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New Parties, New America

Monday, 11 November 2002 12:00 AM

Only four presidents before him – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan – possessed the vision and skill to fundamentally reorder the political forces of their time and, in the process, the character and course of this nation.

Score an assist by Bill and Hillary Clinton, whose relentless betrayal and desecration has forced the Democratic Party today to lie in shambles approaching devastation.

It is now being asserted by Democratic apologists that the reason the party of the Clintons lost so badly in the Nov. 5 midterm congressional elections was lack of a clearly focused, energetically-articulated message.

Nonsense. How much more loud and clear could it have been?

The Clintons, in and out of office, made it abundantly manifest what they have stood for in public and private life: no behavior too shameful, no lie too large, no arrogance too lofty, no theft too petty, no expenditure too profligate, no tax too gross, no chutzpah too unseemly, no avarice too insatiable, no ideology too radical.

Make no mistake. This national Democratic Party that flopped on Nov. 5, 2002, owed its body and soul to the Clintons. They made it what it was. They called every crucial shot. Their paw prints were all over it.

After a decade of the Clintons in their face day and night on television and in the flesh, the electorate – which can at times be maddeningly slow to nauseate – at last got the message. Around to make certain everyone who didn’t get it right away did get it eventually were,

Terry McAuliffe, Alec Baldwin, Tom Daschle, Jesse Jackson, Barbara Boxer, Judy Woodruff, Patrick Leahy, Barbra Streisand, Tom Brokaw, Cynthia McKinney, Dan Rather, Al Sharpton, Al Hunt, Maxine Waters, James Carville and the New York Times, as well as, sad to say, Paul Wellstone.

Individually and cumulatively, those worthies undeniably turned on millions of sympathetic voters. They also obviously helped to turn off many millions more, who then turned out on Liberation Tuesday to have their quiet say in the polling booth.

What it added up to is this: Not enough Americans on that election day performed as they were told they would perform. Score yet another embarrassing flatulence by pollsters and wise-owl prognosticators.

The roads to the polls are strewn with corpses of Democratic candidacies that succumbed to the Curse of the Clintons.

Walter Mondale was the best his party had to offer in a pinch, the closest thing to its revered national icon. It just didn’t wash.

This political anesthesiologist, done in by fellow Minnesotans who gagged at the shocking exploitation by leftist radicals at the memorial service for the senator who Mondale was asked to replace, may now return to ice fishing and contemplate his folly.

The Democrats’ incredible shrinking Tom Daschle – now their ex-Senate plurality leader (he never had a majority of Democratic senators to lead anywhere) – still has a parking slot on Capitol Hill, and that’s about all.

He, who once entertained presidential fantasies, is instead fast fading back into obscurity of the Badlands of South Dakota, there to become an inconsequential asterisk of history.

Jeb Bush will remain governor of Florida, despite desperate efforts funded extravagantly from out of state to dislodge him by embittered has-beens such as Clinton and a former vice president whose name doesn’t come to mind at the moment.

The first impulse is to gloat over the leftist radicals’ well-deserved misfortunes. Good as it feels, that’s no way to behave, probably not even in a personal-opinion column such as this, certainly not by Republicans who wish to remain in office.

President Bush and Norm Coleman, who defeated Mondale, did exactly the right thing. They didn't rub salt in the losers’ wounds, graciously extending the hand of friendship and cooperation.

Bush acted almost as if the election never occurred. The next morning, he was tending to business, getting things done, looking to the future.

Here’s why it’s so important to be magnanimous in victory, though admittedly difficult:

There aren’t enough Republicans to win in most elections. Republicans who are victorious almost always have to attract allies from the ranks of Independents and Democrats.

As a Wall Street Journal post-election editorial noted: (1) It takes more than a program and campaign that pumps up the adrenalin of the party’s conservative core and (2) at the same time, the GOP can’t win by accommodating non-Republicans to the extent of alienating the party’s base.

The winning formula lies somewhere between those two poles.

Bush clearly has found the correct compass heading. He did it by giving all Americans, regardless of party affiliation or ideological bent, a dose of old-fashioned America-first principles.

Believe it or not, those do work. Most Americans – surely not all – really do have their own personal value compasses pointing in that direction.

They recognized their own values in Bush. That, along with his obvious sincerity and decency and good humor, is what attracted them to his side.

Do Americans not care about policy issues? Of course they care, but not about details to the ridiculous extent that occupies the blinkered policy wonks in both parties.

What they do care about above all else is what they sought and found – with strong jostling from Clintons & Co. – in their new president, for whom many of them did not vote in 2000.

This is the way you rebuild political parties in this country. This is how you win elections, how you propound policies and programs to implement those policies.

And if you hold fast to those values, this is how you transform the course of this nation for years to come.

Washington did it in setting 13 diverse American colonies on course as the United States of America.

Lincoln did it in solidifying the Union while abolishing the blight of slavery.

FDR did it in staving off domestic revolution and saving capitalism, at the same time rallying a stunned nation in mortal combat with international fascism.

Reagan did it by revealing a vision of the shining city on a hill, while leading his nation through the valley of the shadow of nuclear annihilation and into the sunshine of triumph over the Evil Empire of Communism.

Each one of those presidents risked the nation’s security to assure its future, and in so doing fundamentally realigned the political party they led and transformed the nation’s course.

This is the humbling task facing George W. Bush today, but he has America with him. Dan Rather meant it as no compliment, but he called this election right when he said it was "the Bushification of America.”

The president’s challenge was actually made less onerous by the leftist radicals’ selection of one of their number, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, to lead them in the House of Representatives.

She’s no fool, and demonstrably able, and there are even those who say she has what it takes to weave together a commanding coalition of Democrats in the House. The job is beyond her; the crazies are too solidly in control of what’s left of the Democratic Party.

Bush’s task would be considerably stiffer had the Democrats chosen a newcomer, such as young Rep. Harold Ford of Memphis. In addition to being African-American, he has the political savvy to know that Pelosi's road leads only to his party's oblivion.

The magic Bush will have to perform is simple to state, exhausting to master. He must:

If Bush plays his role well, he can reorder the Republican Party to be the nation’s largest and strongest political party. The Democratic Party will then undergo its own reordering, which may take years of minority-party status.

Can Bush do this by eroding the conservative values around which a national Republican Party must be structured? Never.

What Bush can do – and he has already shown he is so good at this – is to state those values in the context of their historic language, the language that was written into the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

That is, after all, how America came to be, how it has prospered all these years and how it will survive and triumph.

This is what most Americans believe and what they want to hear, and George W. Bush can give it to them in language they understand, as can no one else on the national scene.

This nation is crying out for leadership of that stature. Americans said so on Nov. 5, 2002. They have lifted this president to his place in history.

What an exciting time to be alive in America!

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Only four presidents before him - George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan - possessed the vision and skill to fundamentally reorder the political forces of their time and, in the process, the character and course of this nation. Score an...
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Monday, 11 November 2002 12:00 AM
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