Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey points to one of the biggest failures of the Bush Administration...a failure which may be at or near the center of the Republican implosion during those eight years.
And it was evident not only in President Bush's policies, but was also seen in John McCain's campaign
From Armey's piece in the Wall Street Journal:
Too often the policy agenda was determined by short-sighted political considerations and an abiding fear that the public simply would not understand limited government and expanded individual freedoms. How else do we explain "compassionate conservatism," No Child Left Behind, the Medicare drug benefit and the most dramatic growth in federal spending since LBJ's Great Society?
John McCain has long suffered from philosophical confusions about free markets, and his presidential campaign reflected as much. Most striking was his inability to explain his own health-care proposal, or to defend his tax cuts and tax reform. Ultimately, it took a plumber from Ohio to identify the real nature of Barack Obama's plan to "spread the wealth."
Armey also points out the fallacy of "compassionate conservatism" and why this sugar-coated philosophy (which was really something like "liberalism-coated conservatism") was like sugar in the gas tank of the Republican engine.
Ronald Reagan, for example, held an unshakably positive vision of American capitalism. He didn't feel a need to qualify the meaning of his conservatism. He understood that big government was cruel and uncaring of individual aspirations. Small government conservatism was, by definition, compassionate -- offering every American a way up to self-determination and economic prosperity
Genuine conservatives understood this from the beginning, and always rankled at Bush's use of the term "compassionate conservatism."
The only people who saw conservatism as "uncompassionate" are the ones who avoid personal responsibility like The Plague in the first place. One might as well refer to adulthood as "uncompassionate" because being a grownup has (until recently) meant responsibility, hard work and doing things for yourself.
Yet somehow President Bush had this idea that government could do more for people--things people should be doing for themselves--and still be "conservatism." It cannot. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was nothing more than liberalism with a little restraint.
When President Bush came to Washington D.C. in 2001, he was firmly dedicated to instilling a "new tone" in Washington. Most of us could have told him (and many tried) that it was useless to try. Democrats wasted no time in stabbing him in the back...repeatedly and viciously. Bush failed to realize they weren't interested in a "new tone;" only Republican surrender.
Oh, yes, liberals had cried for "bipartisanship" and decried "bitterness" during the Clinton years when Republicans had control of congress. Perhaps Bush fell for this, but he should have known what Democrats were really saying was, "You need to capitulate and do things our way. You're mean because you won't do things the liberal way. Stop the bitterness and let us set the agenda."
So President Bush engaged in a strategy of compromise and accommodation that had elements of conservative philosophy and elements of liberal philosophy, but was neither.
As I've said many times before, when people have a choice between the genuine article and something pretending to be the genuine article, they'll forgo the pretender and go for the real thing every time. And so, the people embraced the real liberal party in congress in 2006, and the real liberal presidential candidate in 2008.
But Armey reminds us of the blueprint for conservative success:
We captured control of Congress in 1994 because we had confidence in our principles, and in the American people's willingness to understand and reward a national vision based on lower taxes, less government and more freedom.
It's time for Republicans and conservatives to quit playing footsie with liberalism.
Liberalism is poison to prosperity, poison to Americanism, and poison to human dignity. It's time we quit making excuses for it and treated it as such.
Conservatism is the legacy of Americanism given to us by the Founders. Conservatism is the closest political philosophy to the one which gave birth to this great nation. Conservatism is the roadmap to a strong and prosperous United States.
It's time for the Right to stop being ashamed of conservatism. It's time for the Right to explain it to a culture that has largely forgotten it. It's time for the Right to aggressively promote conservatism because we know it is how our country is supposed to work, and the only way it can continue to work effectively.
Most of the American people still instinctively know this. But they will not embrace it if those selling it act like they aren't sure themselves.
Conservatives: it's time to quit cowering and run to the battle. Our nation is worth fighting for.