The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

 TeasersSam Francis Blogview
2004 Election

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

Only a few days after the national election, President Bush appointed his campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, the new head of the Republican National Committee.

Shortly afterwards, Mr. Mehlman offered the world his own analysis of the voting patterns in the 2004 election and what they tell us as to why his boss won.

As the Washington Post reported, Mr. Mehlman argued that Mr. Bush won largely by “broadening his appeal among key swing constituencies, including Roman Catholics, Latinos and suburban women.” Predictably, he maintained that “the single most important number that has come out of the election” is the 44 percent Hispanic support the president supposedly won this year . [GOP Governors Celebrate Party Wins |Tutorial on Bush Campaign Strategies Shows What Went Right, By Dan Balz, November 19, 2004]

“Future Republican majorities will depend in part on the party’s ability to expand its support among Hispanic voters, and 2004 may have been a significant step in that direction if GOP candidates can build on it,” the Post reported him as telling the national meeting of Republican governors in New Orleans last month.

What Mr. Mehlman told them has already hardened in the party’s mental arteries as the gospel about the election and how to win in the future: Pander to Hispanic and other “minorities and take the white mainstream core of the Republican Party base for granted.

And to judge from the president’s immediate resurrection of his congressional amnesty plan for illegal aliens and his new Hispanic cabinet appointments, that seems to be the strategy his policies will reflect as well.

It is crucial to the future of the Republican Party to flush these misconceptions about why and how he won out of the party arteries as soon as possible, because we now know they are wrong and if they become the basis for political strategy and even policies, they will lead to Republican ruin.

The 44 percent Hispanic support for Mr. Bush has been dubious from the first day it was reported, but we now know it’s not correct. The figure came originally from exit polls reported by the Associated Press and other news services and was a national average based on similar exit polls in each state. The state in which Mr. Bush supposedly won Hispanic support most heavily was his own, Texas, where the AP reported he won a whopping and unprecedented 59 percent of Hispanics.

That, if nothing else, is what’s wrong. The Associated Press last week issued a press release acknowledging it isn’t so. Mr. Bush won only 49 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas.

In its Nov. 3 exit polls reports, the AP release states,

“The Associated Press overstated President Bush’s support among Texas Hispanics. Under a post-election adjustment by exit poll providers Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, 49 percent of Hispanics in the state voted for Bush, not a majority. The revised result does not differ to a statistically significant degree from Bush’s 43 percent support among Texas Hispanics in a 2000 exit poll.”

The revised poll shows that Texas Hispanic voters “voted 50 percent for Kerry and 49 percent for Bush, not 41-59 Kerry-Bush.”

And if you factor in the new 49 percent Hispanic support in Texas in place of the old 59 percent in Mr. Bush’s national Hispanic exit polls, the 44 percent national figure vanishes. What you get is closer to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote on a national level—an improvement over his 35 percent support back in 2000, but hardly the sort of seismic shift the pandermaniacs over at the RNC have been crowing over.

Moreover, if the Texas exit poll was wrong, then why should we be inclined to accept similar polls that show heavily inflated Hispanic support for Mr. Bush in this election?

In Florida, for example, Mr. Bush is said to have won 56 percent of the Hispanic vote, a result almost as incredible as the Texas claim.

Finally, an independent outfit, the Velasquez Institute, specializes in analyzing Hispanic voting patterns and concluded on election day that Mr. Bush won only 34 percent of the Hispanic bloc nationally—a result a little smaller than but more consistent with his 2000 showing. There’s no reason to think their analysis is flawed.

How many Hispanic votes Mr. Bush won this year is important, because as Mr. Mehlman acknowledges, it tells the party at which demographic groups it should direct its appeals and “outreach,” and what issues (and policies) the party should support (or avoid) that are likely to attract (or alienate) those groups.

With Hispanics, the main issue will be immigration, and unless the blood of political reality can start flowing through the party’s mental arteries again, the errors now blocking those arteries will keep Mr. Bush and his party on the wrong side of the coming immigration battle.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: 2004 Election, Hispanics 
🔊 Listen RSS

It didn’t take the neoconservatives long to figure out the real truth about the election and explain to us, hanging breathless, what we should think about it.

David Brooks in the New York Times was perhaps the first to unveil it to the rest of us out here in the boonies.

The truth, you see, is that “it is certainly wrong” that the “moral issue” was the driving force in the election. That delusion comes from a “poorly worded question” in the exit polls.

“When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote,”Mr. Brooks writes,

“voters were given the option of saying ‘moral values.’ But that phrase can mean anything—or nothing. Who doesn’t vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.” [The Values-Vote Myth, November 6, 2004]

And if you want a misleading result before you ask the question, you get neocon propaganda. Neoconservatives don’t like the “moral issue” or the white Christian evangelicals who take that issue seriously enough to vote on it.

