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Conservatism in Exile

Jack Hunter
Campaign For Liberty
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Barack Obama is the most socialist president in American history. Before Obama, George W. Bush was the most socialist president in American history. Before Dubya, it was Bill Clinton, then Bush Sr., Reagan, and so on. Each successive administration, by and large, has presided over a federal government that has assumed more power and spent more money than the last.

And the same will be true in 2012 or 2016 if America elects just any old establishment Republican. Yet, the continuous, everyday narrative being put out by the GOP and talk radio is that it is of the utmost importance for conservatives to unite in order to defeat the Democrats.

About President Obama, Rush Limbaugh warns, “He wants to destroy capitalism. He wants to establish a very powerful socialist government, authoritarian.” Bombast aside, Rush is not off the mark. The problem is the same criticism could be leveled against George W. Bush, who “abandoned free-market principles to save the free market system” with the historically unprecedented, socialist TARP bailout and whose administration increased executive power to what many considered an extreme, authoritarian degree.

Fear mongering to keep Republican voters in the fold is nothing new. Before Obama, it was Bill Clinton who was going to destroy America, or as Limbaugh put it in his 1993 book, See I Told You So: “Get ready, folks, for the biggest confiscation of your money ever by the government … Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson look like pikers compared to this guy.” In 2007, McClatchy News Service reported that Bush had spent more than any president since LBJ, making Clinton look like a piker. In the ’90s, Rush warned against Clinton’s “radical agenda” and “extreme Leftist blueprint,” yet while “Slick Willie” was certainly every bit the statist Rush portrayed, comparatively, he was actually more fiscally conservative than Bush.

Liberals who accuse conservatives of being selective in their anti-government outrage have a valid point. Consider this scenario: What if there had never been a President George W. Bush and we went straight from Clinton to electing Obama in 2000? Now imagine Obama had governed exactly as Bush had — starting the Iraq war, implementing the Patriot Act, doubling the national debt, expanding Medicare, enacting No Child Left Behind, pushing through TARP, the whole bit. How would Rush and the GOP have reacted? Would they have said that Obama was “destroying capitalism” or trying “to establish a very powerful socialist government?” Of course they would.

Conservatives who continue to make the case that Obama is worse than Bush are right, but the fact that Rush and like-minded pundits and politicians are unable to find fault with the last socialist Republican president is a pretty good indication as to what they’ll tolerate from the next one.

Rush’s, and much of talk radio’s, preferred GOP candidate in 2008 was Mitt Romney, whose record as the governor of Massachusetts wasn’t exactly conservative. Romney’s current politics, as outlined in his new book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, differs from Obama’s primarily in their priorities and not on the issues of out-of-control federal spending or the massive growth of government. Imagine if Romney had been elected in 2008 and pursued Obama’s exact agenda, including national healthcare. This scenario actually isn’t much of a stretch considering that Obamacare is based on Romneycare, the Bay State’s current government healthcare plan. Would Rush and his Republican friends defend Romney’s Obama-style agenda? If the last decade was any indication, they would.

Today, the popular Tea Party movement represents the first sign of conservative sanity in some time, due to their possible willingness to be independent of the Republican Party, something GOP politicians and their talk radio spokesman already fear. Reviewing Sean Hannity’s new book Conservative Victory, the City Paper’s Chris Haire writes, “Hannity has nothing but disdain for the Tea Party’s No. 1 goal: to vote all the bums out, Democrat and Republican alike. Hannity wants to keep those bums in power, as long as they’re members of the GOP and their last name isn’t Paul.”

Haire adds, “There’s nothing more disastrous that could happen to the GOP than for the Tea Party to become a true force within the Republican Party, perhaps even becoming a viable third party.”

Despite their rhetoric, the GOP establishment’s greatest fear is not Barack Obama, but that conservatives might finally begin to wander off the Republican reservation. With the Tea Party movement, the increasing mainstream popularity of Ron Paul, states’ rights initiatives, and other non-party directed efforts, conservatives have already started to wander and should keep wandering farther if they are ever going to truly escape from their GOP-imposed exile and if “conservative victory” is ever going to mean anything more than just being Republican and beating Democrats.

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