He's hurting the brand

Paul Krugman this morning puts the lie to the conservative claim that Bush has betrayed the conservative movement. Lots of people have done this in the past, but Krugman really draws all the various threads together--incompetent governmental management, fiscal irresponsibility, a lack of respect for our system of justice, intimidation and co-opting of the press, and of course, race-baiting.

People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration’s efforts to disenfranchise minority groups, under the pretense of combating voting fraud. But Reagan opposed the Voting Rights Act, and as late as 1980 he described it as “humiliating to the South.”...

Above all, people claim to be shocked by the Bush administration’s authoritarianism, its disdain for the rule of law. But a full half-century has passed since The National Review proclaimed that “the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail,” and dismissed as irrelevant objections that might be raised after “consulting a catalogue of the rights of American citizens, born Equal” — presumably a reference to the document known as the Constitution of the United States.

The whole thing is good, and you should certainly read it, but I'd just like to point out one thing. There are, in my opinion, two groups of people who are claiming that Bush isn't a true conservative. One group is made up of disaffected Republicans and Independents who voted Republican who bought into the meme of Democrats as profligate spenders, who believed that the Gingrich Congress was more responsible for the balanced budgets in the late 90s than Clinton was, and who have seen that they were fooled. They're people who want to be conservatives, who want to be Republicans, but who aren't so blinded by partisanship that they say "my party, right or wrong."

And then there are the pundits--your Jonah Goldbergs and Grover Norquists, for instance--who see in the Bush administration the destruction of the carefully constructed facade which has been fooling lots of people since the Reagan administration. They're the intellectually dishonest, vapid, me-firster's who would sell their own mothers if it got rid of the capital gains tax. And they're the ones who are scared shitless that Bush's incompetence is going to cost them everything they've gained over the last 30 years--including any shot at the next generation of voters.

Because young people aren't joining the party or the movement anymore. Overwhelmingly, people in their late teens and early twenties are identifying not only as Democrats, but as liberals. Alex P. Keaton is disappearing (not that he ever really existed--a teenage Republican with a good heart? Come on--give me a talking candy unicorn or something; just don't insult my intelligence). And to Republican pundits, long convinced that you can sell anything given the right marketing strategy, this is disturbing news. Remember, these are the people who were convinced that the best way to handle Arab anger over the Iraq invasion was to mount an ad campaign, so to them, the Bush administration has been a disaster of New Coke proportions.

They see their brand slipping away from them, which is why they're trying to revive Classic Conservatism, just like Classic Coke. Krugman's piece points out that there's precious little difference between the two formulas, and that both taste like shit.

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