What the neoconservatives care about is foreign policy, especially how all those white Christian cattle in the backwaters can be rounded up to fight the Middle East wars the neocons are slobbering to wage—World War IV,” as neocon guru Norman Podhoretz likes to call it.

Mr. Brooks, despite occasional reservations about the Iraq boondoggle, is on board for that agenda too, and much of his column sought to explain how the election was really “a broad victory for[President] Bush” and that a national consensus behind the “war on terror” was what led to his victory.

Yet, as I have noted before, only 51 percent of the voters supported Mr. Bush at all, and while he did win the election, there was nothing “broad” about it.

The broad victory was not that of Mr. Bush and his foreign policy but of the moral issue—the massive and simultaneous success of 11 state ballot measures that rejected same-sex marriage.

There’s no “misleading question” involved here. It was straight-forward and so simple even neocons could grasp it, which they do, which is why they are so eager to explain it away before the rest of the country starts talking about matters they don’t want to talk about.

The neoconservatives of course are not the only people who don’t want to talk about such matters—namely, the moral direction of the nation and its culture. The Republican establishment doesn’t want to talk about it either, which is why, as the Washington Post reported last week, evangelicals had to drag the GOP kicking and screaming to support the marriage amendments at all.

In Michigan, state Sen. Alan Cropsey, sponsor of a bill to ban homosexual marriage, told the Post “the Republican Party was not helpful at all. It’s not like they were the instigators. They were the Johnny-come-latelies, if anything.” Several other activists say the same.

So far from Republicans or the White House using the ballot measures to crank out the evangelical vote, the evangelicals themselves—and in some areas Roman Catholic groups—created the movement. Evangelical leader Charles Colson says, “The White House guys were kind of resisting it [the marriage issue] on the grounds that ‘We haven’t decided what position we want to take on that.’”[Evangelicals Say They Led Charge For the GOP, By Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall, November 8, 2004]

What the election returns really tell us, then, has little to do with President Bush (who a week before the election defended “rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state chooses to do,” and explicitly renounced the GOP platform on same-sex marriage on ABC’s Good Morning America), let alone his foreign policy.

What they tell us is that the Republican Party including its top leader still doesn’t get it and that it still prefers to take its signals from neoconservatives like Mr. Brooks and the cultural and ideological ghetto they represent.

The White House and the GOP didn’t want to support the grassroots movement against same-sex marriage because the people who staff those institutions are more comfortable with the people who write the Washington Post and the New York Times than with the Middle Americans whose votes they desperately want and need.

It’s not easy to argue that a party able to win the White House and both houses of Congress is the Stupid Party, but stupidity is largely a matter of being unable to learn, and what this election tells us more than anything else is that, at least up until Election Day, the Republican Party had learned nothing.

Nor has Mr. Brooks. He and his neocon allies now have four more years to plot how to derail the Middle American Revolution toward which this election clearly points.

If Mr. Bush is not stupid, he’ll derail the neocons from the White House now.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Classic, 2004 Election, Neocons 
🔊 Listen RSS

Barely a week has passed since 84 percent of the nation’s self-described conservatives cast their ballots for George W. Bush, and already the president and his administration have delivered at least two good, strong, swift kicks in the teeth to the voters who elected him. Speaking in Mexico this week Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that the administration will revive its amnesty plan for illegal aliens, and in Washington Hispanic White House counsel Alberto Gonzales was named as the next attorney general.

Mr. Gonzales, considered a liberal on social issues, will be the main official to pick the next Supreme Court justices, including the chief justice. Since one of the major reasons why conservatives voted for Mr. Bush at all was that he would supposedly select more conservative justices than John Kerry, Mr. Gonzales’ appointment is a nice wallop to the conservative face.

It’s also an obvious pander to Hispanics, since the White House has now bought into the claim that the president won some 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in the election due to his warm and toasty amnesty plan. The plan, unveiled last January as a “temporary workers visa program,” was so obviously an amnesty that the president had to drop it for the rest of the election year. Now it’s back, and the election is over.

Mr. Powell explicitly acknowledged the political machinations behind the amnesty.

“In light of the campaign and other things that were going on, we weren’t able to engage the Congress on it,” he said. “But now that the election is behind us and the president is looking to his second term, the president intends to engage Congress on it.” [Powell says Bush will engage Congress on temporary worker proposal, State Department, November 3, 2004]

How about engaging with the masses of Americans who oppose amnesty and who put Mr. Bush in the White House in the first place? Well, they’ve served their purpose and can now be ignored, just as the American ruling class has ignored public opinion on immigration control for decades. Why should this president be any different?

The Washington Times reports that while Mr. Powell was plotting amnesty in Mexico, the president himself was plotting it with Arizona’s Sen. John McCain.

“The president met privately in the Oval Office with Sen. John McCain to discuss jump-starting a stalled White House initiative that would grant legal status to millions of immigrants who broke the law to enter the United States,” the Times reported.

