Reading the blogs over the past week, I noticed that many conservatives are continuing to defend the policies and the presidency of George Bush, as if Bush is a hero and his policies represent the rules of conservatism. This approach saddles conservatives with an impossible load going forward.
It reminded me of Arnold Goldberg's book, The Prisonhouse of Psychoanalysis. In this passage, Goldberg is discussing psychoanalysts, but he could be writing about any human being and any formal or informal system of belief:
Fear of freedom is not an idle anxiety; the comfort of restraints must be replaced by some sort of guidelines of controls. One reason that psychoanalysts cling to rules and heroes is the realization that without them they would be set adrift...
To suggest that we need neither rules nor heroes nor neurology is perhaps the scariest position of all. It is to suggest not only that we are lacking foundations, but that this is as it should be. Such a suggestion is easily challenged as foolhardy, but perhaps it can be accepted for a while, just to gain the freedom that we need to exercise. It may be a short-lived freedom, but it will alert us to the next phase of our experience of certainty, which asks us periodically to devalue our convictions, to worry when we become too sure of ourselves and our position. This is not a phase of total isolation or total immersion but rather of insistence that there are other sides to the story. It is a phase that asks that we walk through life uncertain and unsure and, yes, a little frightened. The fear is of the living in the open without the sense of security that comes from closure. Closed systems are secure, and without our vigilance our doors tend to close around us and so comfort us. (Prisonhouse of Psychoanalysis, pp. 69-70)
The need for rules and heroes is not limited to conservatives. A striking feature of the 2008 presidential campaign is that two candidates, Obama and Palin, were embraced as heroes by their supporters. And a fascinating curiosity of the campaign was that voters did not, by and large, idealize McCain who was the candidate with a resume ready-made for the hero narrative. Perhaps the public knew too much about McCain for that to happen. Idealization occurs more easily when there is plenty of room for fantasy.
So, given that realty tends to temper idealization, why, after eight years of Bush, is there a core of supporters that can't let go of the idealization? Is it because they denied so much of the reality to maintain the idealization that they destroyed all bridges back to a more realistic assessment?
Obama fans should take note.