Five major Republican power players inside and outside the Bush administration are either suspected, indicted or being investigated over their respective connections to various ethical breaches.
Karl Rove could be indicted by the end of the month over his connection to Valerie Plame scandal. Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, is suspected of being involved in the incident as well. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under investigation for possible insider-trading with stock in his family’s hospital chain, and House Majority Leader Tom Delay has been indicted by a Texas grand jury for suspected money laundering and conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws.
Lastly and perhaps less recognizable, Jack Abramoff, a major Republican lobbyist since 1994, has been indicted for bank fraud, is under investigation for receiving shady lobbying fees from Indian tribes, and is suspected of giving possibly unethical favors to various legislators – a special prosecutor is being called for the investigation. In the wake of these scandals, many “smaller fish” have been caught up in investigations as well, including former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and Rove business partner David Safavian.
There’s some evidence lending to the Republican response that these scandals are suspect, specifically in regard to the Plame “leak.” Yet, even if the scandals are manufactured, the pressure may still crumble the Republican leadership. Truth has never gotten in the way of political fallout.
Beyond the scandals in general, there’s not much for conservatives to be happy about these days. If Republicans fell for the compassionate conservatism line, they’ve been left with rampant fiscal irresponsibility, foreign entanglements, border security in disarray and a series of betrayals over issues like abortion, education policy and civil liberties.
And now, in the final years of a Bush administration, some conservatives are finally waking up to the simple fact that there isn’t a master plan to turn the tables on liberalism. The president has compromised from the very beginning, starting with the Ted Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind Act, but Bush has earned nothing for limited-government advocates. We are left with a soaring deficit, soaring spending and waning embers of conservative principles.
After all, isn’t fiscal responsibility a core tenet of conservatism? Haven’t conservatives been supporters of constitutional civil liberties from the beginning? Traditional conservatism supports limited government, local control of education and national sovereignty. We see little of these ideas being propagated under the current presidency.
As each news week cycles out, the reasons for conservatives to abandon support for this administration mount higher and higher. The irony is that most conservatives still feel the need to make excuses for Bush’s blunders and provide reasons for his betrayals.
It’s easy to understand the hackery of political pundits because they have a readership to maintain – a readership that is interested in repetition rather than truth. Yet, for an individual citizen who has nothing to lose in relinquishing his or her support for a faux-conservative party, it is questionable to continue support. In general, it seems that most conservatives agree about the lack of results, but there are considerable disagreements about how to respond.
The question is, from where does partisanship stem? America’s relationship with politics has always had an aspect of entertainment to it, finding its roots in an early American culture without sports. The way many voters relate to their respective parties is much like undying support for a sports team, but with higher stakes – it is very much social. You also find people remaining loyal to Democrats or Republicans because they feel emotionally compelled. Moreover, they take great offense to any criticism of their party, as if it is a personal insult. Yet, it’s not as if this nation is run by Uncle Bush and Grandpa Cheney who will be disappointed in you if you give up on them. Blind partisanship from the individual voter within the two-party dichotomy is immature at best.
The purpose of politics is, after all, to create change. The Republican Party has done a fine job gaining a clear majority of power, but it has done little to turn the tide back to a limited government. We have power, but little change. The enthralling drone of political power has mesmerized the GOP, and the leadership have earned a patriotic critique of their every move, not an unbridled cover-up of their mistakes.
So, should the conservative response be an exodus to a third party? Some say that’s a wasted vote, but others say it is the only alternative to mediocrity. Should conservatives simply rely upon the hope of reform within the party? Maybe, but we have a leadership who enjoys turning a deaf ear to the grass roots.
There are so many questions, but too few answers.