Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lancing the Boil

The conservative movement is irredeemable. What William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater launched decades ago was perverted into a corporate theocracy. In recent days, Kevin Phillips new book American Theocracy, has received much attention for his scholarly analysis of the movement’s legacy. It’s worth reading because Phillips also wrote The Emerging Republican Majority while working on the Nixon campaign. It was published a year later and proved prescient. This time Phillips documents the legacy of a movement he helped launch.

The rumblings of conservative intellectuals such as Phillips and Bruce Bartlett illustrate that the Republican crusade is sucking wind. Even President Reagan’s former speechwriter Peggy Noonan openly asks whether Bush is a liberal.

Bartlett’s and Noonan’s futile efforts to distance conservatism from Bush is reminiscent of Gorbachev’s attempt to distance Communism from Stalin. Gorbachev’s reforms failed to save Communism from its evil ghosts. Similarly, conservatives will never succeed in distancing their failed ideology from Bush. His biography blends all the threads of modern conservatism that is really a marriage of corporate interests and theocracy.

He’s a mediocre man born into wealth, who never had to prove himself in a meritocracy and found religion. Through the network of his family name Bush became President and launched a war that appealed to corporatists and theocrats alike. How much more conservative can one be? Conservatives like to portray their ideology as a celebration of self-made men with optimism. In reality though, the poster boy for conservatism is not Ronald Reagan. It’s George W. Bush – a man with wealth he didn’t earn honestly who believes the apocalypse is just around the corner.

The current attack from Bush by conservatives is a canard. They attack him for reckless spending but as Paul Krugman recently observed, spending is not the cause of our fiscal mess. It’s the tax cuts for the wealthy combined with the Iraq War that they all supported enthusiastically. In criticizing Bush, these conservatives are hoping to define the terms of their surrender.

Hence, an epic political battle is now engaged for what replaces the ugly boil known as modern conservatism. It’s a contest that may take a decade or longer to shake out. Democrats have two choices. Their first option is to be risk averse and opportunistically ride a wave of discontent to power. This can be achieved over time if corporatists are seduced into believing their self-interest resides with the Democrats.

It’s not hard to see that happening. Republicans are in distress and the Democratic Party is rife with corporatists. Simply recall how many Democrats supported the hideous bankruptcy legislation that passed last year. Furthermore, wealthy corporatists typically enjoy a hedonistic life style and might find the Democratic rhetoric of social tolerance more appealing.

If the Democrats pursue this course they may enjoy some short-term political victories. Pro-choice plutocrats, who don’t say mean things about gays and exploit globalization at the commoner’s expense, would then govern the country. Our civil liberties would still be at risk, global warming not addressed, and the threat of illegitimate war always a possibility. Remember, the former nomenklatura of Communist Russia reinvented themselves into a mob-controlled oligarchy. Similarly, the corporatists will simply exploit the Democrat's brand to achieve their ends if we surrender our principles.

I prefer a second option: lancing the boil. It is imperative that authentic progressives, "Crash the Gate" and win on a mandate that expunges both corporatism and theocracy from our body politic. A half victory with Democrats enjoying nominal power while corporatists pull the strings behind the scenes is not acceptable.

To achieve the victory we progressives all want means not compromising out of convenience or expediency. Let’s not simply take back Congress this year by campaigning as if it's 1946 and asking if the American public has “had enough.” Why not earn a mandate for real change and put forth a progressive program of specifics such as national health insurance? The time is ripe for boldness as I wrote on March 18th.

It also means not surrendering to the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2008. She is a corporatist in Democratic clothing. Nominating her probably means defeat in the general election for '08. If she did win then the progressive cause would be set back as she is certain to govern in the corporatist ideological center. The tone of a Hillary presidency would be different but her rhetoric a placebo.

As the Republicans continue to collapse in ’06 and ’08 our principles are going to be challenged. Victory’s sweet temptation will make it easy to compromise on values of fairness and social justice. That’s human nature when victory appears and feels close at hand after years in the wilderness. It will be easy to rationalize campaigning not to lose instead of pushing for real change. Let’s keep our eye on the prize. A real victory for progressive values is within our grasp if we continue to push relentlessly. Now is not the time for Democrats to be mealy mouthed and faint hearted. Let's go for the jugular and save our country.


Bob Higgins said...

Hello Rob,
Beware the ides of March.
On the fifteenth of the month I went to the VA hospital for a breathing problem and had a nice litte heart attack in the emergency room. I came to thirty six hours later in ICU. Got out yesterday, feel great. Go Figure.
I would like to reprint "Lancing The Boil"
If it's Ok. Let me Know
I like your work and your point of view.
Every Day's A Holiday
Bob Higgins

Deirdre Helfferich said...

