»  National Review Online

November 9th, 2004

  Afterthoughts

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After the banquet comes the indigestion; after the Lord Mayor's parade comes (or came, in the days before internal-combustion engines took over from horses) the man with the shovel. I've been on a victory high the past few days. As a principled conservative, though, I have had my discontents with George W. Bush's presidency. Now that the victory euphoria is subsiding, darker thoughts are creeping in. I'm just going to sum up pros and cons here, coming to a conclusion — don't worry — that is overwhelmingly pro, but giving the cons a fair airing.

George W. Bush has been breaking conservative hearts for four years, as his father did before him. Steel tariffs; No Child Left Behind; the Medicare extravaganza; the preposterous immigration proposals of January this year; all had at least some large number of American conservatives shaking their heads in dismay.

Not all of us have been vexed by the same aspects of the 43rd presidency. For some of us there is one large outrage (spending, immigration, war) looming far larger than the others; to such a degree in some cases — Scott McConnell, editor of The American Conservative is such a case — as to drive the outraged into voting for John Kerry. We are all vexed, though. For anyone of a conservative cast of mind and feeling, the presidency of George W. Bush has been deeply unsatisfactory in one way or another.

In politics, however, you take what you can get. As a conservative, I am used to not getting much at all. It is only in these United States, in fact, that conservatives get anything. I am thankful for that, and hopeful that in a second term, with re-election no longer a consideration, we may get a little more than we have been getting.

And then there is the thing we did not get on November 2. My own great joy at Bush's re-election was based largely on my fear and loathing of the alternative. The alternative, in all reality, was John Kerry, John Edwards, and their legislative and judicial coat-tails. It will not do to say, as Scott McConnell in effect said, "the worse, the better." In politics, as in economics, there certainly can be such a thing as creative destruction. It does not always proceed as intended, though — see the current condition of the Conservative Party in Britain — and should be embarked upon with the utmost caution, and only in times when the worse does not look too bad.

The worse, as presented to us on November 2, looked to me to be very bad indeed. At home, it would have meant Massachusetts liberalism triumphant, social democracy enthroned, the law-school elites rampant, and three or four more Ruth Bader Ginsburgs tightening the vise on what remains of our liberties and Constitution. Abroad, we should have retreated into a cringing, apologetic Carterism, deferring to all the thieves, murderers and embezzlers of the world because we are, after all, the most sinful nation that has ever existed. Well, yes, we survived Carter, and he was followed by Reagan. One attempt at national suicide is quite enough for this writer's lifetime, though. Furthermore, the world is a less stable place now than it was in 1976, and the wreckers loose in our own society are stronger, more confident, and more numerous.

It is those wreckers that most concern me: the arrogant judges, the academic deconstructors, the teacher-union multiculturalists, the media guilt-mongers, the love-the-world pacifists, the criminal-lovers and family-breakers, the inventors of bogus rights and destroyers of cherished traditions, the haters of normality and scoffers at restraint, the enterprise-destroying litigators and pain-feelers.

I do not fear that American civilization will be brought down by Usama bin Laden, or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or any foreign force at all — not even (if you will permit me a quick sarcastic poke in the eye to my paleo friends here) not even by the arch-fiend himself, Ariel Sharon! I do fear that this country might be made unfit to live in, as the country of my birth has been, by a misguided and corrupt humanitarianism, sentimental wallowing in past wrongs both real and imagined, and class and race resentment petted and nurtured by opportunistic tax-eaters.

There is some of that nation-killing poison in George W. Bush's absurd "compassionate conservatism." Hence my dark thoughts; hence my less than whole-hearted admiration of the President. The poison's natural home, though, is in John Kerry's liberalism; while all the forces that might keep it at bay, every millinewton of them, are in the Republican Party, George W. Bush's party. That party held the national executive on November 2, and the legislature, too. It is stronger all around the country than it was a week ago, and on the Left is the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth. That, to my mind, is sufficient cause for rejoicing.