By Suzanne Blanchard
This week I'd like to take a minute to talk to any real Republicans still planning to vote for George W. Bush, El Jefe de la Banana Republic of America, mostly to satisfy my curiosity about how it is possible that any but the most strident neocon or radical "christian" fundamentalist would do so. Even some pretty crazy Republican types are catching on to Bush's bizarro world version of conservatism.
It isn't just the trail of broken promises or the panoply of "-isms" Bush has inflicted upon us (reverse terrorism, corporate cronyism, ruthless cynicism, oblivious unilateralism, and, yes, inane "Bush-ism").
With breathtaking alacrity, the Bush cabal can rightly claim to have changed America and the world more radically than any administration within memory. It's hard to see how anyone could conclude that this transformation will lead to a more stable, peaceful and prosperous world or nation.
The dissonance between the rabid group occupying the White House and the every day homegrown Republicans I have known in my life could not be greater.
A "Republic" is a form of government with the "supreme power lying in the body of citizens." The party was founded in the 1850s by anti-slavery advocates and homesteaders under the banner "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont" [their Presidential nominee was John C. Fremont]. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President. GOP.com says: "With a core belief in the idea of the primacy of individuals, the Republican Party, since its inception, has been at the forefront of the fight for individuals' rights in opposition to a large, bloated government."
In contrast, these new "Banana Republicans" have capitulated on every tenet of the traditional Republican party to further economic and geopolitical interests that work in direct opposition to those core beliefs.
Traditionally, Republicans believe in free markets, small government, low taxes and conservative government spending. They believe the federal government should only dictate to state governments in very limited circumstances on rare occasions where absolutely necessary. Government intrusion into private lives should likewise be severely limited. Grand Old Party members believe foreign policy should be limited to advancing American interests and security, and that the U.S. should never be "the world's policeman," though we should maintain a strong military. They generally hold that judges should not be "activist" and should be circumspect and respectful of precedent. They value the opportunities afforded by a free society and economy, and value the power of public education to allow individuals to advance through discipline and hard work.
Virtually all of these precepts are threatened or already undone by the Bush junta's approach to government.
A White House aide once characterized "Bushism" as "an activist, reforming conservatism that recognizes it's sometimes necessary to use the power of the government to change the status quo."
Let's look at what kind of "activism" the White House has undertaken over the past three years:
- Free Markets: Bush cronyism and personal profit motive in the energy sector is well-documented. Bush also tucked a sweetheart deal for pharmaceutical companies in the Medicare bill last year, a bill the Heritage Foundation called "an unforgivable failure of leadership." The Independent Institute documented that Bush "talked free trade but practiced protectionism" in steel trade tariffs and other protectionist initiatives. The New York Times noted that Bush has "repeatedly signalled" his "willingness to compromise on ... free market principles."
- Small Government: Bush has presided over the greatest expansion of the federal government since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in just three short years: more than a million new employees have been added to the federal payroll. The Brookings institute notes that Bush has grown the federal workforce so rapidly that he has undone all of the small government reforms enacted by his father and Bill Clinton over more than a decade in just three short years. This doesn't even reflect the astronical expansion of private federal contractors. Health and Human Services contractors and Social Security contractors were increased 750 percent, according to the Heritage Foundation. Defense services contractors now outnumber Defense Department staff by a ratio of 2 to 1.
- Low Taxes: The Center for American Progress calls it "The Bush Tax Increase" - most Americans saw little benefit from the cuts and saw cuts in federal services, while their government fees and state taxes actually increased. That is, at best, for the average American, the cuts simply shifted the payment from federal to state government. At worst, Bush's much vaunted tax cuts increased the tax burden for low to middle income Americans. The Heritage Foundation warns that Bush's expanded entitlement programs will inevitably lead to tax hikes.
- Conservative Spending: much has been said about Bush's spendthrift ways, by liberals and conservatives alike, there doesn't seem much point belaboring it. One quote will suffice: The Heritage Foundation blasts Bush administration's historic levels of spending, saying the President "lacked the belt tightening discipline" to restrain spending. The result is per household government spending to heights not seen since World War II.
- Personal Freedom: While wrapping itself in the warm glow of the iconic Flag and Constitution, the Bush administration has attacked those fundamental rights that define our way of life - individual liberties - with a virulence not seen since FBI Director Hoover and Roy Cohn's sponsor, Joseph McCarthy. Turns out Cohn and Hoover, both well-skilled at depriving others of their personal freedoms, had a major privacy issue in common: both were gay. Coincidentally, depriving gay people of their person freedoms is high on President Bush's agenda, and he is even willing to mess with the Constitution to get there. His other major stab at personal freedoms, the Patriot Act, has already drawn heavy criticism from his usual right wing allies and energized that most radical of groups, librarians.
- Foreign Policy: With forces deployed across the globe and no-end-in-sight bloody ongoing commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush has officially earned the mantle of the "world's policeman." And his go-it-alone approach makes him more like that loner cop Eastwood or Bronson played on the late night movie.
- Strong Military: Here's the really twisted thing about that "hero" Eastwood/Bronson act Bush is playing out on the global stage - it tends to have a very high cost, not just in dollars and political/diplomatic capital, but in experienced personnel and equipment. Even with record outsourcing of military functions to private security and support firms, and unheard of levels of deployment of national guard and reserve troops, troop strength is stretched to the breaking point. In fairness, its not that surprising that civilians (Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld) who avoided combat experience or merely played at it would fail to grasp these basics.
- Judicial Activism: Karl Rove is the architect of the Bush judicial agenda, and it isn't to supply the federal bench with squeaky clean conservative judges muttering "stare decisis."
- Public Education: The No Child Left Behind program is truly one of the most "1984" bits of "Dubya-speak" on record, achieving the demolition of the nation's public education system by expanding federal control of state education programs while starving states of education dollars, giving them makework bureaucratic obligations while shifting the financial burden to already overburdened school districts.
In sum, we have a President whose dubious "election" resulted in a Republican republic which is neither Republican nor any longer a republic, controlled by corporate robber barons and foreign "friends of W." It sure smells like a Banana Republic to me.
So, really, why are you voting for Bush?
August 19, 2004 7:22 AM