After Bush was elected in 2000, many liberals were unhappy. They had two ways to deal with that disappointment—a) accept that they lost and vow to get ‘em next time, or b) embrace paranoia and start accusing Bush of stealing the election and becoming a dictator and lying the country into war and torture and fascism. They chose b.
So we got eight years of Michael Moore suggesting that Bush and bin Laden were playing for the same team, and of Keith Olbermann calling for Bush to resign, and dozens of crazy conspiracy theories about Iraq being a war for oil waged in order to prop up Halliburton.
This phase must have been embarrassing for rational liberals. It’s one thing to disagree with someone, it’s another to be become unhinged over Bush’s existence. But conservatives made hay with all the liberal insanity—they labeled it Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS for short) and used it as proof that liberals weren’t serious about the real problems facing the nation. Among themselves, conservatives swore that no matter how bad things looked, they’d never stoop so low as to engage in Obama Derangement Syndrome.
Then Obama got elected, and they didn’t waste any time. Conservatives managed, for the most part, to avoid the stupid sort of trutherism that said that Obama wasn’t actually a natural born citizen. But the restraint stopped there. Since Obama’s inauguration, the conservative response has been a) tax cuts, b) Rush Limbaugh, c) Atlas Shrugged, and d) accusations of socialism.
Obama’s stimulus package was a flawed bill—incredible amounts of pork, and it meant massive deficits. And it was (and still is) doubtful whether it would even succeed in its stated goal of pushing the economy out of recession.
All devastating points, and the Republicans did use them. But their solution? Tax cuts. Which would have been a great idea, except that Republicans have made tax cuts the centerpiece of their response to every financial crisis since Reagan. And given the size of the deficit (even without Obama’s stimulus package), cutting taxes would simply be irresponsible.
No conservative managed to particularly distinguish himself in the fight over the stimulus bill, so people looking for a leader of the Republican party looked to Rush Limbaugh for inspiration. And that caused a significant controversy, with liberals angrily demanding whether Republicans support Rush, and conservatives divided into pro-Limbaugh and anti-Limbaugh camps; the former considering Rush a real asset and a true conservative leader, and the other vociferously disagreeing.
How about third option: who cares? Well, everyone does now, due to size of the controversy. But it shouldn’t have been a controversy at all. If you like Rush, enjoy him by all means. If not, find a new leader you can get behind. But Rush isn’t going to go away just because some people think he’s too influential.
Some dispirited conservatives are suggesting we live in an “Atlas Shrugged” scenario, where the government will take over the entire economy, and debating whether we should all go “John Galt,” which apparently means stoping producing and hoping that the economy falls apart. Because nothing says “responsible guardians of the economy” by having your supporters run around citing some literary enormity which advocates a stupid, sophomoric philosophy, right?
The whole “Atlas Shrugged” idea brings me to my last point, which is the constant accusations from the Right that Obama advocates socialism. “Socialism” is a serious charge, one that should not be carelessly directed at anyone. So it’s a pity that so many Republicans obviously have no idea what socialism is.
Socialism’s main goal is state control of production and distribution of goods. Seen much of that in the Obama Administration? (There have been some banks nationalized, but that was one of Bush’s plans, not Obama’s) Another goal is a “fair” wage scale. Hasn’t been much regulation of wages either. Obama is simply not a socialist. There are words for what he really is—“statist” is certainly one; “corporatist” is another that seems to fit. You could even make a case (though not a very strong one, in my view) that his program incorporates elements of fascism. But he’s certainly not a Socialist.
So far, conservatives have stayed far away from the level of crazy that many liberals sank to during the dark days of Bush. But still, their performance since Obama’s election has been very poor—they’ve spent most of their time either pushing stupid economic theories or engaging in dumb, counterproductive power struggles. If conservatives haven’t become “deranged”, they still certainly haven’t acted very responsibly.