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Death by a thousand catastrophes

Fri, Mar 7th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

One day in the not so distant future, the Discovery Channel will air a documentary detailing the life and death of the Conservative Movement, that all-white tribe of bible-thumping, war-mongering, rich folk, who, for a brief period in American history, rose to political prominence. It will show that they died a tragic, painful death after eight years of George Bush's reign proved there were few, if any, redeeming qualities to the policies it offered, nor solutions to the problems most Americans faced. In the end, Conservatism became (in a word) irrelevant.

It is entertaining to watch all of these Right-Wing stalwarts of the faith fall on their swords in defense of their movement in light of John McCain's inevitable nomination as the Republican candidate for president.

There was Rush Limbaugh, pained by McCain's ascendency, saying McCain's nomination would kill the Republican party.

"John McCain has stabbed his own party in the back," Limbaugh said on his radio program.

There was provocateur Ann Coulter prowling the air waves saying if McCain were nominated she would campaign for Hillary Clinton.

"I would vote for the Devil over John McCain, thus my claim that I would vote for Hillary over John McCain," Coulter said.

And there was Salem-style reverend James Dobson of Focus on the Family declaring he could not in good conscience vote for McCain.

The problem with the Republican party is that it has been taken over in the last decade by the side-show freaks and ideologues who hold up Ronald Reagan's legacy as the Conservative Gospel that must be both praised and followed.

Reagan Conservatism in 1980 was a natural reaction to the malaise created by a run of successive Democratic Congresses preaching more and more government programs as the answer to most everyday problems.

The apex of the Conservative Movement came in 1996, when the Contract for America swept Republicans into control of Congress. Victory was short-lived however, as 10 years later, voters, upset with the War in Iraq and Republican excesses, brought about a reversal of fortunes, creating majorities for Democrats in Congress.

But as Conservatism's ideology has intensified in recent years, its ability to solve problems has declined.

Writing in a recent issue of Newsweek, columnist Farred Zakaria states that "conservatism grew powerful in the 1970s and 1980s because it proposed solutions appropriate to the problems of the age." He goes on to say that today's world has a different set of problems - health care, terrorism, oil dependency, immigration, the economy, and the environment.

"In this context, conservative slogans sound anachronistic in the context of today's problems, like an old TV show from the 1970s," Zakaria wrote.

While McCain is going out of his way to prove his Reagan-like Conservatism (meeting with George Bush this week) in an attempt to re-unite the Republican party, the real struggle has to do with pushing the party toward the center.

McCain's nomination assured, his only chance of winning in November is to re-invent the GOP as a party that is both inclusive and can solve problems.

The boondoggle of Iraq, the incompetence of Compassionate Conservatism with Katrina and tax cuts for the über-rich while borrowing money to fight a three-trillion dollar war are fresh reminders that America, and its people, are not better off than they were four, or even, eight years ago. Bush, and his neo-cons have killed off the movement that led them to power, one catastrophe after another.

McCain as a Senator willing to stand up for what's right over ideology has played well with independents in the past. But independents will only support McCain's Straight Talk Express to the White House if they believe that the Republican Right is no longer driving the bus.

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