Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
Ronald Reagan’s worst mistake was named George H.W. Bush. Bush was the price that Reagan paid for the support of fake conservatives.
And the price ended up being his legacy.
Reagan had never felt good about naming Bush as his second, worrying about “turning the country over to him.” And he was right to worry. Once in office, Bush disavowed Reagan’s economic policies, which he had always hated, got deep into bed with the Saudis with disastrous results, and lost a winnable election to Bill Clinton. Reagan had handed Bush victory and Bush had brought Republicans utter defeat.
Bush was the ultimate political insider, with shaky popular appeal, but impeccable political connections. Loyal to party, rather than principles, he was trusted by the establishment in sensitive positions. His final task was to undermine the Reagan Revolution. It’s unsurprising to hear that he will vote for Hillary.
George H.W. Bush ran against Reagan as a left-leaning Republican. In Congress he had backed a plethora of destructive leftist programs. On his way to the White House, he was for abortion and the ERA and the FHA. Described by his wife as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, he failed to live up to even that low bar in the White House.
Past party labels, George H.W. Bush has a great deal in common with Hillary Clinton. Both of them emphasize social welfare in domestic policy and Muslim appeasement in foreign policy. They both view the role of government as that of patron rather than representative. They see political leaders as wiser than the people they serve. They despise “religious fundamentalism” of the non-Islamic kind, hate Israel, cheer Planned Parenthood and want to fight as many wars for the Saudis as they can manage.
Bush is not unique in that regard. The latest Bush incarnation, Jeb, ran on that same noblesse oblige of an unwanted elite lecturing taxpayers on their obligations to the Democratic Party’s voter base. Bush I had no interest in what the people in his district thought of his social welfare votes at their expense. But this philanthropic contempt runs through much of the fake conservative class which incessantly lectures conservatives on the virtues of illegal immigration, freeing drug dealers and social welfare.
Abroad, the fake conservative believes in international law and exporting democracy as fervently as Hillary. He is the sort of fellow who calls the Muslim Brotherhood moderate, seeks a “two state solution” to divide up Israel between Jews and Muslim terrorists and believes that terrorism can be defeated by meeting the demands of the populations that support terrorism in some other way.
If this sounds a lot like the Democratic Party’s program, that’s because it is. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren all used to be Republicans. The difference between them and some of the Bush loyalists who are now backing Hillary is that they at least told the truth about leaving the GOP.
The GOP has been steadily moving to the right to the profound discomfort of its remaining cohort of left-wingers who have never been more thoroughly out of touch with their party’s base than they are now.
It hasn’t been a steady transition.
Every time a Reagan rises, a Bush is there to undermine him. Every conservative victory is followed by a careful program to isolate, water down and destroy that victory.
The Tea Party is only the latest incarnation of the conservative movement to get the treatment.
Hillary’s appeal to fake conservatives has produced defections that are statistically insignificant on a national scale, but highly notable within the hothouse world of the political establishment. Bush is the highest profile name, but countless Bush cronies like Brent Scowcroft, Richard Armitage, Carlos Gutierrez, Tony Fratto, Henry Paulson, Sally Bradshaw have been more open in their support for Hillary.
It’s tempting to dismiss the Bushites as sore losers mad about Jeb’s defeat, but it’s bigger than that.
Hillarystan is swelling with Bush loyalists defecting to a friendlier country where they still believe that illegal migration is an act of love, that big government is the answer and democracy needs exporting.
This is a primal battle between two worldviews in the GOP. One believes in big government at home and abroad. The other prefers self-reliance. The Bush-Hillary consensus is invested in the importance of government infrastructure. It believes that government is the most important institution in human affairs and that its expansion, domestically and internationally, is both inevitable and virtuous.
And that it is our mission to solve domestic and international problems through government power.
This is the worldview that the rise of Trump threatens and disrupts. Fake conservatives believe that they are protecting America by supporting Hillary over Trump. Unfortunately they have defined America to mean the policy infrastructure of government rather than the people, the history and the nation.
This is a struggle between individualism and technocracy, between national interests and international law, between the community and the government.
And George H.W. Bush has more in common with Hillary in this struggle just as he did with Carter.
The GOP has long been burdened with privileged politicians who pay lip service to conservative virtues while dreading the thought of actually implementing them. George H.W. Bush has a long history of championing left-wing policies before flipping to conservative ones when it was politically convenient.
When Reagan picked Bush, the latter changed his colors, but he never changed his beliefs. And once he had his chance, he wrecked Reagan’s legacy. And this has been the left-wing Republican pattern all along.
The defections to Hillarystan have exposed men and women who held positions of great power in the GOP without ever being committed to conservative values and ideals. Their treason is helping to pave the way for a newer and cleaner party based on ideals rather than on political allegiances.
This is the twilight of the left-wing Republican. Members of the establishment are self-deporting themselves from the GOP by making it clear that they have more in common with Hillary Clinton than with their own base. What was an open secret in certain circles is no longer a secret at all.
Each generation the influence of left-wing Republicans has waned. Where Reagan had to fight a difficult and uphill battle against a leftist establishment that controlled the high ground, the remainder of their ilk are abandoning the party on their own. That is a good development for the GOP and for America.
George H.W. Bush gave us the Clintons. And now the Clintons may end the Bush legacy.