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So far, the GOP is not giving conservatives reasons to vote on November 5th
By Paul M. Weyrich
Maybe I am totally off base, and probably I should keep my views to myself, but I sense a Democratic victory in Congress in the making. It is true that President George W. Bush still has sky high ratings among the electorate. They see him as someone who thinks like they do. No matter what issues the Democrats throw at the President, nothing sticks to him. They used to call Ronald Reagan the Teflon President, but if Bush continues these ratings into 2004, he will do Reagan one better.
The Bush ratings do not apply to his party, however. In fact, several recent polls find that while the average voter believes that Bush is on the side of the average voter, Republicans in general are seen as being more interested in the welfare of corporate bigwigs. If Democrat strategists are able to take advantage of this voter perception they will hold on to the Senate, but will win control of the House as well. Republican strategists already concede gains in the gubernatorial realm. They are defending many more state houses than the Democrats.
One of the problems for Republicans in Congress is that grass roots conservatives don't feel that the party is willing to raise issues they care about. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision removing God from the pledge of allegiance and a New York federal judge's decision to release a terrorist are good arguments for confirming President Bush judicial nominees. It is unclear if the party is willing to make this a burning issue because the judge who wrote the pledge opinion was a Republican appointee. If the judiciary becomes a really credible issue, it does have the opportunity to arouse some voters.
One issue that would really stir the grass roots is immigration. Look at what has happened in Western Europe. Eleven of 14 Members of the European Economic Community now have right of center governments. And it is possible that total will be 12 this fall if German voters go the way the polls are now suggesting. Immigration was one of the key issues that brought those right of center governments to power. Even the Dutch government intends to curb the liberal lifestyle in that country. The problem is that President Bush has a fundamental disagreement with Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) whose views on immigration resonate well with the grass roots. So immigration will not be made an issue by the Republican Party or if it is it will be in the form of President Bush's outreach to the Hispanic community.
Another issue that stirs the grass roots is the Boy Scout issue. The Boy Scouts have lost millions and have also lost the right to use many public facilities because they refuse to permit homosexual scout masters. The grass roots are all with the Scouts. The party could win seats in the South, Midwest and even Southwest if the party made this an issue. But it is unlikely the party will raise this issue because the Bush Administration has made an outreach to the homosexual community. Just recently, the president signed a bill providing some benefits to same sex partners who were victims of the New York disaster on September 11th.
The Supreme Court's decision on vouchers thrilled most conservatives. This decision is very popular in minority communities where school children are trapped in failing education institutions. However vouchers are not popular in suburban communities. The issue has been defeated in Congress by suburban Republicans. Voters from the suburbs have defeated vouchers when they were on state ballots. So while the party might make this an issue and grass roots conservatives would like it, the suburban Republicans who are part of the Bush coalition might well revolt.
The voters and even some in the grass roots have turned on to the privacy issues. A year ago, in the wake of 9/11, they were willing to support intrusions into their privacy in the interest of safety. Attorney General John Ashcroft was once the darling of grass roots conservatives. He is now seen as the enemy of the Fourth Amendment and impatience with Big Brother security measures grows, especially among grass roots activists. But privacy will not be an issue with the voters at-large this fall.
That is why it is possible that the Democrats will make gains. The Republicans may not raise any issues that will get grass roots conservatives to the polls. In 1994 these conservatives constituted 37 percent of the vote. In 2000, they constituted only 31 percent of the vote. If they drop another percentage or two, Republicans will lose, and could lose big.
We shall see if Democrats are smart enough to turn voter perception about the Republican-Big Business connection into an issue that resonates with the average voter. Thus far they have proved remarkably inept in their efforts to develop issues against President Bush. It could be they will miss what for them is a golden opportunity. However, if they get their act together, President Bush will be dealing with a Democrat Congress for the two years before he has to face the voters. If what has happened in the Senate this past year is any guide, the president will get nothing conservative through the Congress. He will only win if he compromises with the liberals. Then the Democrats will say he is a do nothing president.
Paul M. Weyrich is president of the Free
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