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Jewish World Review Dec. 14, 2000/ 17 Kislev, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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What we've lost sight of -- THE DIVISION in public opinion, as close as it is, isn't as neatly packaged as in His and Hers, nor is it as absolutely conservative vs. knee-jerk liberal as the punditry makes it seem. And a good thing too.

The politics and punditry of polarity dramatize the arguments, but they exaggerate. There's a big middle and the middle isn't as mushy as it used to be. We've lost sight of that in the tumult since Nov. 7.

Even on an issue as divisive as abortion, there's a large gray area. Depicted on a Bell curve, the two sides are wide apart. But large numbers of voters on both sides are repelled by partial-birth abortion, and large majorities say parents of a minor child should be notified when she seeks an abortion.

Men and women of the middle reason that it's vicious to kill a full-term infant, that even the term "abortion'' is a euphemism for the procedure. Parents want to be notified of a minor child's abortion for common-sense reasons: At such a traumatic time, a child especially needs a parent's loving concern. (A judge can intercede in those instances when a parent should not be consulted.)

The big government vs. less government is not always as angry as it sometimes seems, either. Despite some conservative disdain for George W.'s "compassionate conservatism,'' he cut into the liberal argument that Republicans don't care about the poor among us. He reminded voters that the welfare-reform act that President Clinton signed was Republican legislation.

Few Americans continue to defend welfare dependency as good for able-bodied men and women. Instead of encouraging single moms to rely on Big Daddy, both conservatives and liberals crusade to educate fathers to take responsibility for their children. The number of welfare recipients is half what it was at its peak in 1994. The majority of lower-skilled women in the lower-income population receive larger paychecks than they did on welfare.

Both presidential candidates say they want educational reform. Americans afraid of vouchers argue that vouchers will wreck the public school system, but any parent with a child stuck in a bad public school knows that one public school has failed already. Liberals and conservatives have joined together in many cities to create charter schools, which use public school money but run independently of the public school system. Such schools can't be created fast enough for parents in the middle.

The culture wars supposedly pit the permissive against the restrictive. But parents across the spectrum say they want the television networks, the movie studios -- with or without a nudge from the politicians -- to clean up prime time and cut out the cheap sex and violence. Who isn't outraged when a child is exposed to raw pornography on the Internet? The most devout defenders of the First Amendment welcome a little restraint on the part of the producers.

Al Gore won majorities of blacks, single women, the unions and city folk. George W. did better with white men, married women and the rural inhabitants of the fly-over states. According to a poll taken for the Democratic Leadership Council, 47 percent of the electorate describes itself as "moderate'' and views George W. as right of center and closer to them than Al Gore.

The major differences between the two presidential candidates can be characterized as personal style: the grind vs. the goof-off, the uptight vs. the laid back. But both men were educated in the Ivy League and both got their on-the-job training in tough political campaigns.

Al Gore's sing-song rhetoric and George W.'s inarticulate phrasing have been roundly mocked, but neither has been ridiculed more than Dwight Eisenhower for his garbled syntax or Adlai Stevenson for his egghead manner. Eisenhower won the presidency, and Stevenson had to settle for laughing at himself. (''Eggheads of the world, unite!'' he said. "You have nothing to lose but your yolks.'')

When a president is finally sworn in on Jan. 20 and the country rallies behind him, as it will, most of us will emphasize what we have in common, rather than celebrate what separates us. Then the furniture will start flying. It's the American way.


12/13/00:Hillary in the lion's den
12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate