Barack Obama is the most socialist president in American history. Before Obama, George W. Bush was the most socialist president in American history. Before Dubya it was Bill Clinton, then Bush, Sr., Reagan, and so on. These are not necessarily side-by-side comparisons to other, arguably more statist presidents, but basic math-as each successive administration, by-and-large, has presided over a federal government that has assumed more power and spent more money than the last.
If history is any indication, the same will be true in 2012 or 2016 if America elects just any, old establishment Republican. Yet, the continuous, everyday narrative being put out by GOP politicians and talk radio is that it is of the utmost importance for conservatives to unite behind the Republican Party in order to defeat the Democrats. Warns Rush Limbaugh of President Obama: “He wants to destroy capitalism. He wants to establish a very powerful socialist government, authoritarian.” Bombast aside, Rush is not off the mark. The problem is the same criticism could be leveled against George W. Bush who “abandoned free-market principles to save the free market system” with the historically unprecedented, socialist TARP bailout and whose administration increased executive power to what many considered an extreme, authoritarian degree.
Fear mongering to keep Republican voters in the fold is nothing new. Before Obama, it was Bill Clinton who was going to destroy America, or as Limbaugh put it in his 1993 book “See I Told You So:” “Get ready, folks, for the biggest confiscation of your money ever by the government… Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson look like pikers compared to this guy.” In 2007, McClatchy News Service reported that Bush had spent more than any president since LBJ, making Clinton look like a piker. In the 90’s, Rush warned against Clinton’s “radical agenda” and “extreme Leftist blueprint,” yet while “Slick Willie” was certainly every bit the statist Rush portrayed, comparatively he was actually more fiscally conservative than Bush.
Liberals who accuse conservatives of being selective in their anti-government outrage have a valid point. Consider this scenario: what if there had never been a President George W. Bush, and we went straight from Clinton to electing Obama in 2000. Now imagine Obama had governed exactly as Bush had-starting the Iraq war, implementing the PATRIOT Act, doubling the national debt, expanding Medicare, enacting No Child Left Behind, pushing through TARP-the whole bit. How would Rush and the Republican Party have reacted? Would they have said that Obama was “destroying capitalism,” was an “authoritarian,” or was trying to establish “a very powerful socialist government?” Of course they would, and they would also undoubtedly be stressing how important it was for conservatives to stand united behind the Republican Party in order to stop Obama’s, Bush-style agenda.
Conservatives who continue to make the case that Obama is worse than Bush are right, but that Rush and like-minded pundits and politicians still can’t find fault with the last socialist Republican president, is a pretty good indication as to what you can expect-and what they’ll tolerate-from the next one. Rush and much of talk radio’s preferred GOP candidate in 2008 was Mitt Romney, whose record as Massachusetts governor wasn’t exactly conservative, and his current politics, as outlined in his new bestselling book “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” differs from Obama’s primarily in their priorities, not necessarily government spending or size, per se. Consider another scenario: Imagine Romney had been elected in 2008, not Obama, and pursued our current Democratic president’s exact agenda-including national healthcare. This scenario actually isn’t much of a stretch considering that Obamacare is based primarily on Romneycare, Massachusetts current government healthcare plan. Would Rush and his Republican friends be defending Romney’s, Obama-style agenda? If the last decade was any indication, they would.
Today, the popular Tea Party movement represents the first sign of conservative sanity in some time, due to their possible willingness to be independent of the Republican Party, something GOP politicians and their talk radio spokesman already fear. Reviewing Sean Hannity’s new book “Conservative Victory,” the Charleston City Paper’s Chris Haire writes:
“Hannity has nothing but disdain for the Tea Party’s No. 1 goal: to vote all the bums out, Democrat and Republican alike. Hannity wants to keep those bums in power, as long as they’re members of the GOP and their last name isn’t Paul… Even worse, like many of his talk radio and Fox News brethren, Hannity pays lip service to the Tea Party movement, but only for so long. For the talking head, there’s nothing more disastrous that could happen to the GOP than for the Tea Party to become a true force within the Republican Party, perhaps even becoming a viable third party.”
Despite their rhetoric, the GOP establishment’s greatest fear is not Barack Obama-but that conservatives might finally begin to wander off the Republican reservation. With the Tea Party movement, the increasing mainstream popularity of Ron Paul, states’ rights initiatives and other non-party directed efforts, conservatives have already begun to wander and should keep wandering farther if they are ever going to truly escape from their GOP-imposed exile, and if “conservative victory” is ever going to mean anything more than just being Republican and beating Democrats.