Positive Memories of the Bush Years

by Randy Shaw on January 16, 2009

For many, their bleakest political day followed George W. Bush’s winning the 2004 election. While Bush stole the 2000 election, Republicans won the U.S. Senate in 2002 and the President’s 2004 victory ratified the nation’s rightward shift. My post-election article on Bush’s 2004 victory was titled, “We are Outnumbered,” and progressives hunkered down for four more years of destructive, right-wing Republican rule. But as Gloria Gaynor would say, we have survived. We not only survived the Bush presidency, but the conservative agenda that has dominated since 1968 is so discredited that the nation is more open to progressive change than at any time since 1965, or perhaps 1933. George W. Bush changed the nation’s political pendulum more than George McGovern’s 1972 candidacy could ever have accomplished — and our long national nightmare is over. Here are my seven favorite political memories of the Bush years …

The 2006 Elections: After Republicans did better than expected in national elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004, progressives kept expectations down in 2006. Few if any anticipated a long overdue electoral backlash against Bush that brought Democratic control of the House and Senate. From Jon Tester’s narrow win in the Montana Senate race to Jim Webb’s upset victory against George “macaca” Allen in Virginia, November 7, 2006 provided an election night to remember.

The Terry Schiavo Fiasco: After Bush vowed to implement his “mandate” from the November 2004 election, he quickly dissipated his support by returning from vacation to sign federal legislation designed to prevent the comatose woman’s husband from removing her feeding tube. The measure exposed Bush and the Christian right to be pro-family hypocrites, as they were asking Big Government to intervene in the privacy of a family issue. Many saw the Schiavo controversy as the beginning of the end for Bush and his fellow Republicans.

Media Response to Bush Inaction on Katrina: Hurricane Katrina is a terrible memory, but it did force the traditional media to finally openly discuss the blatant incompetence and callousness of the Bush Administration. Katrina became synonymous with Bush cronyism in a way that prior scandals and disasters had not, contributing to the President’s declining approval.

The September 2008 Financial Meltdown: Despite the money lost, progressives could not help but enjoy the public destruction of the temple to laissez faire capitalism that Republicans had been worshiping to for four decades. Bush brought the anti-tax, anti-regulatory perspective in its purest state to the White House, and even the business and financial communities blamed Republican economic policies for the mammoth financial free-fall.

Rumsfeld’s Departure: This was particularly sweet not simply because Donald Rumsfeld should be prosecuted as a war criminal. Nor because he was finally forced out of public service after decades of promoting policies that furthered human misery. No, what made Rumsfeld’s departure so sweet was its timing — after his ongoing presence in the Cabinet contributed to Republicans losing the House and Senate in November 2006. Many Republicans, long loathe to publicly criticize Bush, openly asked why the President did not get rid of the unpopular Iraq War architect prior to November — which might have kept the Senate in GOP hands. But the beauty of this is that it put Republicans on the receiving end of the type of Bush cronyism and narcissism that impacted our Katrina response and much of our government — it’s always nice when people get what they deserve.

Bush’s Final Press Conference: Thanks to Bush’s egotistical desire to shape the historical record, we now have a video for all to see of a President whose narcissism bordered on psychosis, and who makes Sarah Palin appear deeply connected to reality by comparison. Bush can create libraries and write books defending his legacy, but his lasting image will be of a truly unbalanced man who had no business ever being President. And an honorable mention to the video of the Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at Bush — no single act better captured world opinion of our President.

November 4, 2008: Obama wins, Democrats sweep nationally, and voters demand a new direction. When we think of the nightmarish Bush years, remember that this call for dramatic change would not have occurred had he governed like his father, or had the greater political skills of a Ronald Reagan. So while Bush left the nation in a deep ditch by every measure, he finally killed America’s unwavering faith in free markets and less government — now it’s up to Obama, Congress and grassroots activists to prove our vision for the nation and world is superior.

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the author of the newly-released Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century (University of California Press)

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