The anti-Bush backlash is over, and the hawks are flying high again

By Michael Brendan Dougherty
November 4, 2014
The Week

Mother. Soldier. Conservative. Senator?

Republican Joni Ernst has consistently cast herself as the first three during her heated Senate race in Iowa against Democrat Bruce Braley. And with Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight giving Ernst a 70 percent chance of winning tonight, adding senator to the list seems like a good bet.

And here’s the big lesson: Ernst’s rise in the GOP is a signal that the backlash against George W. Bush, both inside and outside the Republican Party, is ending.

As Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones has highlighted, Ernst has made Braley’s promises to defund the Iraq War a major point in her campaign. Not so long ago, Braley’s position would have been quite popular. Indeed, his entire political career is partly a function of the last decade’s anti-Bush sentiment. He won his House seat in the 2006’s “thumpin'” of Bush and congressional Republicans. And he was hardly alone. Even the Republican Party seemed to be running away from Bush for the past few years. More libertarian voices, like Rand Paul and Justin Amash, rose up to challenge the crumbling foreign policy consensus of the Bush-era GOP. A number of Republican realists began backing away from that policy altogether. The Tea Party seemed like a conscious re-branding of the populist conservative movement that wanted to chuck not just Obama, but the Bush legacy of military misadventures and bailouts and economic failure.

Just eight years after that 2006 electoral shake-up, we live in a very different political world.

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