[Posted by Karl]
As Jonah Goldberg recently observed, for the Left:
The best conservatives are always dead; the worst are always alive and influential. When Buckley and Kristol, not to mention Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, were alive, they were hated and vilified by the same sorts of people who now claim to miss the old gang. The gold standard of the dead is always a cudgel, used to beat back the living.
George W. Bush isn’t dead yet (as much as some on the Left might wish), but he is out of office. Consequently, he is slowly (or maybe not-so-slowly) gaining “strange new respect” from Lefties eager to bash conservatives still on the political stage.
Witness Kevin Drum, bloviating at MoJo on opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque:
For once, I really do miss George Bush. The damage he did to the American cause in the Muslim world is incalculable, but at least he never countenanced this kind of lunatic bigotry. [The opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque from moderate Muslims, including Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress , goes unmentioned, natch]
NYT columnist Frank Rich, recognizing that blaming Bush is a losing Democratic strategy for the 2010 midterms, asserts that “what we can discern of the Republican ‘ideas’ lying in wait almost makes Bush’s conservatism actually seem compassionate.” And the NYT magazine gave Matt Bai plenty of space to push this line:
Once, in what seems like another eon of Republican politics, George W. Bush dreamed of building a multiethnic party that would achieve dominance in a nation where the words “majority” and “minority” were losing their meaning. Mr. Bush was adamant, in the days after the terrorist attacks of 2001, that American Muslims not become the targets of public resentment, and he later pushed a plan to offer illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship.
Republicans are now taking a decidedly different approach. Last week, a group of senior Republican senators called for hearings on repealing the 14th Amendment; that’s the one that affords children born on American soil automatic citizenship. At the same time, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich were among those posting outraged Twitter updates over the decision to allow an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the fallen trade center towers.
These stands garnered a fair amount of publicity, and at a moment of voter insurrection, they may well yield short-term advantages for the party. History suggests, however, that the long term may be more problematic.
Bai actually acknowledges that these issues are legitimate debates, before quickly settling into the standard Narrative about the nativism of what Pres. Obama infamously called “bitter clingers,” then re-introducing Bush to the discussion:
[B]ecause of the political realignment that began in 1980 (when the term “Reagan Democrats” — meaning ethnic whites — entered the lexicon) and reached its apex in 1994, when the South tipped into the Republican column, the voters who are most susceptible to such appeals reside, at this juncture in our politics, primarily in the Republican base.
[It is apparently acceptable to marginalize voters by ethnicity when they stop voting for Democrats.]
When Mr. Bush, a Texan fluent both in Spanish and in immigration policy, advanced a plan to reform the system in 2006, he was going directly into the teeth of that sentiment within his own party [More like into the teeth of broad majorities of the American public, really]. His failure [a bipartisan defeat, with a big assist from Big Labor] virtually guaranteed that his party — already beset by an unpopular war and mounting distrust from black Americans [OK, that one is just plain funny; when did the target of that disgusting NAACP ad have any significant trust from black Americans?] — would not become the broader coalition he had hoped to build.
This could be a problem for Republicans in the years ahead, as the American electorate rapidly grows more diverse. “You can win elections temporarily by accumulating large percentages of the white vote,” says Matthew Dowd, who was a top strategist in Mr. Bush’s two elections, “but over time, it’s unsustainable.”
Here, Bai buys into the Bush camp’s unstated premise — that the way to win non-white votes is to pander on issues like illegal immigration. This is also how Dems think, with The Emerging Democratic Majority (by John B. Judis, Ruy Teixeira) as Exhibit A. These sorts of long-term theories are questionable, as evidenced by the migration of the white working class to the GOP after decades in the Dem base. Indeed, even in the short-term, Pres. Obama has lost 15-20% approval with Hispanics this year, suggesting that the economy is overwhelming their interest in amnesty for illegal immigrants (much like everyone else).
The irony here is that the Lefties edging toward “strange new respect” for the Bush camp are engaging the same sort of stereotypical generalizations about various demographics that they denounce when coming from anyone on the Right. The Left thinks that backing amnesty for illegal immigrants and the divisive “salad bowl” model of multi-culturalism is another way by which they can push America into becoming a Euro-socialist nanny state. But pointing out the Left’s tribal political strategy to the public is bigotry.