Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Why Conservatives are Not Enthusiastic About Bush

It’s no news that President Bush’s poll numbers are in the tank. But it’s not because liberals hate him. They have pretty much always given him very low approval and very high disapproval ratings since before he took office (with the exception of a brief period following 9/11). The only difference there is that a fair number have gone from simply loathing him to hating him more than any other person on the planet.

Rather, Bush’s numbers are low because conservatives are finding increasingly less to approve of and increasingly more to disapprove of. The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg takes issue with the left’s comparison of Bush to Nixon because the elements to which they draw similarities are actually quite dissimilar. Goldberg asserts here, however, that Bush does have other more striking similarities to Nixon, whom he classes as “the last of the New Deal-era liberal presidents.”
“… at the philosophical level, he [Bush] shares the Nixonians' supreme confidence in the power of the state. Bush rejects limited government and many of the philosophical assumptions that underlie that position. He favors instead strong government. He believes, as he said in 2003, that when "somebody hurts, government has got to move." His compassionate conservatism shares with Nixon's moderate Republicanism a core faith that not only can the government love you, but it should spend money to prove its love. Beyond that, there seems to be no core set of principles that define Bush's approach, and therefore, much like Nixon, no clearly communicable message that explains why he does things other than political calculation and expediency.”
Goldberg argues that Bush’s tactics run contrary to most of the GOP’s base. “Today, Reaganite conservatives make up a majority of the Republican party.” Goldberg opines, “If Bush held the Reaganite line on liberty at home the way he does on liberty abroad, he'd be in a lot better shape.”

That’s wishful thinking. Bush is what he is. The zebra’s not going to change his stripes at this point. Unless he has an epiphany similar to the conversion that caused him to give up booze, he’s not going to suddenly become a small government activist.

Liberals count the days to the end of Bush’s second term and dream about impeachment. Interestingly, many conservatives look forward to the end of bush’s second term as well, but wonder what will come next and what will be left of the GOP by 2008. Conservatives put up with Bush because he at least has some semblance of toughness with regard to national security. The Democrats simply have no credibility on this issue whatever.

On an interesting side note, American scholar Shelby Steele offers his very politically incorrect proposition of why the U.S. (and the West in general) finds itself incapable of actually prosecuting the War on Terror in a decisive manner. He also links this to our inability to control immigration along our southern border.

Peggy Noonan contends here that the institution of the presidency is in trouble. The job has gotten “too big, too complicated, too crucial, too many-fronted, too . . . impossible.” If her thesis is correct, “that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and … that there is nothing [we] can do about it,” then it won’t matter so much who the next president is. And that’s a scary thought.


That One Guy said...

You know - it's interesting, this "white-guilt" that supposedly colors most of our actions... it even holds leaders back from accomplishing the things that they should really feel a mandate to do. Take Immigration reform - the VAST majority of our citizenry support a fairly agressive stance to this issue, not to mention the "war" in Iraq. Polls bear that out. The general public supports decisive action in both cases.

Which brings up the general issue of how we deal with guilt in our Western society. One can easily make the case that guilt-driven behavior, whether personal, corporate, or governmental, is THE pervasive motivator in most situations, even though the issue at hand may not pertain to a truly "moral dilemma".

And one step further, from a personal (and rhetorical) perspective, are you a religious person who behaves this way or that way out of guilt? Is guilt a motovating factor in your behavior? Have you ever thought of it in that light? If you think about it, we are a species that is HIGHLY motivated by guilt.


Scott Hinrichs said...

I've had some of the same thoughts on the guilt issue.

Scott Hinrichs said...

I also noted that Dr. Steele suggested that one of the most worrisome aspects of guilt-based choices is when it becomes some kind of auto programmed response where those involved don't actually experience the guilt upon which it is based. I think that's something to worry about even in personal religious behavior.

That One Guy said...

Yes. I think that falls into the category of "Fear Of Guilt". When that fear is as "programmed" as it is, it becomes a subconscious reaction, which, as you state, is a troublesome way to make public policy, and an equally troublesome way to live one's life personally, speaking about religious motivations or other personal issues not directly related to religion. It really is pervasive if you think about it.

I think basic fear of some consequence is related to this topic as well. "Fear of" something happening can be put in the same category as "feeling guilty because..." of some sort of decision we have before us.

Scott Hinrichs said...

It would be optimal if everyone made decisions based on the rightness of the possible choices rather than on the fear of the outcome. But, as you noted, our species seems predisposed to consider the fear factor as well.

I'm not sure that's all bad. It seems to me that there is healthy fear as well as unhealthy fear. Likewise, it seems that there is healthy guilt and unhealthy guilt. It's the unhealthy fear and guilt that seem to be near the root of the problem.

Scott Hinrichs said...

I read this article that discusses some clues about how our brains work with regard to fear.