From the 'funding father' of the modern GOP, a bit of whining:
Remembering and still dismayed about how his father, President George H. W. Bush (the 41st), lied to conservatives and American voters by saying he was a conservative and expressly stating he would not raise taxes, conservatives fear President George W. Bush (the 43rd) has done the same by failing to nominate well-known conservative, strict constructionists to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Conservatives are also exceedingly disappointed in the Republican Leadership in Congress as well. Conservatives will now begin to seriously consider why they should continue to give their support –money, labor, and votes – to Republican politicians who take their conservative base for granted by continually lying to them.
Of course this guy doesn't speak for the entire 'conservative base' anymore than I speak for all indolent 20something quasi-liberal half-capitalists (with a twist), but this certainly seems to be an indicator of the prevailing winds among rightie commentators. Note: at issue is not the question of whether this woman deserves to be on the Supreme Court for her requirements. Rather, all the yapping among commentators seems to be, fascinatingly enough, about the cronyism obvious in her appointment. Bush's oft-praised 'loyalty' is just a conservative gloss on good ol' boy nepotism and corruption - cf. the last two Majority Leaders of the House for further illustration - and while 'Left' readers have known this for a while, it would seem that the Right wing commentariat is finally waking up to that fact.
And yet look at the terms of this complaint! Poor us - Bush won't hew to the so-called judicial ideology of the most morally extreme members of his party! Lamentations!!
Tom Frank must be laughing his ass off right now, because what's been happening lately has looked a lot like a backlash against the backlash mentality of the recent GOP. What's the Matter with Kansas? is an excellent book, engaging and informative while making a none-too-complicated 'false consciousness' argument that's straight from the Marxist-scholarship playbook. His point in a nutshell: the GOP has suckered its poor constituents and fractured the working classes in this country by offering cultural revolution over issues it never manages to win (abortion, evolution, stem cells, interracial dating, &c.) and delivering only a fiscal revolution - benefitting only its wealthiest constituents.
He describes the face of modern conservatism as 'backlash' conservatism, which is set up broadly as a rear-guard action against post-60's social upheaval while the real work goes on in boardrooms and lobbying agencies. Frank's previous work on New Economy hucksterism, One Market Under God, serves as a kind of prequel to Kansas by outlining the co-opting of liberation rhetoric by soul-sucking capitalist New Economy pig-dogs (cheesy but obvious example? Tom Friedman). In Frank's vision, the GOP has built its strong base on people who consistently vote against their financial interests - or, to borrow rhetoric of other disciplines, the GOP relies on its 'conservative base' to have imperfect information about the state of its Culture War(s).
Like I said - it's a fairly compelling argument, although it's been harshly criticized for a certain top-down determinism (a criticism that in my opinion is a weak theoretical response to a strong empirical case). I bring it up again just to make the point that the recent upheaval in the GOP plays right into his Backlash schema. Frank talks about Republicans voting for an anti-abortion candidate and getting tax cuts for the rich, or voting for less smut on TV and getting TV deregulation that leads to more smut (where 'smut' could mean Sex in the City; but going beyond the merely fiscal character of the GOP, it's clear that this administration's 'false bill of sale' has included the megalithic Department of Homeland Security; the trillion-dollar quagmire in Iraq; environmental policies that will cost voters a lot more than money; toothless 'education reform' that strengthens primarily the parts of school most easily monetized, i.e. the least meaningful; and so forth. And that's ignoring the cronyism and cynical power-mongering that have characterized the last few years (though I imagine Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald will have something to say to that in short order).
The Culture Wars were never to be won, and it's possible that the Bushies have done exactly what some Left commentators figured they'd do: they've overreached (this happened years ago but who's counting?), and they've finally found themselves unable to avoid the gaze of their Angry Conservative Base. The Christian case against the war is growing, the fiscal conservative case against the war is growing, the general American hostility toward obvious gov't corruption is bubbling up, and killer gas/oil prices are beginning to make school prayer look like small potatoes. All of which amounts to a wonderful opportunity for Tom Frank to say
nyah nyah nyah I told you so
but I don't think that's his plan. (Though he and many others did in fact tell you so.) I say this in all seriousness: if conservatives want thoughtful candidates who can advance a conservative agenda and actually make this country stronger (which isn't the same as 'more bellicose' in case they were wondering), they're going to have to look beyond the risible faux-religious faux-apocalyptic faux-National-Greatness rhetoric of the current GOP leadership and start treating the doing of governance with proper liberal seriousness. I haven't mentioned the word 'corporate' up above, but you should imagine it floating around in the background somewhere - it sometimes travels under the pseudonym 'entrepreneurial' or 'small business', but it's there, the driving force for so many of our dear leaders' schemes these days, the presumptive alternative to Big Government, even though the GOP is (and in many ways has been for a long time) the party of Big Gov't through and through. Frank is dead right: people just don't seem to realize what they're doing at the ballot box, no matter what they think. (Hey, the same is true of liberals, who've built a corporate-centrist phony-war-enabling Democratic Party atop the grave of the New Deal. But down at the bottom it looks like a lot of Dems are starting a cleanup process. Not for nothing did I namecheck the Contract With America yesterday!)
To sum up: I think Frank is on to something, and I think his 'false consciousness' argument provides a helpful key for understanding the outpouring of conservative grief and backhanded mea culpas that's filling up the corporate-conservative media these days. There, I said it in a sentence.