People who self-identify as "conservatives" and have always been considered to be conservatives become liberal heathens the moment they dissent, even on the most non-ideological grounds, from a Bush decree. That’s because "conservatism" is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as "liberal" is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government.Greenwald points out the irony here, given the many aspects of the Bush Administration that are not in the least conservative (e.g. spending policy). Not only that, he says, but political conservatism has long been predicated on a sincere distrust of federal power, which simply doesn't square with blind loyalty. Add in the unitary executive theory, and you have not just a deviation from the conservative tradition, but its antithesis. Greenwald also speculates about the motivations behind this "authoritarian cultis[m]" and finds its origin in nothing more complex than rage and fear.
The rage-based reverence for The President as Commander-in-Chief -- and the creepy, blind faith vested in his goodness -- is not a movement I recognize as being political, conservative or even American.Edit: Sort of serendipitously, today I pulled off my reading pile Richard Hofstadter's book of essays, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. It addresses this problem directly, and it's a little uncanny how well much of his reasoning translates into today's political climate, though he was analyzing McCarthyism and Goldwaterism, and not Bushism. I may post some random thoughts once I get done with the other essays in the book.