Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Revisionist History in the Making

Given all the attention currently being paid to the conservative revolt against George W. Bush, I strongly recommend you read Jonathan Chait's new piece for The New Republic questioning the "apostate" label the Right is plastering on W, and its (and the news media's) assumption that Bush's lagging approval ratings are attributable to same. To summarize Chait's argument:

1) All of Bush's supposed "moderate" heresies are either imaginary, or were present back when the conservative commentariat was idolizing W. as a Churchillian figure standing astride the world like a colossus.

2) Had Bush taken the Right's advice, he'd be in even more trouble than he is today.

3) Contra the conservative chatter, Bush's support levels from rank-and-file conservatives, while down a bit, are still crazily out of synch with the rest of the public.

4) We've been here before: conservative movement types always seem to support Republican politicians when they're successful, and accuse them of wimping out when they're not.

Chait doesn't generalize his argument into a broader meditation on the nature of ideological thinking, but there is a bit of an analog on the Left, where elite opinion about Bill Clinton's fidelity to Democratic principle has long diverged from rank-and-file progressive appreciation for the Man from Hope, and has also merged with a strange revisionist argument that Clinton's alleged heresies from The True Path were responsible for every Democratic electoral setback since 1994.

While Democrats can and should rightly enjoy and exploit the implosion within the GOP, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. A lot of progressives these days seem to think the rise of the conservative movement should serve as a template for Our Side, and if so, we should look at the self-deception going on in conservative circles with an occasional glance in the mirror.
-- Posted at 3:36 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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