-(Minority Strands Of Conservatism) !=Liberalism

A crucial point by Glenn Greenwald, who takes on the persistent annoyance of attempts to define statist conservatism as liberalism (or not-conservatism):

2) Goldberg’s claim that Bush can even remotely be described as a “liberal” is premised on two separate fallacies: (i) that someone who deviates from conservative doctrine or violates conservative principles of government (and therefore is not a conservative) is, by definition, a “liberal”; and, more importantly, (ii) that someone who advocates increased government power or new federal domestic programs is, by definition, a “liberal.” Those two flawed premises lead Goldberg to conclude that because Bush has expanded the scope of government power and created new government programs, he is “liberal.”

A liberal is not merely someone who advocates increased government spending or new government programs, but instead, is someone who does so in order to achieve specific goals and ends. For that reason, to describe a president as “liberal,” it is woefully inadequate to simply demonstrate increased federal spending and increased federal power. One has to know the goals and ends of this expansion.

George Bush has drastically expanded the reach, scope and power of the federal government (something which is un-conservative, at least in theory), but that power has been applied in plainly un-liberal ways, and towards decidedly un-liberal ends. For instance, his administration has run roughshod over federalism and states’ rights principles and has sought to expand the scope of the Commerce Clause in order to increase the scope of federal power at the expense of the states (clearly the opposite of the crux of small-government conservatism), but has done so in order to achieve goals which are the opposite of liberalism.

This is all correct. The overriding fallacy is identifying “conservatism” with “small government,” which elevates what has always been a junior partner in the conservative coalition. Using a powerful state to advance nationalism, coercively (and selectively) enforce reactionary social values, and (especially) to advance business interests has been the rule, not the exception, of actual functioning American conservatism. To call expansions of federal power “non-conservative” is to posit a powerful, consistent “states’ rights” movement that from the Fugitive Slave Act to the Tennessee Valley Authority to Terri Schiavo has never in fact existed. It’s not that there aren’t ways in which George Bush isn’t conservative, but there are multiple forms of conservatism, and Bush fits the ones typical of American conservatism quite well, and he’s certainly no “liberal” of any kind.

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