The triumph of the Bush presidency
By Bruce Walker
Liberals have an almost pathological need to minimize their opponents. Ronald Reagan won two landslide elections in California, almost won the Republican nomination in 1976, and then won two easy presidential victories. His presidency saw the second greatest triumphant in American geopolitical affairs, surpassed only by FDR's leadership in the Second World War, and transformed the political landscape and social dialogue of America. By almost any sensible standard, Reagan was among the top four or five presidents in American history, and he was the second most effective political leader (again, surpassed only by FDR).
Like the Bourbon Monarchs of France, about whom it was said: "They never forgot anything, and they never learned anything", liberals are about to make the same mistake about President-Elect George W. Bush. First, these pundits - who never face any serious criticism themselves - have convinced themselves that Gore is bright and Bush is dumb. Mastery of dubious federal statistics, it seems, is the only indicator of thoughtfulness.
Yes, Bush has learned during the last year; we have watched him learn, but that is precisely the point: He is a student of the human condition. Here is a president who will not just "feel your pain", but will listen to you seriously. Democrats in Congress have cooled their heels for six years while an egomaniac manipulated them for his approval ratings and his legacy. Imagine the delight when these same crusty Democrats - the same types that Mr. Bush had to deal with in Texas - find a man who takes them seriously. Republicans need not worry that our next president will ignore Republican political realities: Remember that Governor Bush has, almost single-handedly, made Republicans the majority party in Texas.
Senators and Congressmen who perceive a president who keeps his word and who treats them as his siblings will work with him in ways that Clinton never understood, and Gore was congenitally incapable of understanding. These men and women seek office to accomplish objectives. Given the chance to do so, they will.
What? How about reforming the silly, sad mess of our electoral system? Can the experiences of Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin, and New Mexico not be used as clear examples of the need to make the system certain, clear, and fair? Of course it can, and Bush should hammer that point home early in his State of Union Address. Fraud, skullduggery, missing ballots, and the like nearly always favor Democrats, but while there is a strong national sentiment for reform, Bush should seize it.
End all gerrymandering at all levels of government (Republicans have a chance to actually win this fight in Congress, because of the muscle Republicans do not have in state governments). Make ballots uniform, and create serious checks on residency and citizenship. Congressional hearings combined with Department of Justice investigations should turn up ample evidence of the depth of the problem, and if Democrats stand in the way of reform, then Republicans can, and should, hammer them with this much more fundamental issue each time a liberal starts to squeak about campaign finance reform.
The domestic reforms that our next president proposes do not need to be dramatic; they need to be possible. A tax cut package that is generally good, but not perfect is much better than heated debates on the optimum tax system. Education reform that nudges public schools towards choice and parents towards empowerment is fine - do it.
Budgetary surpluses that chip away at the national debt each year will keep inflation low and keep investors confident. Bush should propose shortly after inauguration that Congress pass an omnibus appropriation bill that funds each agency and department at the same level as the prior fiscal year, with the promise in good faith to increase or decrease appropriation in more specific appropriation bills prior to the end of the federal fiscal year. This is straightforward, honest, and hard to contest.
Simply not passing new lousy federal laws for the next four years will help conservatives and average Americans a great deal. The Supreme Court tilts conservative now, and Bush need only to nominate solid conservatives (over and over again, if necessary) to guarantee that the federal judiciary begins the process of restoring to us a federal republic. In short, many sure but modest steps in the same direction - always consulting with individual Democrats, always willing to listen, never willing to compromise conservative principles.
Bush should also address directly the serious problem of rule by Executive Order. This should be thrown in the lap of Congress, and a bipartisan approach with nearly unanimous consensus demanded: Either a president can do what Bill Clinton has done - rule by virtual fiat - or Congress should by statute, and probably by test case to the Supreme Court (which a Bush Justice Department could instigate) have the other two branches of government unambiguously say that Bill Clinton crossed the line of the Constitution many times.
It is, for us, a "win-win" situation: If Democrats and federal judges are not willing to clearly and publically repudiate what Clinton did, and create safeguards against it (thus preventing future "Clintonocracy" and rebuking Clinton yet again) or these Democrats and judges will have to say what Clinton did was fine - in which case Bush's agenda can be implemented very quickly indeed!
Politically, Bush must realize that Democrat leadership no longer has a Scoop Jackson, Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, or even a Daniel Patrick Moynihan. There are no ideals left to Democrats, and allowing them to regain power would be a tragedy for America. Therefore our next president should make many trips to our heartland - the South, the Great Plains, Rocky Mountain states, the Great Lakes region - and he should work to strengthen and unify Republicans so that we can hold and increase our strength in Congress and state governments in these very winnable states.
The key - and it is the key for this Bush Administration - is to realize that the battle is not over the best policies (almost everyone with a lick of sense knows that flat and simple tax rates are good, that school vouchers work, that government spending is wasteful and especially if it is spent by a federal government that prints its own money). The battle is over politics: Will the slow, steady movement towards individual liberty, decentralized government, strong national security, and sensible legal systems that started twenty years ago continue? If our next president can do what the Gipper did - and most of us know he can - then we will win the political battle, and the country will be great again.
As for Al Gore? Well, he intends to be around for awhile (for which we conservatives should be thankful). Historically he will go down as a William Jennings Bryan, a three time loser who did worse each election; or a Tom Dewey, who lost twice and each time did more poorly than expected; or an Adlai Stephenson, who got whopped in 1952 and then clobbered in 1956. Count on Gore to divide the Democrats and weaken their voices for years.
Bruce Walker is a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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