Conservatism, D.O.A.

“Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is… maybe he didn’t?”

Eli Cash, The Royal Tenenbaums

Glenn Greenwald is one of the best writers out there and on Tuesday he wrote a great piece about the death of conservatism, or, that it never really existed in the first place. The short of it is, there is/was an ideal conservative philosophy that was supposedly represented by past saints (Reagan) and future ones (Bush II) but which crumbles to bits when examined with the faintest scrutiny (that Reagan is vastly over-rated and Bush will never be a saint to anything or anyone is hardly the point). They, and any other candidate that will be put forth by the current form of Republican party, is alleged to stand for these things, which would include fiscal discipline, small government, lawful integrity and personal responsibility; a strong defense goes without saying.

But you would hard-pressed to find any actual evidence that this exists, as Andrew Sullivan concedes in his response to Greenwald, “It may be that my idealized form of conservatism … is not to be found in pristine condition in history.” Indeed, conservatism may appear to be dying under Bush right now, but perhaps it was dead on arrival anyway; more likely, it only exists in campaign slogans and rhetoric.

The reason Sullivan responds at all is because Mr. Greenwald includes his book “The Conservative Soul” in his analysis. Sullivan ponders in his book how to “get it back,” as if it ever was truly a tangible movement, but as Greenwald says, “these ‘conservative principles’ which one finds in textbooks and think tanks” never actually appear in reality.

The true butt of this joke are the folks who continue to prop up this “hollow” form of conservatism, like the apologists at the National Review. If Bush’s popularity had never sunk so low (and for so long) then they would not be forced to even come to the conclusion (at long last) that Bush had forsaken conservatism, which they do with great reluctance even today. As Greenwald says,

“They are desperately trying to disclaim responsibility for the disasters that they wrought in the name of “conservatism,” by repudiating the political figures whom they named as the standard-bearers of their movement but whom America has now so decisively rejected.”

“They did far more than “watch” as the President and the Congress “disgraced” themselves and damaged this country. It was self-identified “conservatives” who were the principal cheerleaders, the most ardent and loyal propagandists, propping up George Bush and his blindly loyal Republican Congress.”

It is this unwavering committment to the cause that has allowed our situation to deteriorate to the condition it is in today, and when I say “our condition” I mean, the country under George W. Bush. It is, like a medical diagnosis, critical, and falls squarely on those who cannot be bothered to speak out from within. The reasonable and rational ones (on the left, and typing on this keyboard) have never had a voice anyway; the apologists who propped up Bush and his war, had the head seat at the front table. Accomplices, all of them.

Like Eli Cash in The Royal Tenenbaums (played so brilliantly by Owen Wilson), these tools of the right-wing have gotten rich off of presupposing history that will never come to pass. Bill Kristol deserves a special place in hell for his role, along with Rich Lowry of the National Review and many, many others. With the conservative movement merely a flight of fancy, it is time to recognize that everything they say is bullshit and treat it as such.


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