Monday, May 22, 2006

The right thinks Bush has betrayed them

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Some people on the right think Bush has failed to fulfill his promises to them. In Sunday's Washington Post, Richard Viguerie -- designer of right-wing marketing campaigns -- bemoans Bush's betrayals.

According to Viguerie, Bush "talked like a conservative to win our votes but never governed like a conservative." He's not happy with the Republican majority in Congress, either, suggesting that "most of them [have] turned into the sort of unprincipled power brokers they ousted in 1994."

For those of us on the left, this position is pretty funny, unless you think about what extreme ideologues these people must be if they're not satisfied by Bush. And they are extreme: Viguerie is upset about use of tax money for stem cell research -- something he conveniently forgets to mention was supported by the wife of his political idol, Ronald Reagan. He is offended by a hate crimes law that covers gays. He rants about the lack of action to ban abortion or "to prevent liberal judges from allowing same-sex marriage." And I gather he doesn't think the tax cuts went far enough.

He's apparently not even sure that Bush's additions to the Supreme Court -- John Roberts and Samuel Alito -- are sufficiently conservative.

But while I wouldn't go so far as to say "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," there is a silver lining in the right-wing attack on Bush: Viguerie is advocating that the extreme right -- he calls them conservatives, but I think their positions are an insult to true conservatives -- stop supporting the Republican Party willy-nilly and put their money and efforts behind what he considers to be the right sort of candidates. With any luck, positions like his will cause more division among the Republicans.

Coupled with the dismal failure of the Bush presidency, desertion by the right could leave the door open for the Democrats to take back all or part of Congress this fall. In fact, The Washington Post on Saturday and The New York Times on Sunday had very similar articles on vulnerable Republican seats in Congress. This represents a real shift in coverage: Earlier this year the Times ran a series on the Democrats' inability to capitalize on Republican mistakes, leaving the impression that the Republicans had such a lock on power that they could continue to fail spectacularly at government and get re-elected. And the Post has run numerous stories that focus on the ineptitude of the Democratic Party.

In my experience, the Post, in particular, tends to sense blood in the water. Once they decide you're weak, that's the kind of coverage you'll get. This has nothing to do with their editorial policy -- they're perfectly capable of endorsing a candidate while picking apart his or her campaign on the news pages. They did it to John Kerry and Al Gore both. It's not that they're trying to influence elections, though they may be doing so; it's that they're more interested in covering political strategy.

After all, the biggest sin in official Washington is not violating the Constitution, starting unnecessary wars, or even taking bribes; it's showing bad political judgment.

So take heart: both the Post and the Times think the Republicans are vulnerable. And the right wingers are deserting the GOP. Maybe -- just maybe -- we'll end up with a Congress in 2007 that can start repairing the horrendous damage our country has suffered since 2000.

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