Mr. McCain, it may be recalled, is fresh from the slap in the puss his own state delivered to him and his congressional colleagues for opposing Arizona’s Proposition 200, a ballot measure that effectively denies welfare to illegal aliens and prevents them from fraudulent voting.

Mr. McCain, his colleague Sen. John Kyl and every member of the Arizona congressional delegation opposed Prop 200, as did the local Chamber of Commerce, the governor of the state, and of course the Open Borders lobby. Prop 200 passed by a substantial 56 percent anyway—and with 47 percent Hispanic support.

It’s not surprising the Bush White House is oblivious to the vote on Prop 200. Mr. Bush’s secret agenda since almost the day he entered office has been to enact an amnesty. He nearly did so in September 2001, when certain other business intervened.

He resurrected it early this year, and it went comatose. Now he’s trying to pull it from the grave.

The leader of immigration control forces in Congress, Colorado Rep.Tom Tancredo, who was re-elected by a similarly whopping 60 percent in his district (as opposed to President Bush’s slim 52 percent in Colorado), says the resurrected amnesty plan remains “dead on arrival.” It may well be, but then again, the situation is somewhat different now.

Congressmen now don’t have to worry about what their constituents think for a whole two years, and if they pass amnesty, as they have before, they can hope voters will forget about it. Moreover, with the 44 percent Hispanic Republican myth, many congressmen will simply be afraid to alienate Hispanics. That’s why the 47 percent who supported Prop 200 is important.

Contrary to another myth of the Open Borders lobby, voting for immigration control does not mean political suicide, or even serious political risk. As the votes for the Arizona measure and for Mr. Tancredo show, the reality is that immigration control wins elections.

Immigration was barely mentioned during the presidential campaign, and if Mr. Bush had really wanted to revive his defunct amnesty plan, he should have talked about it a good deal more than he did. He didn’t—because he knew bringing it up would be his own political suicide.

Now that he’s avoided that fate, he thinks he can sneak amnesty through. Conservatives who were fooled once need to let their congressmen know they won’t be fooled again.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: 2004 Election, Immigration 
🔊 Listen RSS

If last week’s election returns tell President Bush anything about immigration policy, it is that he ought to continue and even expand the “guest workers” program he unveiled last January. What was essentially an amnesty for illegal aliens, a reward for lawbreakers and an open invitation to the world to immigrate to this country seems to have benefited him.

That at least is the conclusion to which some—mainly the Open Borders lobby and politicians eager to believe it—are leaping.

And on its face it’s not unreasonable. In 2000, Mr. Bush won some 35 percent of Hispanics, while his opponent Al Gore won 65 percent. Mr. Bush’s share was an improvement over what GOP nominee Bob Dole won in 1996 (21 percent), but still not very good, especially compared to Mr. Gore’s landslide Hispanic support.

The Open Borders lobby claims the GOP’s poor performance with Hispanics is due to its support for immigration control. That’s dubious, but it makes good propaganda.

This year, after Mr. Bush’s amnesty proposal in January, some exit polls show Mr. Bush walked off with significant increases in Hispanic support. Nationally he’s supposed to have won 44 percent to Sen. John Kerry’s 53 percent—a majority, but not the landslide his predecessor took or what Democrats usually win. Mr. Bush, if these polls are accurate, won more Hispanic votes than any other Republican contender in history.

It looks like pandering pays, and maybe it does, but before you swallow the propaganda, look at the exit polls more closely.

There are good reasons for believing the exit poll data are deeply flawed, but even if we grant that they’re accurate, they don’t necessarily mean what the Open Borders boys say. Let’s assume they’re accurate for the sake of the discussion.

Most of the U.S. Hispanic population is centered in four states—New York, California, Texas, and Florida. If you average the Hispanic vote that Mr. Bush won in those states in 2000, you get his national average among Hispanics of that year, 35 percent. If you average what exit polls say he won this year in them, you get his national average among Hispanics last week—about 44 percent.

Mr. Bush increased his support among Hispanics in all four of these states, but in two—Florida and Texas—he did especially well. In the former, he increased his Hispanic support by 7 percent, to a sizeable 56 percent majority, and in his own state of Texas, he won a whopping 59 percent, 16 percent more than in 2000.

But in New York and California, the increases were not so large—only 6 and 4 percent respectively—to 24 percent and 32 percent in each state, well below his national support levels in 2000.

And these returns suggest a different explanation for why Mr. Bush did as well as he did among Hispanics.

It wasn’t amnesty. It was him.

Mr. Bush won Hispanics in Texas because he’s from Texas and has always run well with that community. He won some 39 percent of the state’s Hispanics in 1998 as governor and 42 percent in 2000 as a presidential candidate.

