THE BIG CON….I’ve got a review of Jon Chait’s new book, The Big Con, in the September issue of the Monthly, and long story short, I liked it. Since that’s kind of boring, however, I’ll excerpt the part of my review most likely to annoy the largest number of people:
After six years of following the Bush administration with probably unhealthy intensity, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. First, as much as the Christian right sets my teeth on edge — and oh man, do they set my teeth on edge — I’ve become less and less convinced that they have as much influence over the Republican Party as we secular humanist types often fear. Sure, they get plenty of symbolic bones tossed their way (abortion funding overseas, Plan B mischief, and so on), but in terms of big, substantive policy changes, they haven’t exactly been winning political battles left and right, have they? Basically, they get bought off with Supreme Court appointments, and since John Paul Stevens has remained improbably hale and hearty and the next president seems likely to be a Democrat, they’re probably never going to reach their Holy Grail: a court willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Howling about this, along with continuing to fight their losing war against gay people, will probably keep them occupied in impotent (but lucrative) rage for the next decade or so.
Second, George Bush has not turned our country into Amerika. This case is a little harder to make, since there’s no question that he and Dick Cheney have pursued a relentless policy of using 9/11 as an excuse to engineer ever more monarchal powers for the White House. Just to name a few: Bush routinely uses signing statements to gut laws he doesn’t like but doesn’t have the nerve to veto outright; the NSA is apparently data mining millions of phone calls without even a pretense at probable cause; and habeas corpus has been suspended for American citizens on Bush’s mere say-so. Still, compared to the Palmer raids of the 1920s, the internment camps of the ’40s, McCarthyism in the ’50s, and COINTELPRO in the ’60s, it’s frankly remarkable that our national response to 9/11 has been as muted as it has. America may be a bit the worse for wear in the democracy department compared to six years ago, but it’s still America.
If you think I’m crazy, I guess you can stop right here. But as odious as these things are, the truth is that fears of Bush the Fascist and Bush the Theocrat are little more than minstrel shows that distract us from truly taking notice of Bush the Plutocrat — and that’s the Bush that really matters.
Just in case the tone of my review didn’t make this clear, I’m really not trying to minimize the danger posed by either the Christian right or the Bush/Cheney mauling of the constitution over the past six years. Honest. But Bush has given lip service to the Christian right for so long that it’s impossible not to believe that they’re mostly getting conned along with the rest of us, and Bush’s wartime monomania can be (and hopefully will be) repaired by the next occupant of the Oval Office.
The GOP’s jihad against the working and middle classes, however, is far more powerful, far more insinuated into the DNA of virtually every Republican politician, and undergoes far less scrutiny by the media. The great strength of The Big Con is that rather than reciting the usual laundry list of Bush-era conservative sins — as most books of this genre do — it focuses on the four or five of them that really matter, “all of them related because they’re in service to one great primal sin: the by now almost complete subordination of the modern Republican Party to business interests and the rich.”
Plus I also like the subhead that someone put on the review: “Forget neocons and theocons. It’s the money-cons who really run Bush’s Republican Party.”
Money-cons. Hmmm. Money-cons. That could catch on!