Although polls continue to suggest that President Bush’s support among Republicans remains high, some local conservatives are expressing strong opposition to his foreign and fiscal policies.
Jack Walters, a self-described “classical conservative,” thinks the Bush administration has deviated from traditional conservative principles.
“I’m very cautious when it comes to war, very cautious fiscally and very much in favor of preserving freedom and individual initiative and small government,” Walters said. “It used to be the Republican Party prided itself in being fiscally conservative.”
Walters, former chairman of the Boone County Republican Central Committee, made headlines last year when he resigned to protest the war in Iraq. He is critical of the “cronyism and war and waste” of the Bush administration and resents labels that he said have marginalized opposition to the conflict.
“They don’t want the idea to get to the public that maybe, just maybe, there’s less support in the mainstream for the war and the Bush administration than they think,” Walters said.
Brad Barondeau, who replaced Walters last year as chairman of the GOP committee, dismissed Walters’ criticism, arguing that the extent of Republican disenchantment is exaggerated.
“My sense is that the vast majority of conservatives and Republicans support the president,” Barondeau said.
Other lifelong Republicans, however, share Walters’ disgust.
Tom Hutchinson, a 1980 Republican primary candidate in the 110th State Congressional District, said of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, “I wouldn’t vote for either of those individuals if they were running for the local dogcatcher.”
Hutchinson, who campaigned for Bush in 2000, describes himself as a “constitutional conservative.” He accused the Republican leadership of subverting what he calls “one of the finest documents ever written.”
“By and large, they have totally ignored the Constitution,” he said. “I believe we should have a representative republic.”
Although Walters and Hutchinson are critical of the Bush administration, that does not necessarily translate into support for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
“We’ve got Kerry, who’s done nothing in the Senate that’s noteworthy, and we’ve got Bush, who’s a Napoleonic half-wit,” said Walters, who said that he was sure only that he would cast a vote against Bush.
Hutchinson said he doesn’t intend to vote for either Bush or Kerry, calling them two peas in the same pod.
“I think it’s an act of immorality to vote for the lesser of two evils,” he said.