In Florida, Mr. Bush did well among Hispanics for a couple of reasons. Florida Hispanics are still largely Cubans, and they traditionally support Republicans. Mr. Bush’s brother is Florida’s governor and has a Hispanic wife and son who campaigned for him (which helped the president among Hispanics elsewhere too).

And finally Mr. Bush is the incumbent president and a wartime president, which counts for something. It probably helped him even among his least supportive voting bloc, black voters, who supported him only slightly more than in 2000.

As for amnesty and all the pandering in which Mr. Bush wallowed to gain Hispanics, it may have helped him in California and New York but not very much. If his amnesty and immigration policies explained his Hispanic gains, the increases would have shown up more evenly in all four states—not just those in which he has a personal connection.

Finally, the Open Borders propagandists who love this year’s exit polls so much don’t seem to be quoting another one, from Arizona: Immigration control ballot measure Prop 200 won with some 60 percent of the vote—and 47 percent Hispanic support. And what that tells us for certain is that it’s false that immigration control alienates Hispanics.

It’s not unusual for the Open Borders lobby to be wrong in its facts, and now they’re equally wrong in its interpretation of the facts (If they are facts).

Despite the silence on immigration in this year’s campaign, there’s every reason to think the issue is about to take wing.

Mr. Bush and his party ought to get on board now.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: 2004 Election, Hispanics 
🔊 Listen RSS

When a drunken man tries to walk a tightrope, it is never possible to predict whether he will make it across or fall. Nothing you can reasonably foresee happening can possibly affect the outcome of his walk, and whatever happens depends entirely on accident.

So it was with the great presidential election of 2004, now quickly and thankfully receding into the ocean of bad memories.

On the morning of the election, the pro-Kerry Washington Post carried the headline “Election Day Dawns with Unpredictability,” while the pro-Bush Washington Times announced “Bush, Kerry battle down to wire.”Neither paper nor all their experts could predict whether the men they favored would make it across the tightrope. Nor could anyone else.

Long before the election took place, every conceivable voting bloc had been so massaged and manipulated by those skilled in such arts that everyone knew how they would vote months before they went to the polls. Only those few who could not be so massaged and manipulated—the “undecided vote,” as it was called—in the end determined the result.

Given the immense role that such political arts and the massive amounts of money needed to fund them now play in our politics, it is open to question whether we should continue to call our system democracyin any meaningful sense.

But certainly it makes no sense to speak, as Vice President Cheney did the morning after the election, of the victor in such elections gaining anything like a “mandate”—a command from the body of the people to pursue a particular course of action.

In the case of President Bush’s victory, any talk of a “mandate” is simply preposterous. The president, the incumbent chief executive of a nation at war, won by a bare 51 percent, only a slight improvement over his actual loss of the popular vote four years ago.

In 1944, when Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for a fourth term in the middle of World War II, he won by a popular vote of 54 percent.

In 1972, Richard Nixon, also an incumbent war president, won by 60 percent.

Even in 1984, at the height of Ronald Reagan’s Cold War, the incumbent won by nearly 59 percent.

If George W. Bush’s two victories in 2000 and 2004—48 percent and 51 percent respectively—represent the “emerging Republican majority,” that majority is in serious trouble. By contrast with the victories of earlier wartime presidents, the thin margin Mr. Bush won Tuesday is a moral defeat.

A writer in the neoconservative Weekly Standard recently argued that the election was a “referendum on neoconservatism,” [Tod Lindberg, November 8, 2004] and he may have been right. If so, then neo-conservatism lost.

There was little serious discussion in the campaign of the rationale for the Iraq war or the grand strategy of exporting global democracy that are the trademarks of neoconservative policy. What seems to have motivated voters more than any other concern was neither national security nor the economy but “moral values.” There’s nothing neo about that kind of conservatism. It’s as old as the Old Republic itself, but few political leaders saw it coming.

Except for the unpredicted and unpredictable opacity of supporting “moral values,” then, there is virtually nothing that can be said about what the voting of the presidential election of 2004 tells us about what the president should do.

Nor is it even clear which “moral values” the voters believe are important.

The candidates (or more precisely their surrogates) spent most of the campaign vilifying each other’s 40-year-old war records. They devoted most of the carefully staged presidential “debates” to questioning each other’s judgments about the war with Iraq, but at no time did Mr. Kerry make clear what he would do in Iraq in the future or what he (or Mr. Bush) ought to have done in the past.

At no time did the president acknowledge that serious blunders—if not outright lies—contributed to launching a war we seem unable to finish.

There was no discussion of mass immigration, probably the major public issue facing the country today, nor of trade policy and its impact on the economy and the fate of the American middle class and its civilization.

Given the refusal of the candidates and the establishment media to address these and other issues, how can it possibly be claimed that any kind of “mandate” emerged from this election?

President Bush faces the next four years with neither any clear direction from the voters themselves nor any serious indication of what he and his administration really want to do.

