Starting yesterday, the talented Rachel Maddow will be authoring monthly columns for the Washington Post. In her first, she highlights a little-remarked upon aspect of the 2012 Presidential campaign--that George W. Bush, "history's actor," the last Republican to hold the White House, presiding over our country for eight seemingly endless years--was nowhere to be seen.
It's an appropriate introduction for Dr. Maddow. The shadow of Bush looms not only over today's Republican Party, but on all of us, and especially on Maddow herself. In a real sense she owes her career--and Markos owes the success of this site--to the depravity of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Bush made no noteworthy appearances for any candidate in 2012. He was a non-entity at the Republican National Convention. Not even the corporate media that had fawned over his worst excesses seemed interested in what he thought--about anything. His was the "name that shall not be named," terminating the lofty aspirations of his heir apparent brother and bringing the family dynasty to a screeching halt. For a two-term President to have been utterly shunted by his own Party to the silent dustbin of history is a singular accomplishment. Maddow points out that no former Bush official holds any major visible position in today's Republican hierarchy:
[B]y the time the Bush era was winding down, the whole administration, including the president, was stewed in terrible, Cheney-level disapproval ratings. And now, almost no one who played a significant role in that administration is anywhere to be found in electoral politics, beyond the tertiary orbits of Punch-and-Judy cable news and the remains of what used to be the conservative “think tank” circuit.2012 simply cemented the consensus felt by the GOP in 2008, that the Bush name carried the toxicity and accompanying shelf-life of a nuclear meltdown:
The 2008 Republican presidential primaries were like some odd eight-year cicada hatch in which the candidates went underground in 2000 and then birthed themselves after Bush and Cheney were gone, as if the intervening years had never happened.The Bush legacy is so tainted that it has spawned an ideological shift in a GOP that, however dimly, recognizes that the face in the rear-view mirror is too hideous for most Americans to bear. Hence the outsized rise of the Libertarian elements in the party (perceived by Maddow as having at least the potential to win over a more youthful demographic). But even of those, the search for viable new leaders is crippled by the wreckage left in Bush's wake. The damage done by Bush to his own party is historic in and of itself.
She believes that the Bush experience contains a cautionary note for the Democrats as well. While President Obama's tenure is hardly likely to leave the negative blowback on the Democratic Party that Bush foisted on the GOP, the President's legacy to his Party is something he should be aware of and working on at this point in his second term. The rise of a more progressive breed of Democrats, particularly in the Senate, ought to inspire that effort going forward. And although hailed by the corporate soothsayers as the inevitable nominee in 2016, Hillary Clinton thus far (in Maddow's eyes) simply hasn't generated the grassroots enthusiasm one would expect from the Democratic base:
Unless Vice President Biden’s presidential hinting suddenly takes a turn for the serious, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the obvious inheritor of the party’s mantle. But, as in 2008, the Beltway may be overstating her inevitability. The grass roots aren’t all with her, frankly, and it’s yet to be seen if she’s interested in trying to win them over. Mainstream press may buy big-dollar donors (and more mainstream press), but it can’t buy the passionate volunteers and activists and excitement that are the oxygen for a winning campaign and sustained, effective leadership.The bottom line? The President should be concerned about the legacy he leaves when he departs the Oval Office. And if Hillary is to inherit that legacy, she will first and foremost need to answer to us.