During President George W. Bush’s tenure, most Republicans felt that criticizing him would just help Democrats. Only the end of his presidency freed them to see its flaws clearly. Staunch conservatives who voted for him twice suddenly found themselves swept up in a Tea Party rebellion against his team’s approach to governing. They felt chagrin at the ways he had transgressed against their values, and they resolved to change the GOP so that the same mistakes would never recur.
Will some Democrats behave similarly when President Obama leaves office? Right now, most feel that criticizing the White House can only help House Republicans. But one day soon they’ll be able to look back at Obama’s two terms with clearer eyes. How many will feel chagrin at policies that transgressed against their values? How many will pressure their party’s establishment to change?
We may start finding out during the Election 2016 primaries….
Hillary Clinton is poised to be the candidate of continuity. Like Bush and Obama, she would govern as an executive-power extremist, is implicated in the civil-liberties transgressions of recent years, and would almost certainly seek to expand rather than rein in post-9/11 powers given to the national-security state.
Will she be acceptable to liberals and progressives?
What’s missing here seems to be an understanding of how the 2008 Republican primary actually played out. To my recollection, the only candidate that ran on an explicit repudiation of Bush administration security and economic policies maxed out at 24.57% of the vote in the meaningless Montana caucus, and averaged well below 10% for the bulk of the campaign despite his aforementioned monopolization of the anti-Bush position. And in 2012, that same candidate rocked all the way to an average of 11% of the GOP primary vote, despite again monopolizing the “repudiate Bush” position. And so, if Democrats in 2016 repudiate Obama to exactly the same extent that Republicans in 2008 repudiated Bush, they’ll likely select… wait for it… a candidate who supports policies that are virtually indistinguishable from the incumbent President.
Perhaps more importantly, the Tea Party reaction, such that it has been, was only incidentally about Bush, and entirely about Barack Obama. I know it bothers Conor to think about his political allies as neo-confederate fanatics largely animated by racial animus, but you go to war with the friends you choose, not the friends you… uh, choose, I guess. And of course, you can tell how much Republicans hate George W. Bush based on the 84-15 majority that thinks he was a good President.
I’ve said it before and (sadly) I suspect I’ll have to say it again: I can appreciate why Conor Friedersdorf takes himself very seriously, but I can’t understand why any progressives take him seriously at all.