The election he just won tells us who the legal president of the United States is, but neither the president nor the people who elected him seem able to tell us anything else.

• Tags: 2004 Election 
🔊 Listen RSS

What will happen to American conservatism as a result of the 2004 election? Obviously, the answer depends largely on what happens in the election, and we won’t know that until tomorrow (or later). But that doesn’t stop pundits from telling us anyway.

Pat Buchanan believes a “civil war” will break out inside the Republican Party over its ideological future, a war between the Bush partisans and their neoconservative allies on the one hand and, on the other, paleoconservatives like Mr. Buchanan, advocates of an “America First,” national interest-based foreign policy, economic nationalism and traditional conservatism—small government, constitutionalism and cultural traditionalism.

The New Republic’s Franklin Foer also thinks the paleos may have a future after the election.

The most recent contribution to this discussion comes from two British observers with The Economist, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. Writing in the Wall Street Journal last week, they suggest that whatever happens in the election, what President Bush has done to American conservatism is here to stay. [“‘Bushism’ Win or lose, the president has remade the politics of the right. October 27, 2004

What Mr. Bush has done to conservatism, they argue, is to revolutionize it. He has embraced what they call “big government conservatism,” reversing what both Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan supported. “The massive growth in the state during this presidency (faster than under Bill Clinton, even if you exclude the spending on the war on terror)” is at heart “a deliberate strategy.”

Moreover, they claim that Mr. Bush’s use of the state is conservative in that in his intention was “to turn government into an agent of conservatism,” using federal power to impose moral values in ways traditional conservatives rejected (not because they rejected the values but because they rejected the scale of federal power to impose them).

Finally, “Mr. Bush’s boldest contribution to reinventing conservatism” lies in his foreign policy, which centers on spreading democracy across the planet as a moralistic crusade.

Like a lot of foreign observers of America since Alexis de Tocqueville, these two don’t get everything right, but they do spy trends many Americans tend to miss, and they are largely right about the impact of the Bush administration on the body of American conservatism.

To put it another way, the impact of Mr. Bush on American conservatism has been a disaster.

It has been a disaster because every “contribution” the authors cite is not simply a modification or an adjustment but an abandonment of what traditional conservatism means and has meant.

It is, in short, “neoconservatism”—and in a way that has nothing to do with “neoconservative” as a codeword for “Jews.”

The main neoconservative writers—Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, and most others—have long insisted that they don’t share traditional conservative distrust of the centralized state—a distrust that was shared by traditional Jeffersonian conservatives, constitutionalists and libertarians.

What the neocons wanted, wrote their “godfather” Irving Kristol, was “a conservative welfare state,” while Mr. Podhoretz has written that from its beginnings “the neoconservatives dissociated themselves from the wholesale opposition to the welfare state which had marked American conservatism since the days of the New Deal.”

Today, thanks to the Bush administration, they have succeeded in disassociating American conservatism from American conservatism.

Mr. Bush’s use of expanded state power for “moralistic” ends is consistent with neoconservatism as well, though it mainly comes from his alliance with the religious right, a movement that has close ties to the neo-cons.

But Mr. Micklethwait and Mr. Wooldridge may exaggerate the degree to which the president has actually embraced the religious right’s agenda. Most I know in that movement are less than pleased with what he’s done to advance it.

Most obviously, as the authors acknowledge, Mr. Bush’s foreign policy is largely the creature of the neoconservatives all by themselves. The crusade to spread democracy, especially in the Middle East, has been a neoconservative obsession since at least the Reagan administration. Only under Mr. Bush did they have a green light to make it the central purpose of American policy abroad.

The trouble with Mr. Bush’s adaptations of conservatism to fit the neocon mold is that they are fundamentally inconsistent with what most American conservatives have always believed and believe today.

Only by masking them with conventional conservative rhetoric—and by dwelling on how awful the liberal alternatives are—can a Republican Party dominated by neoconservatism expect to keep grassroots conservative support and remain in office.

And maybe it can and will. As neoconservatism entrenches itself as the dominant and defining expression of conservatism, there will be fewer and fewer Americans who even remember what real conservatism is.

Maybe they can still wage a civil war to take back their party and their nation, but the result of that civil war could be as much of a disaster as the last one.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2004 Election, Conservative Movement 
🔊 Listen RSS

In politics, a wise man once told me, there are only two important questions: (1) Who should win? (2) Who will win? You don’t have to be very wise to understand that the answers are not necessarily (or indeed very often) the same.

As to the first question, my own wisdom, such as it is, offers little help. George W. Bush has led the country into an unnecessary and potentially disastrous war and shows no sign of recognizing that we are having serious problems resolving, let alone winning, it. There is no reason whatsoever to think he deserves to be re-elected or that keeping him as president will not lead to further war and further disaster.

