The Bush administration is not incompetent. Really.

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Liberal-progressive-reality-based rock star George Lakoff has a new paper out explaining, once again, that liberals have their framing all wrong.

Progressives have fallen into a trap. Emboldened by President Bush’s plummeting approval ratings, progressives increasingly point to Bush’s “failures” and label him and his administration as incompetent. Self-satisfying as this criticism may be, it misses the bigger point. Bush’s disasters—Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit—are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy. It is conservatism itself, carried out according to plan, that is at fault.

Hence,

…The issue that arises every day is which philosophy of governing should shape our country. It is the issue of our times. Unless conservative philosophy itself is discredited, Conservatives will continue their domination of public discourse, and with it, will continue their domination of politics.

Obviously, he has a point (though small-government conservatives might disagree that their “philosophy” has been greatly advanced under GWB). What it ignores, though, is that these guys manifestly don’t know what they’re doing half the time (hence their abysmal approval numbers; surely those aren’t part of the master plan). Seems a shame to ditch the incompetence frame entirely—especially if you can stretch it to cover the Republican Congress. And maybe the dichotomy’s a bit overblown. Why not split the difference and say—to paraphrase Alan Wolfe’s argument in this month’s Washington Monthly—that the conservative governing philosophy is a philosophy…of incompetent governance?

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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