“Like the 1944 pop standard says, President George W. Bush has hurt the most all those he professed to love the most — from the conservative ideologues and born-again Christians to the free-market enthusiasts, energy producers and red state political class. Perhaps no politician in recent memory has done more damage to his political base.
The most obvious recent equivalent, Richard Nixon, did cause harm to the conservative cause, but that damage was short-lived. It reflected his deviousness more than his policies. Similarly, Bill Clinton’s many personality flaws weakened the Democrats’ hold on the White House, but inflicted no permanent harm to liberalism.
In contrast, the Katrina-scale disaster that has been the Bush presidency may leave his ideological backers in the wilderness for years to come. Over the past eight years, Bush has done more to undermine conservatism than all of the country’s college faculties, elite media and Hollywood studios put together.”
— Joel Kotkin for Politico.com
I first read this quote on Rod Dreher’s blog at Belief.net. Dreher is a religious conservative writer who’s blog I came across during the election season. Here’s his response to the Kotkin take that I found very interesting:
“The historical/psychological framework for my politics — and, I’d wager, for the politics of many of us Gen Xers — depends on having become politically aware at the end of the Carter presidency, and into Reagan’s first term. Considering Carter as inept and ruinous for the country, and in turn Carter as representative of the Democrats, was the emotional touchstone for me. Don’t doubt for a minute there aren’t millions of American teenagers who are waking up politically at the end of these Bush years and having their political orientation imprinted right now. If Obama has even a halfway successful first term — if all he can do is stop the bleeding — the Democrats will own our national politics for a generation.”
To a certain degree Rod describes my own experience. When President Bush came into office in 2001, my political tendencies were already mildly liberal, but his presidency, especially his decision to go to war with Iraq, led me to thoroughly investigate my views on issues like war, foreign policy, and civil liberties among others. This may seems obvious, but Bush’s policies forced me to sharpen my own views, often in strict opposition to the choices he made. When he won re-election in 2004, I was crushed and bewildered, but I could only take solace in that another four more years of Bush’s presidency would certainly allow more time for the opposition to mount….and mount it did. I think Dreher is spot on with his take, at least I hope he is. I think conservatives have a lot to offer, but Bush has sent them into exile and they will surely reform themselves for the better.