And of course, there's a third option: go for the Green.

VtPoet said...

//conservatives will never succeed in distancing their failed ideology from Bush. His biography blends all the threads of modern conservatism that is really a marriage of corporate interests and theocracy.//

Well put. The caveat would be "modern conservatism". Goldwater probably would have detested Bush. Modern Conservatism seems to be defined, in large part, by the Christian right.

//In criticizing Bush, these conservatives are hoping to define the terms of their surrender.//

Hell yes. This quote should be in Newsweek. Calling Bush a liberal is an insult to liberalism. There's nothing Liberal about him. However, the conservatives *do* have a point. He's not a conservative. Bush is a *Republican*. This is the crux of the matter. This is what these boneheads don't get. There are conservatives, and *then* there are Republicans. The Republican Apparatus is a force unto itself, dedicated to its own survival at all costs, be they moral, ethical or otherwise. They want a country ruled by THE PARTY -- a hegemony little different than what the communists aspired to. When is this going to dawn on people?

If the Democrats regain seats and power in 2006, it won't be because the Democrats won seats, but because the Republicans *lost* seats. I see no reason why the Democrats should expect to hold onto those seats in 2008.

The Democrats have more or less turned into Goldwater Conservatives but without the spine or courage. As one editorial said it: The Republicans may be clueless, but the Democrats are spineless.

The best thing that could happen to the Democrats would be to lose more seats. Clear the detritus out and build a new coalition. As it is, the Democratic Party is dead. They are merely an alternative to the Republican Aparatus, having no core of their own, nothing but the timorous desire of each individual Democrat to keep his or her own privileged seat in the political class. To hell with them.

We need a real alternative to Republicanism. Up here in Vermont, I'll keep voting for the Independents.

VtPoet said...


Now that the various senators have travelled to Irag, er... the Green Zone... and have sternly informed the Iraqi people that the American People's patience is growing thin, I am fully confident that the sectarian violence will stop at once. The sundry Muslims will apologize to each other & meet over pastries.

Everything will be peachy-keen.

jay lassiter said...

Have you read the Kevin Phillips book yet? I have amazon'ed it and it's on the way.
I heard a ton about it on NPR and it seems like smart stuff.

Richard said...


Another outstanding post.


You said "The best thing that could happen to the Democrats would be to lose more seats. Clear the detritus out and build a new coalition."

The problem with that is the source of the Democratic weakness is those in the safe seats, not the ones that would be lost.

The primary action against Joe Liebermann should put a bit of spine into the survivors, even if one is Liebermann.

Sandouri Dean Bey said...

heard an interview with phillips on npr. it was great.

the real problem i think is that most liberal-minded people have become stuck in the republicans = bad, dems = good conundrum, in spit of the fact that the dems are rife with corporate interests, as you've pointed out. howard zinn demonstrates this trend in a people's history.

the u.s. lacks a genuinely progressive voice in mainstream politics. the question is how to achieve this. seeing that the dems are as beholden to corporate interests as anyone, should one work within that framework, or instead work to shatter the two-party system once and for all?

TheManWithoutQualities said...


Thanks for posting a comment on my blog. Did you happen to read Matthew Yglesias's piece on "The Bush Legacy?" I think you're on to something though..."Conservativism" is becoming corporatist, quite possibly fascist.

- Geoff

Bill said...

This is my first post here. I am informing all those who don't already know what's going on. My sources are impeachable but remain at large anyhow. So here it is, FYI.

Lies that cause people to believe, have faith are moral. I got that from the curator at Turin, the one in charge of the hoax shroud explaining why it's OK to keep showing and charging to look. The money has nothing to do with it, thank God. Next we have to note how the administration has captilized on the rule and since Bush is a Texan and everything in Texas is bigger then so are the lies, the moral ones in particular.

There's just one last thing to know. Moral people cannot lie even though what they say is no so because all their lies are in the interest of causing people to have faith. This allows us to take a worn out expression, "faith moves mountains" and Texanize it. The Texas version is, "faith moves mountains of lies."

Anonymous said...

Hello. This is my first post. My name is Buck from Texas. Al Qaida is a terrorist organization funded and trained by many islamic nations. What fool believes there were no Al Qaida in Iraq before 9/11? No wmds you say? It was not cotton candy that blew away the kurds. Did he have any left? Who would wait around to find out? There are two scientific names for liberals. (surrenderous maximus) or the economic version (regulatus taxatus dictatus) Hey libs! I got one hand in my pocket and the orther ones throwing a f**k you sign!!Buck out!!!