On January 20, 2001—Bush’s 1st day on the job—thousands of folks protested his arguably illegitimate inauguration and egged the presidential limo while it was en route to the White House. On December 14, 2008, as his presidency was coming to a close, an Iraqi reporter named Muntathar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush and yelled “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!”
It’s been a long road, but the most powerful moron in the history of the world has come full circle, and we got to watch the entire spectacle from a disenfranchised peanut gallery known as the middle class.
What’s funny about the whole fiasco is the vicious irony of it. When “W” originally ran for president, he went to great lengths to show us all he was a plain-spoken “regular guy.” And now, as his historic incompetence fritters away from the world stage, it is plain speaking regular guys and gals who are suffering the most. The country is polarized, demoralized, embarrassed and bitter and yet, even as Bush himself is the principal object of our glaring contempt, he still has the gall to laud his own hatchet job. “I have a great sense of accomplishment,” he says. “I am going home with my head held high.”
It makes you wonder what exactly it would take to make him bow his head in shame.
Would he have had to sit by while a major American city was destroyed by a hurricane and then, after the catastrophe, bungle the city’s recovery efforts? Would he have had to deceive millions of American families into sending their loved ones on fool’s errands for his buddies in Big Oil and his cronies in the military-industrial complex? Would he have had to turn hundreds if not thousands of American servicemen and women into war criminals by encouraging them to torture unarmed prisoners? Would he have had to bring this nation to its knees by leading it to the brink of financial disaster?
In my opinion, Bush’s greatest accomplishment was an unintended one. I suggest that he single-handedly demolished all credibility for the arguments perpetually set forth supporting the darling of conservative socio-political theory in this country, Social Darwinism.
For decades now, Republicans and conservatives—even though they hypocritically reject Darwin’s evolutionary theories of human origins—have wholeheartedly accepted and championed the idea that human beings should compete in a struggle for existence in which natural selection results in “survival of the fittest.” Particularly in the marketplace. They adamantly proclaim that government should not meddle with human competition by regulating the economy or addressing social problems, and they justify the imbalances and inequality created by such a system by suggesting that some folks are just better fit to survive and/or excel than others. Put simply, their contention is that, regardless of field, citizens who are better-suited for success will reap their just rewards and folks who are less or ill-suited for achievement will have to settle for less.
When Katrina demolished New Orleans, many conservatives said it was just full of a bunch of lazy, welfare cases anyway and now they’re just looking for another handout to rebuild government housing—which they weren’t paying to inhabit in the first place. This perspective clearly hampered Republican efforts to address the catastrophe and there were obvious signs that they were in no hurry to rebuild a community that allowed so many folks they considered unworthy to continue to live on the government dole.
When less financially secure young men and women, who joined the military for help with college, were forced to go and fight our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and had their tours extended or multiplied or were stop-lossed or denied post-traumatic stress discharges, many conservatives simply shrugged their shoulders and said “tough luck, nobody made them sign up,” ignoring the fact that most recruits sprang from struggling, lower class families that obviously saw a stint in the military as their only hope for a college education.
And when the middle and lower classes began to founder on the rocks of unemployment, meager pay and the credit crunch, conservatives said that’s just how the proverbial cookie crumbles, suggesting that it’s no accident that these folks occupy the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. As conservative talk-radio host Bill Cunningham specifically phrased it, “people are poor in America… not because they lack money; they’re poor because they lack values, morals and ethics.”
The problem with these rationales and, in fact, most justifications of Social Darwinism, is that they recklessly presuppose that this dubious artifice correctly and fairly posits the superior representatives of a given profession at the top of the food chain and the inferior ones at the bottom. The greatest evidence of the inanity of this supposition is obviously their outgoing, beloved liege, George W. Bush.
The Bush administration was a model of kakistocracy or government by the least fit. He didn’t ascend to the highest office in the nation by being smarter, wiser or even jokingly adept at inspiring, much less leading people. After coasting along via all the breaks and benefits of nepotistic wealth and political clout, he simply had the right name and presented the most convincing disingenuousness to the largest number of dupes in the land. Instead of natural selection, we got imbecilic insurrection. Instead of survival of the fittest, we got the calculated, methodical revival of an untalented, ignorant twit.
Clearly, the dirty little secret behind conservatives’ existential pseudo-meritocracy is that after they rise to the upper echelons of their farcical system, they have no intention of maintaining a level playing field, much less competing fairly. They put their little Bushies in the best private schools, get them wartime military deferments, place them in the top sororities and fraternities, ensure them all the best contacts and networking opportunities (regardless of their actual talent), afford them get-out-of-jail-free passes, “cush” jobs, no bid contracts, etc., etc., etc.
The entire process creates a cycle of unearned entitlement that simply allows each new generation of Bushies to bask in their family’s good fortune and tap dance into more high, undeserved offices until the entire arrangement is lucratively feudal for them and futile for us.