Thursday, March 27, 2008

From Chutzpah to Claptrap: Unable to Rouse a Majority, Conservatives Still Crave Power!

As a movement only infrequently able to get a majority to salute it, U.S. conservatism has always had to rely on more than a little chutzpah to gain ground. Lacking any lasting clout of their own, they nonetheless have shown a talent for pitting other minorities against one another, so that every so often the radical right can fancy itself as the minority in charge.

And the Bozell family in particular—L. Brent, Jr. and the III—has shown that even very traditionalist Catholics can be adept at chutzpah. It has taken them far in their efforts to rule American politics and the U.S. Catholic church.

But in his latest broadside against the American public, L. Brent Bozell III descends from chutzpah to pure claptrap.

Born in 1955, Bozell III says he has “been in the trenches fighting for an alphabet soup of conservative causes for 30 years” and has “raised hundreds of millions of dollars for it.” He leads numerous right-wing groups: founder and president of the Media Research Center, the Conservative Communications Center and the Cybercast News Service; founder of the Culture and Media Institute; founder and now an advisor of the Parents Television Council; board member of the American Conservative Union and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

So certainly Bozell III has earned the right to take credit for any accomplishments the movement would like to claim.

Yet rather than acknowledge that their multi-decade effort to capture the Republican Party has in fact achieved several conservative priorities, Bozell castigates Republicans for not doing enough for the conservative cause: “For 20 years, the moderate establishment of the Republican Party has told conservatives to sit down, shut up and do as we’re told… This is a movement fed up with betrayals…”

Surely this will come as news to George H.W. Bush, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush, who spent the bulk of their adult political lives trying to make their conservative base happy. Evidently, nothing will satisfy them—save perhaps establishing a theocracy with Bozell at the helm.

For six years of W’s presidency Karl Rove pandered to them. They got their way on invading Iraq; filling Supreme Court vacancies with conservative judicial activists; stifling the Bill of Rights; cracking the wall of separation between church and state; enacting tax cuts for the wealthy that made the national deficit explode exponentially; not enforcing laws passed to regulate the loan industry, thereby weakening the dollar and creating what may be our longest recession in decades; preventing federal agencies from having sufficient staffing and resources to cope with natural disasters, police imports from China, safeguard the nation’s food supply or prevent highway bridges from decaying and falling down; blocking life-saving stem-cell research; paying only for sex education and birth control programs that relied naively on abstinence alone; preventing gay people from being treated equally under the law; obstructing comprehensive immigration reform.

The list could go on and on. But it’s long enough to say that most of what is wrong with the United States today is the direct result of adopting conservative policies.

Rather than pretend they got nothing that they wanted, conservatives need to face the fact that much of their program has been adopted—and for the most part, it has utterly failed.

And they also need to realize that the public agrees. The conservatives were unable to field a candidate who could sustain majorities in enough primaries to beat John McCain. McCain won because even though he favors some conservative positions (e.g., the surge in Iraq, making the Bush tax cuts permanent), he is not perceived as wedded to every doctrinaire conservative policy that has gotten us where we are today.

So the Republicans may not be able to count on votes from Bozell and company. But so what? Do they plan to vote for a Democrat? Unlikely. Do they plan to promote as a third-party candidate some conservative who has already failed to convince voters in the primaries? They might do that, but all it would do is assure the election of a Democratic president. Does that do their cause any good?

What they might do instead is recognize that the United States remains a democracy and that not enough voters believe them anymore. The conservatives’ policies were a disaster. We have had enough. Either propose alternatives that acknowledge that and make sense, or get out of the way.

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