If This Goes On
What does President Bush's approach to governance in his 2001–2004 term tell us about the future? We can measure those prospects against the standard of his apparent goal: consolidating a national power structure under the dominance—for the foreseeable future—of his party's most conservative wing despite the public's opposition or indifference to its policies. In many ways, the unprecedented speed and intensity with which Bush implemented his agenda from 2001 to 2004 can be expected, barring major upsets, to lock in many aspects of that agenda for at least the next two presidential terms (through 2012). But the political, economic, judicial, and even constitutional sea change that Bush and his administration set in motion may cause ripple effects even further into the future, especially when a successor president attempts to duplicate his tactical successes. That alone is an unprecedented milestone in American governance and one, I would argue, that augurs ill for the nation's future in a number of ways.
Because most Americans hold views far less radical than those of Bush's right-wing bases, for a conservative power structure centered in the executive branch to dominate it must subvert rather than accept the balancing powers in the Constitution. As Bush's presidency showed almost from the beginning, constitutional checks and balances can be circumvented and weakened through the political abuse and subversion of the law. With new extralegal mechanisms in place, we would be right to ask: What kinds of projects already under way would be advanced even further during the