His main rival for the White House is no improvement, unable to offer a clear and convincing answer as to what he would have done differently or what he will do better. Given his record and statements, it’s entirely possible that John Kerry would engage us in his own ill-conceived war in the same region, either deliberately or through incompetence.

My advice, suggested earlier, is to forget both candidates. If you think it’s your duty to vote, pick a “third party” ideological candidate—any one of them—and go for him. Otherwise, stay home and read a book. That’s a perfectly honorable and sensible choice, and it sends a message, if anyone wants to receive it.

As to who will win, that’s not very clear either, and that very fact may tell us something about the answer to the first question. The reason it’s not clear who will win is that an awful lot of Americans are having problems answering who should win, and what that means is that whoever does win will have little “mandate” from anyone.

Recently John Zogby, one of the nation’s leading pollsters, spoke to a group in Hong Kong about the election and who might win it, and what he said tells us much the same. Mr. Zogby leans to the Democrats, and that bias should be considered in evaluating what he said, but what he said is mainly of interest because of what he didn’t say.

Mr. Bush’s support in the polls, Mr. Zogby is reported to have said, has never risen above 48 percent, and approval of his performance as president, belief that he deserves to be re-elected, and belief that the country is going in the right direction all are negative.

These indicators are significant because of the “undecided vote,”which in recent weeks amounts to about 6 percent of the electorate. Mr. Zogby says that undecided voters tend to wind up voting for the challenger—as they did in 1980 for Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter. Also, a higher turnout is expected this year than previously, and that too is expected to favor the Democrats. Then there’s the youth vote, which is also heavily Democratic, and a high turnout of young voters, driven by anti-war sentiment and concern over jobs, would also help Mr. Kerry. On the whole, then, Mr. Zogby believes that the election is Mr. Kerry’s to lose.

It is not my point that Mr. Zogby’s analysis and prediction (if that’s what it is) are right or wrong. My point is that the reasons he offers are simply pollster’s reasons. They are essentially policy-wonk reasons or technical, number-crunching, inside-baseball reasons. There is virtually nothing in what he tells us that suggests a strong pattern or consensus as to who should win. And that is not a criticism of him. It’s simply what the trends in this election do tell us—not just Mr. Zogby but virtually everybody.

George W. Bush has been president now for four years, and he went into this race as the incumbent and as a war president, with no scandal and no economic disaster at hand. He should be winning by a landslide, but the blunt truth is that he is barely if at all edging his opponent and may still lose. And no one, with the exception of die-hard Republican partisans, seems to care very much whether he stays president or not.

If there is a pattern in this election, that’s it, and what it tells us is that Mr. Bush has totally failed to convince the country that his policies are the right policies or that he is the right leader to carry them out. He may in fact win the election, just as he won the last one, but if he is unable to win it any more convincingly than he seems to be doing, he will have lost it morally, and he will have no legitimate claim that the country is behind him or that what he wants to do abroad has enough popular support to sustain it through another term.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2004 Election 
🔊 Listen RSS

After nearly two years of bitter controversy about the role of neo-conservatives in dragging the country into a useless and apparently endless war in the Middle East, it has finally begun to dawn on some of the neo-cons’ liberal enemies that their critics on the right have been warning about them for years. In Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, New Republic editor Franklin Foer at last discovered the “paleo-conservatives.”

“Long before French protesters and liberal bloggers had even heard of the neoconservatives, the paleoconservatives were locked in mortal combat with them,” Mr. Foer writes. As one who carries wounds from such combats, I can testify that he’s right. In recent years, the role of neo-con policy makers like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and others in concocting phony reasons to make war on Iraq has become notorious — mainly because liberals themselves have talked about it in their own publications. The liberals should have listened to what we paleos were saying a long time ago. [Once Again, America First, By Franklin Foer, NYT, October 10, 2004]

Mr. Foer notes that the neo-cons’ response to paleo-conservative criticism “often accused the paleocons of anti-Semitism.” That’s true too, and today the standard neo-con claim is that the word “neo-con” is really only a code for “Jew” and the only people who use it critically are Jew-baiters.

The larger truth is that there has been a paleo-conservative critique of neo-conservatism for years, developed, as Mr. Foer notes, in such magazines as Chronicles and in the columns and books of such folks as Pat Buchanan, historian Paul Gottfried and yours truly.

The Jewish identity of many neo-conservatives probably plays an important role in what they think and why they think it, but for most paleos the problem with the neo-cons is not that they’re Jewish but that even today they’re liberals. Maybe that’s why so many liberals who don’t like the neo-cons won’t talk about the paleo-cons at all. If they did, they’d only call attention to their own flaws as well.

Neo-conservative liberalism is not confined to support for spreading democracy by force, in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, but also includes their sympathy for big government and mass immigration, among other liberal causes. As for the paleos, Mr. Foer seems to think their skepticism toward the Iraq war is rooted in opposition to the state. That’s partly true, but there are other reasons as well.

