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Bainbridge on Bush and Fusionism:

Professor Bainbridge offers his thoughts on how President Bush's policies fractured fusionism and drove away libertarian-minded conservatives:

The GOP succeeded in breaking out of 40+ years as a minority party because people like Ronald Reagan and, yes, Newt Gingrich consistently embraced a fusionist approach to policy that enabled libertarians, social conservatives, and fusionists to live together more or less peaceably under the same big tent. Bush's departures from fusionism broke the back of that coalition.
How did Bush do this? Utopian foreign policy, profligate spending, and the embrace of big government programs like "No Child Left Behind."

Interestingly, Bainbridge cites conservative thinker Russell Kirk repeatedly in his discussion of fusionism. Yet Kirk never embraced Meyer's fusionist philosphy. Indeed, Meyer and Kirk were often at odds. Indeed, in a 1955 article for The Freeman, "Collectivism Rebaptized," about Kirk and other "new conservatives," Meyer concluded:

Only the principles of individual freedom--to Dr. Kirk the "conservatism of desolation"--can call a halt to the march of collectivism. The New Conservatism, stripped of its pretensions, is, sad to say, but another guise for the collectivist spirit of the age.
As a result of this essay, Kirk did not wish to join the National Review masthead once Meyer became a senior editor in 1957.

UPDATE: Bainbridge has more here. I agree with him that Kirk was an important figure in post-war conservative thought. I respectfully disagree that Kirk was a particularly reliable friend of liberty, and would add that Kirk also expicitly rejected Meyer's fusionist philosophy as "weary liberalism of the nineteenth century."

Beerslurpy (mail) (www):

Only the principles of individual freedom--to Dr. Kirk the "conservatism of desolation"--can call a halt to the march of collectivism. The New Conservatism, stripped of its pretensions, is, sad to say, but another guise for the collectivist spirit of the age.

Wow, hard to beleive he wrote that 50 years ago. Just as true today.
12.9.2006 10:17am
PersonFromPorlock:
Without defending Mr. Bush for a moment, I think it's fair to say that he had lots of willing help from Congressional Republicans.
12.9.2006 1:15pm
DougJ:

Utopian foreign policy, profligate spending, and the embrace of big government programs like "No Child Left Behind."



I suppose then that you'd rather we continue Clinton's "realistic" -- cough, cowardly, cough -- foreign policy and leave our inner city schools to fester under neglect. And as for the spending -- let's not forget that 911 changed everything on that front. Better a debt than a crater where a city used to be.
12.9.2006 2:15pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
"And as for the spending -- let's not forget that 911 changed everything on that front. Better a debt than a crater where a city used to be."

I didn't know tate Medicare prescription drug benefits and farm subsidies were all that was standing between us and annihilation.
12.9.2006 2:39pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
Sorry, "know that".
12.9.2006 2:39pm
DougJ:
The bulk of the oh-so-dreaded deficit is caused by extra expenses (military and homeland security) incurred in the war on terror along with the tax cuts that were necessary to restart the economy after 911.

And as for Medicare D, it's flawed to be sure, but infinitely preferable to the insane and dangerous drug importation plans being put forth by the left.

Is Bush perfect? No, but he's a damned sight better than the other side. And given what he's been up against, not just in terms of 911 and Iraq, but also the attacks from the left and the MSM (if you can distinguish between the two at all anymore), he's done a pretty remarkable job. I guess 4.5 percent unemployment doesn't mean much to you, but it does to most.
12.9.2006 2:59pm
Speaking the Obvious:
Better a debt than a crater where a city used to be.

Funny...just what they say in Baghdad and Kabul...
12.9.2006 3:14pm
frankcross (mail):
Actually, the Bush rate of spending increases are not mainly defense related, see, e.g.,

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3043
12.9.2006 3:38pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Bush is a big government conservative who does not believe in the American people, and in particular he does not believe that they comprise a collective entity with a consciousness of its identity. President Bush is the antithesis of a populist. Everything else flows from this - his perception of America and Americans as overlapping interest groups, etc.

This is critical to his failure as a war leader. He failed to establish a connection with the American people because he does not believe they exist as an entity to make a connection with. This has resulted in the loss of public support for him and the war effort.

Another major cause of the loss of public support for President Bush and the war effort is his failure to talk about victory. He has not made victory the objective. Walter Russell Mead's Jacksonians insist on fighting to win, and Bush has convinced them that he is not fighting to win, so they want to stop what they perceive as purposeless fighting.

A statement by Jerry Pournelle is pertinent here. He was debating the Vietnam War with some East Coast liberal whose name escapes me at the moment.

The guy told Pournelle (this is from memory, so take it FWIW given that I don't recall the guy's name - it might have been Al Lowenstein): "Jerry, you want to win and get out. Me, I just want to get out. But the government wants to stay in and lose."

Pournelle's response was that this was an absolutely true insight.

