The George Who Lost America, Redux

Like the vast majority of Americans, I don’t harbor blind, irrational, or any other kind of hatred for George W. Bush. In this, I am in good company with at least 52% or 53% of the population. That’s all it will take in 2004, by the way.

In an era where Wal-Mart shoppers like me have tightened our belt a bit, we can certainly appreciate that, for those who donate money to George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, he is a penny pincher extraordinaire.

I commend the President on his tightwad ways with a political donation. It’s too bad he doesn’t extend this same courtesy to our money otherwise extracted.

Sadly, the cash wrung from already squeezed taxpayers, small businesses and investors through taxes and fees is not treated with the same tender concern by our Great Leader.

One observer likens the Bush economy to the guy who maxed his credit cards, pawned his property, and mortgaged his house and now has "a big wad of walking around money." It is amazing that we haven’t seen more in the media about the financial mess we are in. An unnecessary mess, one created by the very Republican Party once known as conservative, meaning among other things, "restrained in style," "moderate," "cautious."

The mess, in simple terms, is reflected in the fact that Merrill Lynch recently initiated a new monthly report entitled "The Overseas-Funding-of-America Report." The November 27th issue states "It is amazing how many investors still have no idea that America today is more dependent on the rest of the world for capital than at any time in the past fifty years. The US is running a record current account deficit of the order of 5% of GDP and this has to be funded by saving from the rest of the world." Concern about the state of the United States economy has significantly increased during the George W. Bush era, and replacement of Treasury secretaries has done little to reassure serious observers or participants.

A swaggering cowboy with wads of cash eager to buy his friends another couple of rounds doesn’t fit with my image of conservative. Or Webster’s. Things do change. But Republicans today, whether due to party loyalty or really low collective self-esteem, seem afraid to stand up and call out the federal sins of greed, gluttony and sloth.

Domestically, these three sins continue to be embraced lovingly by President Bush and the Republican Congress. This unseemly festival has created a major personal and philosophical challenge for individual Republicans, as they consider the ramifications of another George W. Bush presidency. Is it even possible for a real Republican to vote for Bush in 2004?

Set aside the fact that Republican (and its antecedent Whig) history tracks closely to where we are today — big invasive authoritarian government, preferring force over freedom, favors over fact. I was raised in an average Republican home where we didn’t study political history. We identified with the GOP as the antidote to FDR and LBJ excess, the promoter of entrepreneurs and independent producers, the party of fiscal conservatism and small government.

George W. Bush has clearly gone off that reservation, and he exhibits governing sins none of us tolerate in our local representatives, our mayors, even our governors. Of course, whether George W. Bush really understands what he is losing is debatable. One more sad parallel between our George and George III.

Critical information that will help Americans decide what they want for their fiscal and moral future resides in a million distributed places. It is in the Wal-Mart aisles. It is in the eyes of our twenty-something children who are looking for honest work or want to start a legitimate business only to be overwhelmed by the federal burden placed on employers and entrepreneurs. It is in the nagging worry of two-income parents who know that one unexpected expense or one unexpected reduction in work hours will cost the family a mortgage payment. It lives every moment in the hearts of parents and grandparents and spouses as their precious loved one stands guard over unwanted American outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ironically and unexpectedly, Bush’s own government in the past three years has helped move the rest of us in a more traditionally American direction. Our cynicism about King George’s Washington approaches the late 1700s level of cynicism about a different King George, in a different far away city. Then as now, we are turning to self-reliance in our personal economies, education, and spirit. Like an absentee father, our current George pays little attention to our real needs. While generally vacant and unproductive, he periodically showers us with extravagant gifts that we never needed and he can’t afford. Like children of the absentee father, we feign interest in his rare but always urgent advice (Orange? Yellow? War on whatchamacallit…) and then continue on with what we were doing.

Clues and hints that will guide our individual choices, today and in November 2004, are accessible to every one of us. The answer is not centralized, but in the lively hum and bustle of the trillion individual choices made by Americans, for themselves, their children, and grandchildren. This year, some may choose not to act or react, always a very valid and powerful option. Some may choose to act in a way consistent with their real principles, in the privacy of a voting booth. Others will work to change the GOP into the party they hoped it was, and still others will leave it behind in the dustbin of political evolutions gone bad.

Can George, Dick and Karl Rove turn this tide? I don’t think so. The federal ship of largesse, sloth, waste and arrogance is already far from port. Its cheerful crew guzzles free drinks and slaps backs, steaming under full power in the opposite direction of the solid rock of American tradition and Constitutional values. Even if Bush reversed engines — a painful and jolting procedure requiring real backbone and a sober reassessment of his presidency — it will make no difference this late in the game.

This time, the famous BushCo spin machine will need a bit more super-heated air than even it is capable of generating. But I think the rising gale force of an angry and betrayed people — Republicans and Democrats alike — will do the trick.

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