As the neocons rule, true conservatives roll in their graves

History will record that the powerful conservative movement of the late 20th century was destroyed, not by an effective countermovement from the left, nor by the inevitable internal squabbling that besets such movements as the ever-more-strident true believers attempt to distance themselves from the starry-eyed hangers-on.

Rather, it will be noted that the often noble and (in my mind, even more often) misguided movement met its end when those who rode the wave to power sold out themselves, their constituents and their supposed ideals like whores in the street.

After railing for decades about the fiscal mismanagement and the monetary excesses of the ruling Democrats, the Republicans took a stranglehold on all branches of government with an already-balanced budget and clear sailing ahead to redo America into the corporate-like efficiency model of their dreams.

Instead, in five short years, they have almost gleefully out-Democrat-ed even the most egregious fiscal offender of the former ruling party, and while doing so, they have twisted, trampled, spindled and mutilated what used to pass for their ideology.

Were it not for the fact that my own Democratic Party is apparently incapable of formulating (let alone implementing) any sort of political strategy of its own, I would be having a grand old time watching this tragedy of excess unfold. The Republicans have become everything they used to profess to hate, and they have made the country more divided, less safe and, frankly, less American in the process.

It's almost entertaining to watch them twist and contort to match their newfound profligate ways to their suddenly stuffy and outdated standards and morals. One of my favorite such exercises involves an organization named for one of the most famous Arizonans of all time, a man who was the leader of the aforementioned movement. Were he alive today, he would probably be screaming from the highest mountaintop to stop the madness.

Some knucklehead friend of mine thought it would be funny to have my name added to the mailing list for the Goldwater Institute's daily newsletter. This is a think tank that is supposed to be conservative but instead is all too often a cheerleader for every crackpot neocon scheme that comes down the pike.

Hey, some guys from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan attacked us. Let's go beat up Iraq! Yeah, Barry Goldwater's common sense would've had him foursquare behind that notion.

We hate the Department of Education, but let's pump hundreds of billions of dollars into it in a bizarre attempt to outflank the left. The Republicans' first act after taking control of Washington was to throw tons of semi-good money after bad in a department that most Republican candidates have run against for the past quarter-century. What would Goldwater think?

We've been preaching smaller government forever. But let's first add an entire new level of bureaucracy and give it a phony-baloney name like "Homeland Security" so we can give speedboats to small-town mayors and claim we're fighting al-Qaida. I don't think Barry Goldwater would be turning over in his grave. He'd probably be rotating at 450 revolutions per minute.

The last two newsletters I received from the self-deluders amounted to a gigglefest now that the dolts in the state Legislature (if you'll pardon the redundancy) trotted out yet again the shockingly unconservative notion of having the government pay for kids to go to private and/or religious schools.

What we have, then, in governments local and national, is a party drunk with power, adrift in a boat on a seemingly endless sea of money. Those in the boat have willingly torn off and discarded their rudder, which had consisted of their ideals. They are, in effect, reverse-bailing, dipping their buckets into the money and pouring it into the boat, their only regret being that the boat isn't any bigger.

They realize that their actions will eventually cause the boat to sink, but they just can't stop themselves. There's just sooo much money out there. Right now, the only thing that is keeping them from sinking altogether is the fact that they're currently resting atop the wreckage of the Democrats' boat that sank a few years ago. Physics being what it is--immutable, unlike the standards that the GOP used to claim to adhere to--it won't be long before the greed-induced weight of the top boat crushes the wreckage of that below it, and both crumble to the sea floor.

A lot of people today speak for icons of the past who aren't here to clarify (or, if need be, to modify) their positions to adapt to the changes and issues of the 21st century. It's presumptuous for me (and everybody else) to speak for Barry Goldwater.

However, I can't help but think that if he were alive today, he would look at Washington and be reminded of what Orwell wrote at the end of Animal Farm, when the animals who had overthrown the farmer had then become corrupted by the perks of power.

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

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