July 5, 2007

Bush conservatism: "we will prove to you that government sucks"

One of the paradoxes of political life in America. Republicans tell us that governments are corrupt and power hungry, then give us Nixon who proves it. Public internalizes message and blames all politicians--says they are all bad. Now we will see it again. Bush bad mouthed government, then seemed determined to prove to us that it was incompetent. No matter that his flawed predecessor actually made some government programs work. No matter that government programs have done things like reduce poverty, build extensive interstate highways, reduce air and water pollution--hell, one even brought the bald eagle back from extinction. But no matter. Contemporary conservatives have been taught to loathe their government--no distinctions allowed. No real ability to say, hey, maybe everyone isn't as incompetent as this petulant frat boy.

Anyway, here is E. J. Dionne on how that distrust of government undermined the immigration reform effort:
"The skepticism about government is currently directed against Bush, against conservatives and against Republicans. But this should give Democrats little comfort. As Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg argues in the current issue of the American Prospect, "There is a perverse consequence brought about by the scale of conservatives' failure."

The problem, Greenberg says, "is that conservatives have failed in ways that have undermined Americans' sense of collective capacity. Their failure has communicated not just their own incompetence, but also the message that government in general is incompetent."

"By failing so dramatically," Greenberg continues, "conservatives have created a significant roadblock for Democrats: They have undermined people's faith in the very instrument that we as progressives want to use to solve problems.""

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