Despite having voted for him just 18 months ago, many of Bush's erstwhile supporters now say he isn't a conservative after all. As the Washington Post reports:
Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center, a leading polling group, said one of the most striking findings of recent surveys is the growing number of conservatives who "don't see Bush as one of them" as they did earlier. Pew found that Bush has suffered a 24-point drop in his approval rating among voters who backed him in 2004: from 92 percent in January 2005 to 68 percent in March.
Well, Bush isn't a conservative in any decent sense of the word, but why has it taken his voters six years to figure that out? A friend of mine suggests that for once John Podhoretz may be on to something when he says that Bush's immigration and spending policies can't be the taproot of the discontent:
…the president is losing support from conservatives and Republicans. There are all sorts of theories about why this is true, like how they don't like his spending plans and don't like his immigration policies. Fine, but he had the same immigration plan in 2004 and spent like a sailor in his first term and still had over 90 percent support during that election year.
Pod the Lesser may even be right when he concludes that "Republicans and conservatives have grown weary of defending Bush. … They thought they were on a winning team. Now they're not so sure, and they're feeling let down…" Or as my friend proposes rather more bluntly, perhaps conservatives are keen to put some distance between themselves and a man seen ever more widely as a failed president. Just as liberals like Peter Beinart are now saying that Iraq isn't really their war, despite having supported the invasion when opposition would have counted for something, conservatives are now saying that Bush isn't really their president, even though when it came time to throw him out of office they voted to re-elect him.
There may be some truth to that interpretation, but I wonder if it isn't altogether too logical. To anyone even moderately well informed, the Bush record looks pretty consistent. But perhaps the president's voters really are surprised that Iraq hasn't hasn't turned into Switzerland after three years and that illegal immigration has swollen to the point that it can no longer be ignored. Those are policy questions, after all, as is the administration's record-busting spending. In 2004, Bush voters didn't want to hear about any of that: they wanted Swift Boats. They wanted talk about values, not policy. Now they're finding out that whatever values Bush has don't translate into workable (let alone conservative) policies. Sadly, that's a lesson they'll probably forget by November 2008, when John McCain or George Allen or Mitt Romney is next anointed un-conservative conservative.