Jewish World Review March 13, 2000 /6 Adar II, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- NOW THAT GEORGE BUSH has effectively wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, all the experts are admonishing him to rush back to the political center for the general election. I hope he ignores them.
Isn't it interesting that the very people who delight in denouncing Richard Nixon for his corruption are the first to quote him approvingly concerning matters relating to character? Isn't it Nixon that is credited with the cynical "truism" that GOP presidential candidates must "run to the right" during the primaries and "run to the center" in the general election?
Why is it that so many pundits have begun to glorify the center, as if it were some virtuous high ground? I know that neither party has enough support to deliver its nominee the election in a two-man race without attracting swing voters. But that doesn't mean that candidates should become centrists.
Many glibly assume that by shamelessly migrating to the center, GOP presidential candidates are at minimal risk of losing their base voters because they have nowhere else to go. But those ceaselessly parroting the Nixon credo forget that the majority of Republicans are not moderates, but mainstream conservatives.
Admittedly, there is probably less risk to the Democratic candidate because his base is more dependency-driven than ideological. They will only get their government goodies if the Democratic candidate wins. Conservative voters neither expect nor demand handouts or government favors, but are largely motivated by ideology. They will be mightily offended if their candidate abandons grass-roots principles. And many will stay home.
But I suspect that at the root of all this deification of the center is the unspoken implication that the base of the Republican Party is villainous and extreme. The assumption is that genuinely conservative candidates are exclusive, divisive and incapable of appealing to centrist voters -- that only moderate Republicans can win the White House.
This same "wisdom" holds that liberalism is not extreme, but mainstream. That's probably why we witness so little hand wringing about Gore's potential problems with the center even though he is demonstrably more liberal than Bush is conservative. But be aware that polls show that in a three-way race today, Bush edges out Gore 34 percent to 33 percent, with McCain at 24 percent.
Recent history, by the way, is totally at odds with the Nixon credo. Ronald Reagan didn't deviate a single millimeter from his principles in either of his two overwhelmingly successful presidential bids (where he attracted many Democrats and Independents). Nor did George H. W. Bush, the first time. And remember Bob Dole's lethargic, moderate candidacy? Me neither.
Liberal "well-wishers" will urge George Bush to walk the plank of political centrism. If he mistakenly does so, he will forfeit the goodwill he has earned in his grueling battle with Sen. McCain.
Don't misunderstand me here. I'm not suggesting that Bush has to be some dogmatic ideologue, nor that he can't put his trademarked compassionate face on conservatism. Rather, that he hold fast to his conservative principles, which bespeak inclusiveness because they promote opportunity and life for all.
Don't fool yourselves. Liberals are well aware of Bush's record of bringing people together in Texas and attracting their proprietary constituencies, including women and minorities. That's why they're beginning to panic now.
For conservatives at least, presidential politics is not some cynical game. The reality is that they will not respect or support a candidate whose views shift with the winds of public opinion. Bush has said, and has so far demonstrated, that he is not such a candidate.
McCain has now made clear that he will not retire quietly from the scene. Before bowing out, he obviously intends to extract concessions from Gov. Bush. His liberal and neo-conservative enablers will continue to support him in this cause as well.
Bush will hopefully remember the hard lesson he learned from McCain's challenge from the left. Republicans are quite adept at electing principled conservative candidates.
Bush has already given too much ground on the campaign
finance reform issue. Further compromise would be
suicidal. He must not listen to the architects of his demise
urging him to sell his political soul. He must be very
careful in choosing his running mate and stay the
conservative course. His handlers should just let George
03/08/00: The media, the establishment and the people