Dreher, 40, recounts that his "first real political memory" was the 1979 failed rescue effort of the U.S. hostages in Iran. He says he "hated" Jimmy Carter for "shaming America before our enemies with weakness and incompetence." When Reagan was elected, he believed "America was saved." Reagan was "strong and confident." Democrats were "weak and depressed."In fairness, Dreher would have been about 12 at the time. But one of the hallmarks of true believer conservatives is that they never outgrow it.
In particular, Dreher recounts how much, during the 1980s, he "disliked hippies - the blame America first liberals who were so hung up on Vietnam, who surrendered to Communists back then just like they want to do now." In short, Republicans were "winners." Democrats were "defeatists."I hope Greenwald is right about where this is heading. I expect there were a whole bunch of bitterly disillusioned conservatives back in 1974 too, but they sure got over it pretty quick. I suspect that if the next Democratic president can't undo the deep structural, psychic, and moral damage 8 years of Bush misrule have inflicted on our country, and if the Republicans field a candidate peddling a bogus message of sunny optimism, then the conservative true believers' faith will be miraculously and instantly restored.
On 9/11, Dreher's first thought was : "Thank God we have a Republican in the White House." The rest of his essay:
As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool's errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.
But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.
In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.
The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government's conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.
It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.
As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.
I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.
On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?
Will my children, too small now to understand Iraq, take me seriously when I tell them one day what powerful men, whom their father once believed in, did to this country? Heavy thoughts for someone who is still a conservative despite it all. It was a long drive home.
Dreher's essay is extreme and intense but also increasingly commonplace and illustrative. The disaster of unparalleled magnitude that President Bush and his integrity-free and bloodthirsty administration and followers wrought on this country will have a profound impact not only on American strength and credibility for a long, long time to come, but also on the views of Americans towards their political leaders and, almost certainly, towards the Republican Party.
One of the very few potential benefits of the Iraq tragedy is that it may raise the level of doubt and cynicism with which Americans evaluate the claims of the Government when it tries -- as Dreher put it -- "to send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot."
After all, Bush was an aberration; he wasn't a real conservative, and they were all taken in by his wily, resolute ways. But the next time will be totally different, and they'll follow Reagan II to the end of the Earth... until they get close enough to the edge to see the abyss below, at which point the cycle will repeat. Conservatives fall in love with Republicans, Republicans nearly destroy America, Conservatives fall out of love with Republicans, Democrats fail to usher in Golden Age Of America, Conservatives fall in love with Republicans again.
Thinking on it a bit more, I think a big part of the problem (or maybe just a symptom?) is standards. Conservatives simply hold Republicans and other conservatives to a much, much lower standard than they hold Democrats and progressives to. Look at how badly Bush had to fuck everything up before Dreher finally lost faith in him, as compared to him losing faith in Jimmy Carter over one failed rescue operation. Compare the relative standards for impeachment, or for congressional investigations, or even the very definitions of words like "popular" or "mandate." I might try to blame the media for this, but the sad truth is that most of the media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the conservative movement.
But the bottom line is that the standard of success for a Republican president is somewhere in the vicinity of "Don't get us into a depression or World War III", whereas the standard of success for a Democratic president is "Fix everything the Republicans broke and make the world perfect." So based on that, they can easily say, "Hey, I tried to give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt, but they had their chance and they failed miserably, so I'm going to start screaming my head off for impeachment like any reasonable, responsible citizen should."