And that is what President Bush has come to stand for - stay in and lose. IMO this is not true, but that is the perception he has created.
12.9.2006 4:00pm
tsotha:
As a former "Reagan Republican" I have to say Bainbridge is spot-on. I don't see any point of voting for any party that wants to increase the size of government. Friedman said it best in 1975:

I'm not in favor of eliminating government entirely. I think government has grown all out of proportion to its scope. Where are we going? I believe that that depends on us, that that's not in the cards, it's not -- we are masters of our own destiny. But if you take the road that we have been on, we are heading towards a destruction of our free society and towards a totalitarian society.

The vast majority of self-professed "libertarians" I meet are small-government conservatives who feel abandoned by the Republican party. The idea, though, that statist Democrats are any more attractive to people who mostly want to be left alone is a fantasy of Democratic Party apparatchiks.
12.9.2006 7:04pm
wm13:
I'm a little puzzled. Under Reagan, the Republicans never controlled the House of Representatives, and they lost control of the Senate during his second term. When Gingrich was in power, the Democratic president became wildly popular and Gingrich wildly unpopular. So why is Bush somehow a failure and Reagan and Gingrich successes?
12.9.2006 8:30pm
DougJ:

He has not made victory the objective.



He has a Plan for Victory, which is more than you can say for the Defeatocrats. You may not like the plan, you may not have the will to support it, but it is you cannot deny, a plan. And it seems to be the only one out there, that Baker-Hamilton surrender document notwithstanding.
12.9.2006 8:52pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
DougJ-

And as for the spending -- let's not forget that 911 changed everything on that front. Better a debt than a crater where a city used to be.

Come on now. While we're spending all this money we are creating MORE enemies. And then - the borders aren't sealed and the ports aren't very much more secure. Could there be a policy more detrimental to long-term American security? That isn't even getting into all the soldiers and innocents that have lost their lives.

I guess 4.5 percent unemployment doesn't mean much to you, but it does to most.

You know those numbers are cooked. Just like the inflations numbers.
12.10.2006 12:39am
Toby:
Tom Holsinger:

Best Summary Analysis I have seen. Thank you.
12.10.2006 9:16am
DougJ:
A

nd then - the borders aren't sealed and the ports aren't very much more secure.



Have we been attacked again? No. Were we attacked repeatedly under Clinton? Yes.

You see, it pays to be on the offensive.
12.10.2006 9:57am
godfodder (mail):
I am quite skeptical of all this 2006 post-election bashing of Bush. In point of fact, President Bush hasn't changed all that much in his politics from 2004, when he won re-election, and the Reps controlled everything. It's way premature to come to any grand conclusions about the "meaning" of the recent election. Historically, it seems to be a pretty routine 6th year slump.

Also, Bush personally, and Reps generally, have been subjected to some of the most negative, hyper-critical press coverage I have ever seen. The MSM became nakedly partisan over the past two years (and that's the real story of the recent election... Mark Foley, anyone?) Add to that a war that seems to be spinning toward defeat, and you have a recipe for defeat.

No Child Left Behind, and government spending in general, is a red herring thrown out by pundits who need to get out of the beltway more. If you think that the mass of "undecideds" (who determine elections, by the way) are hopping mad about that stuff, well... I respectfully disagree.
12.10.2006 12:33pm
Aleks:
Re: Have we been attacked again? No. Were we attacked repeatedly under Clinton? Yes.

There was exactly one foreign terrorist attack on American soil under Bill Clinton: the botched WTC bombing of 1993. The next such attack occured under George Bush in 2001. So how was the Clinton administration worse than the Bush administration? More Americans have died at the hands of terrorists (even if we count domestic terrorism, as in the OKC bombing) under Bush's watch than under Clinton's watch.
12.10.2006 2:35pm
DougJ:

The next such attack occured under George Bush in 2001.



As far I'm concerned, that happened on Clinton's watch. He had 8 years to deal with AL Qaeda and did nothing.
12.10.2006 2:56pm
U.Va. 2L (mail):
DougJ,

You're an excellent parody. Keep it up!
12.10.2006 4:55pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
DougJ-

Have we been attacked again? No. Were we attacked repeatedly under Clinton? Yes.

You see, it pays to be on the offensive.


Unless you count the minimum of several attacks a day that occur on our troops that are unnecessarily in Iraq.

The borders are still relatively open and the ports are still relatively insecure. You better hope the additional enemies that we have created with the invasion and occupation of Iraq don't make it over here. Some intelligence reports suggest they have.
12.11.2006 12:05am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Correction: Some intelligence reports have reported that members of terrorist groups have infiltrated through the borders, I don't know whether or not any are Iraqi.
12.11.2006 12:07am
DougJ:

Some intelligence reports have reported that members of terrorist groups have infiltrated through the borders, I don't know whether or not any are Iraqi.


And your point is?
12.11.2006 8:24am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Dougj-

The point is that we spent the last several years spending billions in Iraq creating more enemies and the borders and ports still aren't secure.

More enemies created=Bad.

Borders/ports still aren't secure=Bad.
12.11.2006 6:16pm