'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'
Coming of age politically during the Reagan Revolution, the present leadership of the Republican Party fought the good fight in successfully overcoming the vast inertia of 20th Century Liberalism on it's disastrous slide toward a tawdry secular progressive utopia on earth.
They now stand triumphant.
With a Republican in the White House, a Republican led House, a Republican led Senate, a Supreme Court soon to provide vacancies for two, possibly three seats, a Democrat Party in absolute disarray, and, even, the icing on the cake, a mainstream media caught in the whirlwind of new technologies that not only highlight their distortions, but damage them financially, this is the stuff that conservative dreams are made of.
But despite all this good news many conservatives are very unhappy, ———and no wonder. Empty is not too strong a word to describe the feeling of many toward this conservative victory.
Lost to the self—congratulatory beltway politician and pundit euphoria is a simple truth. The point in working hard, donating time and money, educating and persuading the populace, and eventually winning hard—fought elections was to effect meaningful change towards a more conservative Republic, to limit federal power, lower taxes, honor individual liberty, and preserve and protect the Constitution. This has not happened.
During the days of liberal domination Republican leaders seemed content, with some justification, simply to microscopically slow the incremental growth of Big Brother. Today, under the present unique (and perhaps fleeting) circumstances, such an attitude will simply not do.
Sickeningly, just as the conservative moment has arrived, rather than use the power so long denied, and so long sought through the locust years, to prescribe a new conservative agenda, Republicans seem bent on a breathtaking course, a course to positively smash all Liberal records for uncontrolled spending.
Without even a hint of restraint, Republican leaders from the President on down have come to relish their chance to effect good through the power of government intervention. Federal power grabs, arbitrary 'mandates,' politically correct directives, and squandered tax dollars on ill—conceived good will 'programs,' have all helped to create an even more monstrous Bigger Brother dressed up in conservative colors.
People who fervently rooted for Bush to defeat Kerry and his liberal agenda now watch powerless and impotent as the President and his congressional allies pursue policies that would make Lyndon Johnson green with envy. Not just huge Prescription Benefit Bills, Education Bills, Highway Bills laden with pork, Energy Bills bulging with pork, but also increases for every discredited Great Society mistake enacted, even, (adding insult to injury,) more tax dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts. If 'Piss Christ' couldn't stop the federal gravy train, what in heaven's name will?
Of course, the war in Iraq serves to hide and confuse much of the larger issue. People of good will can and do disagree on the merits or demerits of our current foreign policy. And although it is recognized by all serious people that the Federal government is responsible for securing our national safety, unfortunately, the President has been so personally tied to the Iraq War that the 'hate Bush' countered by a 'my President, right or wrong,' mentality has been so inured that any criticism of Bush and his domestic policies, by extenuation, is seen as effectively unpatriotic. Conservatives, to their credit, hesitate to beat up on the beleaguered war President.
In addition, the 'sporting' aspect of politics interferes. The daily joust with the bad guys, Hillary, Teddy, and their ilk, clouds the issues with a desire to beat the other team so badly as to have putative conservatives embrace the most liberal impulse. The big picture is obscured, the gatekeepers are blinded, expediency trumps conviction and one wakes to a new day of ever growing federal expansion at the expense of individual liberty and fiscal responsibility.
As Thomas Paine wrote,
'...there are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one.'
Conservatives, upon election victory after election victory have lost every time. Fiscal restraint?—lost. Meaningful tax reform?— lost. Culture war?— not even fought. Entitlement rollback? —surrendered. Affirmative action?— endorsed. Education Department eliminated? —enlarged and funded . Border protection? —pathetic. Foreign aid? increased. Federalism? — ignored. States rights? ——blasphemy.
Is it not understandable then that conservatives lament this state of affairs and grow cynical and detached. After winning a string of victories, they see their heroic efforts reduced to not merely a noxious status quo, but worse, actually enabling the growth of liberalism in disguise. Many conservatives now see political activism, as the Preacher said of old, as 'vanity, and a striving after wind.'
Tragically, as Republican ascendancy reaches its apex, the conservative ideal as a practical contributing force to our national government, like Marley's Ghost, is 'dead as a doornail.'
Andrew Sumereau is a frequent contributor.