The Dark Arts and the Bush Dynasty

The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for ideologically pure Republicans is open for a new entering class. The task before teachers and students is dire. The key has been lost to untangle what they mean. Indeed it is mysterious as the vanishing bees. Their man in the White House has made a mess of Republican values: fiscal conservatism, limited government, dominance of laissez faire, free market orthodoxies.

If you listen closely, you can hear the inner sanctums reverberate with recriminations. Karl Rove, phoning in to Fox News his rear-guard attacks on Hillary, now spends equal time in the faculty club of Hogwarts, explaining to aggrieved teachers the loss and alienation of conservatives from fortress Republican.

To the extent that current national Republican office holders are viewed favorably, it is only when they retreat from the elixir now gone stale: the patriarchal “I know better than you” that created a top / down management structure in government-and formed in the grim aftermath of a magically stolen presidential election, the promise of a permanent Republican majority in Congress and the White House.

It must be a frustration for Jeb down in Miami, where weather is particularly fine, that the national stage is so obscured by a magical fog of their own making.

The Rovian/Norquist dark arts worked far better in Tallahassee than nationally. If it were up to Jeb, the Hogwarts academy for ideologically pure Republicans would relocate to Coral Gables where the mainstream media has been tamed to a docile cat and no comparable feats of wizardry have emerged from Democrats in a very, very long time.

Florida, with its fragmented media markets and vast homeland of segregated diaspora, was an easy place to craft messages of a calm and beneficent leader, Jeb!, to do what’s best for Florida-whether it was handing out bags of ice after hurricanes, or, clearing regulatory thickets for his key constituency-Florida’s developers-to overbuild the state to the bursting point.

(How Florida became the epicenter of the housing bust and world-wide credit crisis enfolding the nation’s largest financial institutions is a dark art revealed at archives: under ‘housing crash’.)

Jeb was a micromanager in the Governor’s Tower, huddled over his computer at all hours day and night. His lieutenants were required to toe the line with unswerving obedience that forms the operating principle of the W. White House. Under such terms of enrollment at Hogwart’s School of ideologically pure Republicans, a loyal political elite insulated from criticism took control of federal bureaucracies through political appointments, ensuring that all would march off the cliff at the same time with respect to the war, the environment, education, and health care.

What a frustration it must be to the Rove/Norquist faculty at Hogwarts that W. made such a hash of opportunity. Not like the other Bush, the one from Florida-who organized campaign contributions from the Growth Machine straight as lines of cocaine on a glass table-and could have done so much better if only he had been elected president.

It will be at least another four years until the mid-term elections following the election, next fall, of a Democratic president. Until then, the dark arts will have to be practiced as a matter of re-educating and recruiting disciples.

It will take someone new, to help. Someone like Marco Rubio, Miami Republican and House Speaker.

In Florida, the Hogwart’s ire has turned on Jeb’s successor, Republican Governor Charlie Crist.

Crist, a charismati Republican, was elected with the full support of the faithful. He moved quickly, with an ever-ready smile, away from Jeb’s legacy.

Jeb governed as a divider, as a leader who knew better than voters how beating the beast of government (or in Norquist’s words, shrinking it to the size it could be drowned in a bathtub) required skill and cunning.

Charlie Crist set out instantly to reach across the bitterness that Jeb was unafraid to summon. He made friends with Sierra Club. In other words, Crist as apostate is undoing much of the ideological purity Jeb sought to instill in two terms as governor.

Early in his administration, Crist made a clear break with past state energy policy when he signaled, without equivocation, that he would align Florida’s energy future along the road paved by a Bush family nemesis, California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Crist was careful. He made a deliberate statement to insiders by retaining key Bush political allies in environmental agencies, like Fish and Wildlife Commission chairman Rodney Barreto-a land speculator, developer and a powerful lobbyist/enforcer in Florida’s largest county and Jeb’s hometown, Miami-Dade. Crist also signaled his intent by making sure that appointments to the state’s water management district boards would allow big agricultural and development interests to maintain numerical majorities.

Crist moved deliberately and with enthusiasm because of genuine alarm and concern about the costs of global warming to Floridians and economic growth.

Antipathy to global warming is, of course, a signal theme of the Republican Hogwarts and one which Jeb used, also, to herd big campaign donors from the Growth Machine and the fossil fuel lobby into the Rovian/Norquist corral.

A few weeks ago, while Crist was on a trade mission to Brazil, the dark arts rebounded in Tallahassee.

Jeb acolyte, Speaker Marco Rubio organized a counter-demonstration in the state capital: a forum to promote industry-friendly opposition to Crist with a keynote speaker who had earned credentials as an early advocate for likely positive economic impacts from higher temperatures.

Yesterday, the dark arts rebounded, again. Rubio filed a lawsuit against Crist, challenging a deal made by the governor to expand tribal gambling operations of the Seminoles, in exchange for $100 million-a revenue source meant to help fill the government budget shortfalls in Florida, now totaling more than $2 billion, because of crashing real estate markets.

Rubio says Crist is usurping the power of the legislature, but there is more to it.

In the Miami Herald, “Crist-Rubio feud grows by the day”, Jim King, a Jacksonville Republican senator who led his chamber in 2003-04 said, “Jeb and Marco are in lots of contact, and Jeb long ago had nearly anointed him as potential governor, King said, referring to a ceremony in which Bush gave Rubio a samurai sword.”

The Herald notes, “Crist is pragmatically moving to the left-while Rubio shuffles to the ideological right.”

And so it goes, as Jeb sharpens his attack against a moderate Republican, educating the students, and plots the day when a strong-willed father figure with Bush as a last name will be summoned to rescue a nation whose confidence has been sapped by fear and a massive reversal of fortune.

That the Bush dynasty, consiglieres and other apostles of laissez faire free market orthodoxy were largely responsible for the chasm into which American democracy has fallen is a point to be erased from memory, if the Republican Hogwarts have anything to do with it.

ALAN FARAGO of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment and the politics of South Florida, can be reached at


Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at