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February 17, 2005

Is the GOP Still Conservative?

Chris Charuhas

Many conservatives think the Republican Party is no longer conservative, that it has betrayed its traditional principles. A growing number of conservatives, in fact, believe that its leaders are beginning to show fascist tendencies.

In American Conservative magazine, Paul Craig Roberts - a Hoover Institution senior fellow, former assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, and former Wall Street Journal editor - wrote about the "brownshirting" of American conservatism.

Libertarian Lew Rockwell, of the popular conservative blog, recently wrote an article titled "The Reality of Red-State Fascism" that noted the rise of an "almost totalitarian statist nationalism" in our country.

Another American Conservative author, Scott McConnell, wrote that fascists "could be propelled into power by a populace ever more frustrated that the imperialist war it has supported - generally for the most banal of patriotic reasons - cannot possibly end in victory. And so scapegoats are sought, and if we can't bomb Arabs into submission, or the French, domestic critics of Bush will serve."

Are these conservatives being alarmist? Or do they see things that most people don't? I believe they see the roots of what might grow into a right-wing regime.

Right-wing regimes in 20th Century Italy, Spain, and South America typically disdained human rights, chose scapegoats, and favored the military at citizens' expense. They also controlled the media, condemned intellectuals, rewarded cronies, and stifled voting. Our current leaders do the same sorts of things.

Disdain for human rights: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took a secret torture system meant for a few al Qaeda chiefs and used it with hundreds of civilians and POWs. When this illegal torture system was exposed, GOP leaders shielded the high-level civilians who planned it by pinning the blame on low-ranking soldiers.

The Party of Eisenhower believed Americans shouldn't torture POWs because we're above the despotic regimes which do that. The Party of Bush does not.

Choosing scapegoats: Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and other right-wing pundits who repeat GOP talking points say "liberals" are sneaky liars who work to undermine the country. If the Iraq war goes badly, it is the "liberals" fault. According to them, "liberals" are the enemy.

The Party of Eisenhower protected citizens with different political views. Propagandists for the Party of Bush label them traitors.

Favoring the military at citizens' expense: Our government now has a half-trillion dollar budget deficit. Sixty-five percent of that deficit is military spending. Halliburton and Lockheed Martin have received hundreds of billions in Iraq and missile defense contracts, while common soldiers must armor their vehicles with scrap metal.

The Party of Eisenhower warned against the Military-Industrial Complex becoming too powerful. The Party of Bush is immersed in it.

Controlling the media: Outgoing FCC chairman Michael Powell worked to relax media ownership rules, allowing big companies to own more types of media (newspapers can own TV stations, networks can own cable companies) and more outlets (conglomerates can own most area stations).

The Party of Eisenhower would have worked against the consolidation of media ownership. Some Republicans still do, but they're not in the Bush administration.

Condemning intellectuals: Right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh with GOP ties say that professors who disagree with them are "elitist." They say scientists researching climate change are doing "junk science," even though the Department of Defense is preparing for wars sparked by climate change.

The Party of Eisenhower respected accomplished scholars. Surrogates for the Party of Bush condemn them.

Rewarding cronies: CNN's Bill Press reported that Enron's Kenneth Lay helped the vice president write regulations that enabled Enron to fraudulently jack up energy prices in California. Halliburton, the vice president's old company, was awarded billion-dollar no-bid government contracts.

The Party of Eisenhower stood for free markets. The Party of Bush rigs them.

Stifling voting: During the 2004 presidential campaign, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that high-ranking state GOP and Bush operatives asked Philadelphia Republicans, at the last minute, to move 63 polling places in predominantly black (read "Democratic") neighborhoods. The Cincinnati Enquirerreported that the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio attempted to block thousands of Democratic voter registrations because they weren't printed on the "correct" paper.

The Party of Eisenhower decried voter suppression. The Party of Bush makes it an integral part of campaigns.

Many Republicans used to take pride in belonging to the "Party of Lincoln." Unfortunately, their party is becoming more like those of Mussolini, Franco, and Pinochet.

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