After six years of following the Bush administration with probably unhealthy intensity, I've come to a couple of conclusions. First, as much as the Christian right sets my teeth on edge — and oh man, do they set my teeth on edge — I've become less and less convinced that they have as much influence over the Republican Party as we secular humanist types often fear. Sure, they get plenty of symbolic bones tossed their way (abortion funding overseas, Plan B mischief, and so on), but in terms of big, substantive policy changes, they haven't exactly been winning political battles left and right, have they? Basically, they get bought off with Supreme Court appointments, and since John Paul Stevens has remained improbably hale and hearty and the next president seems likely to be a Democrat, they're probably never going to reach their Holy Grail: a court willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Howling about this, along with continuing to fight their losing war against gay people, will probably keep them occupied in impotent (but lucrative) rage for the next decade or so.
Second, George Bush has not turned our country into Amerika. This case is a little harder to make, since there's no question that he and Dick Cheney have pursued a relentless policy of using 9/11 as an excuse to engineer ever more monarchal powers for the White House. Just to name a few: Bush routinely uses signing statements to gut laws he doesn't like but doesn't have the nerve to veto outright; the NSA is apparently data mining millions of phone calls without even a pretense at probable cause; and habeas corpus has been suspended for American citizens on Bush's mere say-so. Still, compared to the Palmer raids of the 1920s, the internment camps of the '40s, McCarthyism in the '50s, and COINTELPRO in the '60s, it's frankly remarkable that our national response to 9/11 has been as muted as it has. America may be a bit the worse for wear in the democracy department compared to six years ago, but it's still America.
If you think I'm crazy, I guess you can stop right here. But as odious as these things are, the truth is that fears of Bush the Fascist and Bush the Theocrat are little more than minstrel shows that distract us from truly taking notice of Bush the Plutocrat — and that's the Bush that really matters.
Isn't this what has been so frustrating about this administration? The sheer volume of chicanery makes it impossible to maintain the proper level of outrage at everything. That means policy and action that might normally be met with scrutiny are simply overlooked while outrage rages about other outraging outrageousness. If you like the idea of elaborate conspiracies this sounds like an ingenious plan. I suspect they just got lucky.