Paleos do not necessarily oppose war (or the state). They just oppose this war and this state — the war because it’s not in the interest of the nation, is not dictated by our security needs and serves to deflect and distract us from more dangerous enemies and threats; the state, because in the hands of liberals and neo-conservatives it has become an enemy of the real American nation, undermining its people and civilization and invading its freedoms.

Mr. Foer also keeps calling the paleos “isolationists.” That’s true of some but not all. “Isolationism” was mainly a 1930s slur word for Americans who opposed intervention in World War II. Most paleos sympathize with that cause, but few back then or today were or are against all intervention. There are times when intervention (including war) is necessary and just. The Cold War was one of them. The war with the Arabic world today isn’t.

Does paleo-conservatism have a future? Mr. Foer suggests it might. He notes that some establishment conservatives have finally come around to saying the Iraq war was a blunder. None is a paleo, and none will acknowledge that the paleo critics of the war were right all along. But if the paleos were right about the war, maybe they’re right about other matters too.

“It’s easy to imagine that a Bush loss in November, coupled with further failures in Iraq, could trigger a large-scale revolt against neoconservative foreign policy within the Republican Party,” Mr. Foer writes. “A Bush victory, on the other hand, will be interpreted by many Republicans as a vindication of the current course, and that could spur a revolt too. If the party tilts farther toward an activist foreign policy, antiwar conservatives might begin searching for a new political home.”

Actually, quite a few have already started searching, and they’re well advised to do so. A Bush victory would more likely mean their obliteration, since neo-conservative domination would be locked in. But even if Mr. Bush loses, it’s dubious very many Republicans would leap on the paleo bandwagon.

The paleocons have suffered from a bad press, some of it of their own making, but it’s likely that more rank and file American conservatives agree with them than with the neo-cons. If the paleos could learn how to play a little more effectively, they could still deal themselves a better hand in the future, even if it’s outside the GOP.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Classic, 2004 Election, Paleocons 
🔊 Listen RSS

After nearly a decade of obsession with and pandering to the Hispanic vote, the leaders of both major political parties are finally being told an unpleasant truth — the Hispanic vote is overrated. Last week William Frey, one of the country’s leading demographers and a major expert on immigration, unbosomed this lesson in an interview with The Washington Times. “The
Hispanic vote is going to be a lot less important than people think,” he says.

Whether it is or isn’t is a more important question than which party or candidate can or should pander to it the most. The belief that the Hispanic vote is critical to political victory was the main reason the Republican Party abandoned immigration control after the 1996 election. Its candidate that year, Bob Dole, won a mere 21 percent of the Hispanic bloc nationally, and the Open Borders crowd immediately blamed Republican support for immigration control as the reason.

That was dubious then and even more dubious now, but the GOP under Newt Gingrich dropped immigration control like a live hand grenade. Party strategists started yattering about how “the Hispanic strategy” would replace the “Southern strategy” as the road to party victory. George W. Bush himself spent much of the 2000 campaign yattering in Spanish, in the belief it would win Hispanic support.

In fact, though Mr. Bush’s Hispanic support was a bit better than Mr. Dole’s, Al Gore walked off with an overwhelming 65 percent of Hispanics. That has not stopped Republicans from continuing to pander. This year we have had Mr. Bush’s amnesty plan for illegal aliens and yet more yattering in Spanish. It still doesn’t help. Polls show a strong preference for John Kerry among Hispanics, who is no sluggard himself when it comes to pandering.

But what Mr. Frey is telling them is that it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s true that thanks to mass immigration the Hispanic electorate has swelled to some 7 million voters, but the numbers need to be qualified.

Mr. Frey notes that “One-third of Hispanics are below voting age, and another quarter are not citizens. Thus, for every 100 Hispanics, only 40 are eligible to vote, 23 are likely to register, and just 18 are likely to cast ballots. For blacks the comparable number is 37, and for whites, nearly 50.”

In some states, like New Mexico, Mr. Frey acknowledges that Hispanic voters may be critical. Hispanics make up 29 percent of the state’s total population and may well swing it in November. But in other states like Arizona and Nevada, they’re simply not that important. “In both of those states, a disproportionate number of those Hispanics are not registered or not voting,” Mr. Frey says. Hispanics make up only an estimated 12 percent of Arizona’s voters and 10 percent of Nevada’s.

So what groups will determine the election? It’s very simple, says Mr. Frey. “This race will be determined primarily by white voters.”

White voters make up 86 percent of all voters in the most competitive states, and “This election is going to be won in the Midwest, largely white, battleground states.”

If that’s true, does it carry implications for Republican political strategy? To put it bluntly: Yes.

If the Hispanic vote were really as critical to national political success as the myth claims, immigration control would indeed be a political loser (assuming all Hispanics favor immigration, which is by no means entirely true). No serious politician would support reducing immigration or controlling the borders if those positions meant defeat, and that’s precisely what the Open Borders crowd harped on in the past.

