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Issue #1430      30 September 2009

Culture & Life

Expunging the record

People on the Left, who seek to advance human progress, are – naturally enough – called “Progressives”. What of those on the Right, who seek to do the reverse?

I have always called them by the time-honoured term Reactionaries. But there is another epithet currently in vogue which seems even more apposite: “Regressives”.

It is a term used extensively in articles by David Michael Green, a Professor of Political Science at Hofstra University in New York. The articles can be found at his website, <www.regressiveantidote.net>.

His most recent article, Dumping Dubya: Why The Regressive Right Desperately Wants To Erase The Bush Presidency, positively drips with irony, as Professor Green tries to figure out why the so-called neo-cons (the neo-conservatives usually identified with Bush and Cheney) have fallen silent about the supposed delights of the Bush presidency.

“Remember how much they loved not only Bush’s politics, but his in-your-face, my-way-or-the-highway, love-it-or-leave-it, macho cowboy routine delivery?” he asks, before pointing out the curious fact that “They never talk about him anymore, as if he had never even existed.

“They seem quite desperately to want to vanish him entirely, like the body of some beaten-to-death prisoner at Abu Ghraib.” Wondering why this might be, Professor Green suggests: “I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that it might have something to do with the fact that the Bush presidency was a spectacular failure. You know, a total train wreck.”

Professor Green also notes how the present moves to apparently expunge George W Bush from the collective memory are in marked contrast to “the former adoration directed toward the Caligula Kid. Isn’t that kind of intellectually dishonest?

“I mean, everyone knows [the Right in America] are destructive, selfish, hypocritical, racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, imperialistic, nasty, brutish and short. But who would have thought they were dishonest too?”

He notes that, having dumped George Dubbya, the regressives have rediscovered Ronald Reagan as pin-up boy.

But the Reagan they remember (Green labels this figure “Saint Reagan”) bears little resemblance to the historical Reagan – “a guy so out of it during his Presidency that he actually introduced himself to his own cabinet members and his own children in White House receiving lines, and used 3 x 5 cue cards even to read his small talk lines with people (‘Pretty humid today, huh?’ and‘How ’bout those Yankees?’).

“Saint Reagan solved all our economic problems. Ron Reagan, on the other hand, gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression (until little Bush would trump him), and tripled the national debt (until little Bush trumped him again).”

But if “playing the Reagan card” fails to divert critics of the Right from dredging up the sorry spectre of George W Bush, Professor Green has identified the regressives’ next ploy to avoid sharing in Bush’s opprobrium: “the next thing you’re likely to hear is that conservatives have abandoned George W Bush because he wasn’t really a conservative”.

“This is my favorite”, says Green. “Do they mean by that that Bush failed to invade other countries – like, say, Afghanistan or Iraq – when he should have?

“Are they upset that he was too squeamish to deploy American military forces in endless wars based on lies?

“Or are they angry that the administration didn’t privatise everything in sight, including the country’s armed forces?

“Probably they’re just furious that Bush let accused terrorists and other assorted brown people run free in America, because he didn’t have the guts to defy a bunch of mamby-pamby lawyers and open up a bottomless-pit of a jail in some hell-hole somewhere, like say at Guantánamo Bay.”

But, irony aside, Professor Green rightly notes that “it is absolutely ludicrous to argue that … Bush was not a conservative. Utter nonsense.”

In response to his own rhetorical question, “So what’s going on?” Professor Green provides what he calls “the obvious answer”: Bush was a “total disaster” as president who was “hated by a country that couldn’t wait for the clock to run down on his nightmare”.

As he says: “Who wants to be associated with that?”

He also supplies a “less obvious answer”, namely “we tried their ideology – big-time – and it totally sucked.

“Unless, of course, you happen to like war, recession, environmental destruction, constitution shredding, prejudice, hatred, greed, deceit and failure. Those things enjoyed rather remarkable success, actually.”

Unfortunately, Professor Green is none too sanguine about immediate prospects for progressive change in the USA.

He laments that “if only there were national figures within the supposed opposition (that means you, Mr Happy Face, in the White House) who were willing to label this disaster for what it was, perhaps we might have stamped out the scourge of regressivism for a generation or six by now. But, alas, that would require a modicum of political courage.”

Ouch!

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