But those of us who've been fighting this Administration since the beginning know this is very, very new. Most of us remember a time, only a few short years ago, when the conservative base was lined up shoulder to shoulder alongside Bush. When being liberal was labeled an act of treason, and when asking questions about his policies was considered "objectively pro-terrorist". This is a level of political power that is virtually unknown in modern American politics. Even Reagan could not achieve the level of personal near-worship that Bush gained between 2001 and 2004. To believe the conservatives now, you have to completely forget that era.
As liberals we absolutely cannot let that happen. The fact is that George W. Bush has been an incredibly successful politician. His party has enjoyed a more absolute level of control over government than nearly any other. He has been able to manipulate the public into giving him extraordinary powers -- starting with the Florida election and continuing through illegal wiretapping and the "unitary executive" doctrine. It is time to see this development of "Bush is a failure" rhetoric as what it really is: it's a frame.
Measured by legislative control alone, Bush has had extraordinary latitude. His party has controlled the House for his entire term so far, and the Senate for 4 of his 6 years in office. We have therefore spent FOUR of the last six years under effective one party rule. By contrast, Republicans controlled all of Congress for 6 out of Clinton's 8 years in office. Bush I spent all four years of his term dealing with a Dem Congress. Reagan NEVER achieved total control of Congress -- the House stayed Democratic throughout his 8 years. The last Republican president to control both branches of Congress was Calvin Coolidge. This means Bush has had an unmatched opportunity to pass partisan legislation with no need for consultation or compromise with an opposition. (Numbers from Wikipedia)
On top of his party's numerical control of the Congress, Bush's cronies in Congress have established strict rules that promote their power even more. Delay's tactics of threats and bullying to Republican lawmakers, as well as total exclusion of Democratic ones are now legendary. As a result of the President's absolute control of Congress (both Delay and Frist are personally linked to him), Republicans have passed nearly every part of their agenda. Run down the list of MAJOR policies enacted in the last 6 years. No Child Left Behind, the PATRIOT Act, Medicare Part D, Bankruptcy Reform, tax cuts that have already cost us 1 trillion dollars, terrible environmental legislation, a "war of choice" that has and will have horrifying results, an Office of Homeland Security with no clear mandate. Each was passed nearly whole, without time for debate or compromise. This is not the way legislation is supposed to work in this country. Yet it provides a fascinating opportunity for a "natural experiment". For perhaps the first time since the Great Depression, Americans are able to see what unchecked conservative government actually looks like.
Sadly, Bush's power has been abetted by Democrats as well. Believing in either incrementalism or triangulation, Democrats have been led astray with distressing regularity. This is not an ideological issue. Some of the major defections have been Ted Kennedy on No Child Left Behind and Russ Feingold on John Ashcroft's nomination. However, some Democrats have embraced a misguided policy of "strength" that involves inevitably and uncritically supporting the President. This problem has declined since 2004, but the damage was done on a slew of issues. I'm not an expert on the Roaring Twenties (again, the last period of Republican domination), but it's doubtful that even Coolidge and Hoover had an opposition party as silent as our 9/11-era Democrats.
This President has provided Americans the chance to get as close as possible to seeing government without politics. It has not been pretty. The lack of oversight has allowed major gaps in attention -- which have led to the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers, New Orleanians, Iraqis, and American soldiers. The lack of debate has led to legislation structured along blatantly ideological lines, with assumptions taking the place of reasoning and pedagogy taking the place of pragmatism. With no debate, no Democratic compromises softening the rough edges, no liberalism tempering the hard heart of conservative policy, Americans are beginning to see exactly what "starving the beast" means. And Americans are beginning to really hate it.
That is why the conservatives have begun to turn on him. With every dime added to gas prices, every new revelation of graft, every preventable disaster, Dorothy gets a little closer to realizing there's a man behind that curtain. The more unpopular Bush's conservative policies get, the more his supporters want to dissociate from him. It does Democrats no good to help them. We can see their strategy now, because it's the only option they have left: destroy Bush so that conservatism may live. Our job is to make the opposite case. Bush has been a colossal success -- a historic success. Bush has gotten more of his policies passed than any President since Lyndon Johnson. The reason America is suffering today is not bad administration, and it's not incompetence (at least not JUST incompetence). The reason lies in the simple ideology of greed and entitlement served out by the Republican party.