But if the Hispanic vote is not so important and the white vote is, then the party’s strategy needs to adjust to that reality. It needs to think hard about how to win and keep the white vote — far more than it does now.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the white vote—- but only by 54 percent. In 1972 and 1984 Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan won a whopping 67 and 64 percent respectively — support that translated into a national landslide. In the 1990s, weaker candidates like George Bush Sr. and Mr. Dole carried only 40 and 46 percent of whites — which translated into defeat.

The boondoggle that the current President Bush created with his foolish amnesty plan for illegals ought to tell him all he needs to know about the politics of immigration. If he wants to win the election, he needs to forget the Hispanics and worry about the white voters who put him in office in the first place.

And if he wants to win and keep the white vote, he needs to forget about amnesty and the idiocies the Open Borders lobby tells him and start doing something to control mass immigration.

Copyright © 2008 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: 2004 Election 
🔊 Listen RSS

Does it make any difference who wins the presidential election?

Both major candidates are so close to each other on so many major issues—immigration, trade, even foreign policy—that it’s very hard to tell, and many conservatives who usually vote Republican are asking why they should vote for President Bush at all.

One reason they should, according to conservatives who disagree with them, is the Supreme Court. Whoever wins the White House will almost certainly appoint some new Supreme Court justices over the next four years, because the current crop is getting so decrepit they won’t be able to swing their gavels much longer.

But one reason you shouldn’t cast a vote for President Bush based on who you might imagine he would appoint to the court is offered by Georgetown University law professor Mark Tushnet in the current issue of Legal Affairs. Quite simply, the reason is that Mr. Bush’s appointees would not be very different form John Kerry’s.

“A justice nominated by George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate will be somewhat more conservative than a justice nominated by John Kerry and confirmed by the Senate,”Professor Tushnet writes. “Beyond that, there’s not much to say. The differences are going to be smaller than partisans on either side expect, and calculations that we can’t foresee will affect the politics of nomination and confirmation.” [Dull and Duller,September 2004]

Certainly the track record of the Republican Party over the years supports the professor’s view—maybe. We have what conservatives regard as a constitutional crisis in this country mainly because of the Republicans themselves.

Earl Warren, William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens,Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter and Anthony Kennedy were all Republican appointees. Not one is a reliable conservative, and some have earned themselves niches in the pantheon of liberalism and the annals of constitution-wrecking.

It’s perfectly true that reasonably conservative justices like the incumbent chief William Rehnquist and really consistent conservatives like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have been Republican appointees. But Mr. Bush’s own record so far is not so philosophically pure as to give any good reason for thinking he would appoint more like them.

Nor is it clear that even if he did appoint them they could be confirmed.

Professor Tushnet notes an interesting pattern from the recent history of Republican court nominees. Given the internal politics of the Republican Party, almost any judge the party nominates to the court will have to be against Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that overturned all state laws against abortion, and take a pro-life position.

“And being against Roe v. Wade is close to a death knell for a Republican nominee,” he writes. Clarence Thomas tried to claim in his own confirmation hearings that he had never debated the decision, but nobody believed him. Being pro-life is the major position the Republicans have to support in the politics of the Supreme Court, and being pro-abortion is the major position the Democrats have to support on the other side.

What that means is that the Democrats will savage any anti-abortion nominee the White House gives them, and it’s not clear that all Republicans will support him. The Democrats were able to sink the nomination of Robert Bork to the court by sheer vilification, and nothing the Republicans did could get him through.

Nor do Republicans always fight the justices the Democrats nominate. When President Clinton seemed about to nominate former liberal Democratic Sen. George Mitchell to the court, he was endorsed even before the appointment was made—by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. It’s just as well Mr. Mitchell was never nominated.

The blunt truth is that, aside from the anti-abortion forces, there just isn’t any constituency inside the Republican Party that is so strongly committed to a serious conservative vision of the Constitution to guarantee that a Republican administration will appoint a nominee who shares such a vision. Who they do appoint is determined by politics.

That’s exactly why President Eisenhower gave us Earl Warren (a payoff for his support in the 1952 GOP convention) and William Brennan (to pander to the Irish Catholic vote).

It’s why even Ronald Reagan gave us Sandra Day O’Connor (to cater to feminism).

I leave it to the conservative imagination to think of what would motivate George W. Bush in his appointments.

Professor Tushnet may be right that a justice appointed by President Bush would be “somewhat more conservative” than one named by John Kerry, but then again he might well be wrong.

The truth is that a Bush appointee might be far, far to the left of anyone Mr. Kerry could expect to get through the Senate.

Vote for Mr. Bush if you will, but don’t bet your ballot on what will happen to the Supreme Court if you do.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2004 Election, Supreme Court 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”