of Anrig’s book:

As even the most committed conservatives have begun to recognize the scale of the debacle, foreign and domestic, of the seven years during which they have held unchecked power, they have begun to plot a slick escape from the consequences. "Oh, that?" they will say. "That wasn't conservatism. That was something completely different." It started out as conservatism, they say, but was corrupted by the culture of Washington, by Jack Abramoff or Tom DeLay. Or, they say, so sorry, we misjudged George W. Bush, failed to see how incompetent he was. Or, as in recent tributes to Karl Rove on his resignation from the White House, they will admit that the single-minded focus on winning elections, bending all policy to that purpose, destroyed the conservative soul. If they have the chutzpah of Rove himself, they will blame Hillary Clinton.

If there were any justice in the world, such claims would take their place in history alongside those of the old Marxists who, as Alan Wolfe noted in these pages last year ("Why Conservatives Can't Govern," July/August 2006), insisted that the only problem with communism was that it had never been properly implemented. The noble dream, they argued, should not be judged by its real-world manifestations. Maybe so. But in the real world, ideologies are judged by their consequences.

Such justice is unlikely for the recent American right, however, and the evasion of responsibility has been made easier by Democrats' nearly total focus on individual actors: George W. Bush and, to a lesser extent, Rove and Dick Cheney. Thus the spate of books with titles like The Lies of George Bush and Bush's Brain. Now Rove is gone, DeLay is gone, and in sixteen months Bush and Cheney will join them, but their brand of conservatism may never be held to account for its failures in practice.

Like I’ve said before, we can’t focus entirely on these individuals (although they have certainly earned their infamy and vilification) and risk allowing a new group of right-wingers like John McCain to step in and continue the same failed policies that have been so disasterous for our economy and our foreign policy.

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