Someone recently wrote (sorry, lost the link) that what President Bush does that most infuriates the Progressives is to “force the contradiction”, i.e. make the double think of some Progressive shibboleth obvious. Sometimes this is the internal contradictions (such being for helping the poor in the third world and while being against free trade and globalization) and sometimes it’s the difference between the Progressives public position and their internal ones (such as a public stance in favor of public education while actually being a teacher’s union front organization).
I think this is a strong contributor to the current deranged state of Progressives in the USA these days. It used to be that polite company wouldn’t call them on the use of catch phrases that papered over these contradictions. This is of course the EUlite style, where one agrees to all sorts of politically correct stances (such as the Kyoto Protocol, or EU budget deficit limits) without any intention of taking them seriously. Then along comes Bush, a dumb cowboy, who takes all of this at face value. I am beginning to suspect that this is at the root of the perception that Bush is dumb (he doesn’t get that it’s all just talk) and rude (he takes things seriously instead of in a get-along, cynical way). The high irony here is that because Bush takes politics seriously and as about something more than himself, he gets in trouble because he has less ego and more gravitas then his critics who nonetheless harp on those particular points.
For an illustrative example, consider the Kyoto Protocol. Bush looked at that and its legislative history in the USA and realized that the USA was simply not going to adhere to it. Taking that and the K.P. seriously instead of as a matter of personal public relations and ego boosting, he killed it. Yet the reaction to this was that Bush was frivilously throwing away the treaty because Bush, personally, didn’t like it.
While one should certainly give Bush a lot of credit for having the tenacity to push on these issues, to some extent he is sailing on a historical tide that’s pushing against the Progressive agdenda. As we enter the 21st century, the accumulated weight of failures for Progressive programs and politics is what creates the contradictions that Bush is forcing. Gone are the heady days of the early 20th century when people could still proclaim the promise of Progressive programs, when the failures were still theoretical and not the cold facts of history. Have we truly reached the end of history, where all of the alternatives to liberal, democratic capitalism are destoyed by their internal contradictions?