Look what you’ve done. Look at the mess you’ve made. Who the hell is going to clean up your mess?
One of the great aspects of the American political system is that it provides a kind of scientific way of going about implementing policy. If it doesn’t work, we can eliminate that method from ever being used again. Here is a list of some failed policies and institutions that the United States has supposedly gotten rid of:
The U.S. has been a struggling for over two-hundred years to erase all of these monstrous things. Alas, they all exist in this country today, and they have all shown their failings continually, most recently under the Bush administration.
But some would say that to accuse the Bush ideology of being one that supports something like slavery would be irrational. In the twenty-first century, how can there be any group of people (excluding the fringes) that supports anything so archaic and hideous? Support for these ideas has not died; it has merely evolved.
The problem is in conservatism inherently, whether it is neoconservatism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, or any other system that glorifies the past. History has repeatedly shown that a tradition of expansion and free markets fosters growth to the elite class, but sets up the marginalized for long periods of intense suffering. There is a danger in looking to the past, then, as the basis for an ideology, because the past, especially the American one, is filled with persecution, genocide, and oppression.
When Bush and his cronies lied to the country about the reasons for the invasion of Iraq, they had a long tradition of preemptive invasions to support their action. Besides continuous land-snatching from Native Americans, we stole land from Mexico to increase slave-owning territory, went to war with Spain to gain their colonies, dropped two atomic bombs to scare the Soviets, and sent troops into Latin American countries to topple democratic regimes in favor of right-wing dictatorships. Conservatism vindicated Bush because the past vindicated the imperialism he employed. Only now, the imperialism is called “nation-building.”
Democratic imperialism would be nowhere, though, without the help of some government-supported multinational corporations. Conservative free trade policies allow companies to practically enslave their workers and exploit them for every penny. But Bush could have cared less. It is the American tradition to exploit the poor and to allow corporations to hijack other countries’ resources for self-gain. Bush was merely acting on that tradition of widespread wage-slavery as a tenet of conservatism.
The impingement on our civil liberties created a civil totalitarian society, whether through the Patriot Act, faith-based programs, or anti-gay and anti-choice policies. America has an obvious history of oppressing minorities, from the genocide of Native Americans to the enslavement of African Americans to the subjugation of women. Limited rights has turned us into a statist state in the most basic sense, since the partnership of corporations and government has taken away freedoms of expression and enforced policies that keep down minorities. “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” because it is intrinsically impossible for American conservatives to care about oppression and freedom, especially when there’s money to be made.
Conservatism in general is filled with mistakes, but the biggest one is the lack of vision. Those who revere Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand imagine a world where capitalism drives all aspects of life, though like Stalinist and Maoist communism—two systems that depended on pragmatism rather than vision—this has proven to be a failure. George W. Bush certainly was no visionary, and he was doomed from the beginning to make terrible mistakes that conservatism set him up for.
The Bush administration showed the country the dangers of looking to the past, and all it cost us was our entire economic system, our civil liberties, our environment, and our national security. For all intents and purposes, Bush did not do anything wrong. The American people did, though, by accepting the spoon-fed information offered by the government and corporate media. Our system of government can be scientifically analyzed, but we first have to make sure we are analyzing the right specimen. Like it or not, we looked to past messes and created a new one. It’s time to clean it up.