When George Bush emerged from domestic shadows to appear as a serious challenger for power on the Federal and world stage, he was marketed as a caring Conservative. I remember my colleagues studying what he said, as the cross Atlantic bridge between conservative parties reflected on how to “decontaminate their brands” . The phrase used to annoy me. A party should not be a brand but an alliance of people with passions about how to improve their countries. The ideas of personal freedom and responsibility were not contaminated – it was just that on both sides of the Atlantic conservatives in power had made mistakes which had lost them office. In the US a Republican President had failed to cut taxes as promised, and in the UK a Conservative governemt had put them up when people were hard up.
Bush’s words implied that his Presidency would concentrate on domestic issues, and would show how conservative philosophy in action could help the jobless, the poorly educated, the less prosperous district. That part of his message sounded like my kind of conservatism.
Eight years on we see just how buffeted by events the Presidency has become. The so called war on terror has diverted much of the energy and taken many resources, as well as costing America many lives of her young soldiers. The poor regulation of financial markets and the easy money years of Fed expansion have led the administration into three of the largest nationalisations in history within the same month.
Listening to Obama, under the pressure of the campaign he has become a warrior against terror in the Bush way. He seems happy with the idea of more nationalisation and regulation to tackle the Wall Street storm.
Political parties and leading political figures today look powerless before the force of events. None of the main contenders are engaging with the big issues of the threat of recession or the banking crisis.