The Conservative Retreat, Continued

Publish Date: 
Sunday, February 4, 2007

One of the most powerful new dynamics of global and American politics is the deep collapse of the muscular but universally unpopular Bush brand of conservatism that has driven the politics of the world these last 6 years.

This retreat, collapse, is evident all around us.  Rumsfeld, Bolton, DeLay, Santorum all gone. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are now in charge.  In recent days the President has been forced to acknowledge, essentially for the first time, that climate change, health care, a struggling middle class and rampant Congressional corruption are all challenges that must be tackled.  The Libby trial in unearthing all sorts of ugly stuff about their reign. There is bi-partisan Congressional competition to question the wisdom of this era’s foreign policy, a process that has been joined by the Joint Chiefs, the Iraq Study Group, the new NIE and the leaders of the 9/11 Commission.  Dozens of House Republicans have recently voted with the Democrats on core Democratic priorities, ones not even allowed to be discussed in the previous regime. The German government is attempting to prosecute CIA operatives for working illegally on their soil….it goes on.

Of course where the Administration has choosen to make their one last stand and fight the repudiation of their politics is on Iraq and their policies in the Middle East.  On this one the Administration soldiers on, fighting what seems to be a losing rhetorical, political and security battle.

Two stories today indicate, however, that despite their bravado the national repudiation of their Iraq/Middle East policy also soldiers on. The Times has a rather remarkable piece that points out, nicely, what a disaster Secretary Rice has been.  The Post has a detailed story by Karen DeYoung that also points, nicely, that even the planners of the new Iraq strategy are not confident that it has a high likelihood of succeeding.

The good news is that with the intellectual and political collapse of modern conservatism there is an opportunity for a new and much more effective politics to emerge.  The early signs of the 2008 Presidential debate, and in Congress, is that Democrats understand this opportunity and working hard to fashion a new and more germane approach to the vexing challenges of our time.

The interesting question is whether the Republicans can, in the next two years, reinvent their politics and move beyond the historic failures of the Bush years.  So far there is little evidence that they either understand the moment they are in, or have powerful enough leaders to move them forward.