The Taliban Wing?
Last year or so, during the run up to the 2004 elections, Julian Bond of the NAACP referred to Conservatives in this country as "the Taliban wing of the Republican party". He was soundly denounced and villified for even daring to mke such a statement in public, and to a certain extent, rightfully so. The comment was meant to evoke fear and disgust in certain segments of the population (i.e. those the reliably vote Democrat), and given what we know of the Taliban and their practices, it was way over the top.
Fast forward to October, 2005.
I was recently engaged in a chat on an internet forum regarding George W. Bush and the Supreme Court. The majority of the people involved identified themselves as "Conservatives" with some going as far as to claim the title of "Arch-Conservative" or "True Conservative". The subject matter strayed quite a bit, with arguments about rampant Congressional spending, the threat to free speech of Campaign Finance Reform (McCain-Feingold Law that restrticts the subject matter, time frame and funding of any issue-advocacy advertisements during an election cycle, among other things), and a whole host of ways in which George W. Bush has "betrayed" his conservative friends.
They felt that Bush had abandoned them on their issues, and was no conservative at all. They were, of course, talking like the disaffected usually do; they'll take their votes elsewhere (just where is never identified), they'll continue to hound him in the press, write the usual chain letters to memebrs of Congress, etc, etc. They sounded, for the most part, like children promised a shiny new bike for Christmas who awoke to find box upon box of new underwear under the tree. But I digress.
The subject matter was a Supreme Court nomination. This is a very big deal,of course, since Supreme Court judges sit for life and have the ability to shape American life in ways never intended by those who write the laws (i.e. Congress). The issue in play is, was, and always will be, abortion. This vacancy, they all warned in serious tones, must be filled by an anti-abortion nominee. The bravest amongst them actually used the term anti-abortion, just in case you couldn't get the nub of their gist, whilst others used the stealth-term "strict constructionalist" which basicaly means, if it's ain't in the Constitution, then it doesn't exit. I don't ever remember reading an Amendment to the Constitution specifically stating that abortion is legal and a protected right, so natch, a "strict constructionalist" could eradicate abortion while hiding behind this constitutional fig leaf. They wanted to know why Bush hadn't nominated someone willing to order the closing of all abortion clinics and frog-march all doctors who perfom such procedures into the concentration camps. Instead, they were pissed off that the President had nominated one Harriet Miers, of whom they knew nothing, and of whom, therefore, they could expect nothing. Conservatives like to know beforehand just what people are going to do. They make no allowances, however, for reality, random chance or a host of other intangibles, and then they hold you to it like superglue to a pussycat.
Just as an aside, it is a golden rule amongst Conservatives that once a Republican candidate for President accepts their votes and their money, he'd better damn well do what they say, "or else". "Or else" of course, came to pass once --- when GHW Bush (Bush pere) encountered the "deficit hawks" led by Ross Perot. Perot basically stole the conservative vote from Bush, leading to 8 years of the Clintons. Or else, it seems, has dire consequences for those in the cross hairs, and even worse, for those willing to pull the trigger. So, here and now, GW Bush must now give the conservatives what they want: a way to overturn Roe v. Wade.
You see, modern conservatives, in my opinion, are becoming just like the democrats they despise; they have only one issue (which is abortion), and one tone (shrill), because all of their other issues seem to have gone by the wayside in the last five years. Fiscal conservatism? Gone. The Republican-dominated Congress (chock full of people these Arch-conservatives admire) has spent money like drunken sailors on shore leave. The only time I've heard any serious talk about fiscal conservatism came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when some (estimated) $200 billion had to be found to pay for the damages. This seriously cuts into congressional "pork" like renaming another deserted stretch of highway for Ronald Reagan. It also came with the realization that it was tantamount to giving democrats in Louisiana a blank check. Louisiana is the kind of place where a republican couldn't get elected dog catcher if you offered free booze and hookers at the polling place. All of a sudden, fiscal conservatism is back in vogue.
Are you a defense hawk? Well, many of these people have issues with the way in which Bush is handling the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do too (more on this later). They usually want to know why were expending money and young men in order to ensure that ignorant, desert-dwelling-camel-humping-murderers-of-a-particular-non-Christian-faith get to vote. Why aren't they all dead yet, for the love of Christ? No, the one place you would expect the war to be popular, in conservative circles, is not all that popular (but still accepted as the price of doing business) at all.
Believe in free markets and the immutable laws of economics? Look someplace else. Conservatives, who would be expected to believe business should be left alone to make money as they see fit, are all howling over $3 gasoline like everyone else in the country. Conservatism, to many it seems, starts and ends at your pocket book; tax cuts passed by Congressional action (good), high-priced gas caused by natural market forces (bad).
But what got to me, and started me thinking about Julian Bond's words, was when it was suggested that conservatives look at reality with regards to the enviornment in which President Bush ahs to operate. GW won his first election by fewer than 1,000 votes. He won his re-election with the highest-ever number of popular votes cast, but still by only a 3% margin or so. I don't see, and never have seen, a mandate for Bush, regardless of how much I love the guy.
And therein lies the problem. Conservatives only see the victory, they never see the blasted landscape upon which that victory was achieved. Democrats, incidentally, suffer from the same disease.
GW Bush with a solid victory (15 or more percentage points, without the baggage of Florida in 2000, etc) could very easily step out in front and say, "okay conservatives, I'm going to gove you what you want". GW Bush with a margin of victory less than 3% cannot come out and govern like a conservative. He has to be mindful that should he go too far, the polarized electorate will punish his party in future elections. So, we get a bunch of policies that walk ideological tightropes. We get "Compassionate Conservatism", "Faith-based Initiatives", "No Child left behind" which are conservative policies wrapped in Liberal colors. This is why Bush haters always underestimate the President; he's very good at getting what he wants by presenting it in a way that the other side can only llook bad by opposing, and getting just enough support to pull it off.
It was suggested that perhaps Bush understands this better than his conservative fairweather supporters. It was further suggested that conservatives were beginning to act and think in ways in which it was hardly possible to tell them apart from democrats. They are isnisting that their president is bought and paid for by them, and always point out that the unions, the gays, the blacks, etc, have a stranglehold on a democratic president. They rail against the injustice of having the Supreme Court decide issues that are strictly matters for legislatures (integration, abortion, marriage, religious displys in public, etc) and then scream that they want these things overturned or abolished by the same judicial fiat. Only the court would be stacked in their favor, so it would be alright.
At which point, the person who suggested these things and pointed out the hypocrisy (namely me) was heaped with invective. I was a fag-lover. A NAACP butt-licker. A good little leftist. A communist. A subversive. I was a dead man walking if any of them ever caught me on the street alone. (These are direct quotes). How DARE I engage in the right of free speech in a CONSERVATIVE forum and present views that they didn't want to hear?
Imagine that: a bunch of people who swear, in the loudest possible terms, beating their chests all the time as the true guardians of American government and freedom, that they stand for the Constitution, the American way, and all that, actually behaving like Mussolini's Blackshirts with a case of the running trots. Goddammit, they had a right to see anything they didn't like outlawed, homosexuals punished (that exact term was used). All, by the way, claim to be God-fearing Christians.
I somehow instictively know that these people cannot, just CANNOT be representative of the conservative movement as a whole. They are an extreme fringe in the same way that the Deniacs are for the other side. But my God, was it disgusting to watch.