Four more years: a political forecast
By Tom Barry
Global Beat Syndicate
SILVER CITY, New Mexico--Candidate George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign outlined a policy agenda largely in keeping with the moderate conservatism of his father's administration. In practice, his first administration pursued a radical policy agenda that aimed to rid domestic and foreign policy of all liberal and moderate-conservative policy frameworks. The Bush-Cheney team took immediate aim at an array of international treaties that were regarded as constraints on U.S. military options and corporate interests.
In economic policy, Mr. Bush and his advisers rejected the notions of a social-democratic management of capitalism, stressing instead policies that catered to the short-and medium-term interests of corporate America. In social policy, the views of the social conservatives and the Religious Right became the Bush presidency's favored framework for interpreting social ills.
Looking ahead, where we are going in domestic agenda seems rather clear.
The assault on all vestiges of political liberalism--from multilateralism to the effective dismantling of the New Deal reforms of the 1930s and the "New Politics" reforms of the 1960s and early 1970s--will continue in the upcoming second Bush term, but at an accelerated pace.
The four main pressure groups that have united behind the Bush administration include on the ideological side, the Religious Right and the neoconservatives; and on the material side, the elites of corporate America and the militarists of the military-industrial complex. Although each pressure group fields its own specialized policy institutes, all four sectors are represented in the leading right-wing think tanks and foundations, such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The radical policy agenda of the Bush administration is the product of the rise of the New Right, the neoconservatives, and the Cold Warrior coalition of the 1970s that birthed the "Reagan Revolution." These radicals believe that the so-called Reagan Revolution, while making important gains in shifting political discourse to the right, did not fulfill its promise.
The political operatives, ideologues and strategists that circle President Bush will, during the second GW Bush administration, aim to deal a final blow to the "liberal establishment." The administration, appealing to its much-ballyhooed electoral "mandate," will take aim at all the manifestations of "liberalism" both in domestic policy (including progressive taxation, social security, environmental protection) and in the conduct of U.S. foreign and military policy.
This policy agenda will not only advance radical reforms that aim to sweep aside all vestiges of the liberal reforms of the 1930s-1940s period, but it will also aim to rid the U.S. government bureaucracy and the judicial system of all those who oppose this agenda. The State Department and the CIA--regarded as bastions of liberalism by the militarists and neoconservatives--will become yet more subservient to both the Pentagon and the vice-president's office. The second Bush administration will also take aim at centrists, liberals and progressives in nongovernmental organizations for their purportedly anti-patriotic, partisan positions.
The second GW Bush administration, despite the setbacks in Iraq, will also continue to view the United States as the main arbiter of international affairs. This U.S. posture--based on its superior military power and its sense of moral mission--will likely spur the emergence of global attempts to counter-balance U.S. unipolar power. A readjusted balance of political, economic and diplomatic power, including both wealthy and less developed nations, could offer a new, positive vision of cooperative international relations. Alternatively, stark divides in international affairs could give rise to more anarchic, competitive and conflictive relations within and among nations.
U.S. trade deficit and budget deficits (and related unsustainable dollar values) will remain problems that will undermine the U.S. global position and increasingly threaten the fragile state of the international economy. At the same time, the reality of a deficit economy might eventually hinder the ability of the administration ideologues to pursue an aggressive foreign policy of regime change and preventive war.
The political forecast for the next four years remains especially grim regarding international terrorism. President Bush, committed to an ideological agenda of making all societies either friends or enemies, intends to stay the course in his failing "global war on terrorism." Instead of targeting those who attacked the United States, the Bush foreign policy team seems intent on carrying out an ambitious and ultimately delusional policy to remake the global order--a policy that is instead fomenting anti-Americanism, fueling terrorist networks, and militarizing international relations. As a result, we can expect more bad weather for years to come.