Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review July 13, 1999 /29 Tamuz 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Tony Snow
Michael Barone
Dave Barry
Kathleen Parker
Dr. Laura
Michael Kelly
Bob Greene
Michelle Malkin
Paul Greenberg
David Limbaugh
David Corn
Marianne Jennings
Sam Schulman
Philip Weiss
Mort Zuckerman
Richard Chesnoff
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg


Sen. Bob Smith's revolt --
THE DECISION BY SEN. BOB SMITH (R-N.H.) to bolt the Republican Party because it is not ideologically pure enough for him continues a trend that will not only hurt the party but ultimately frustrate Smith's objective of advancing the causes for which he has courageously stood.

Politics isn't religion, in which appeals to theological purity at least have some basis. As one of the dictionary definitions says, politics is about "political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices."

Smith and some of his fellow social conservatives are asking too much of politics. At a time when many are worshiping the golden calf of the Dow Jones Industrial Averages, Smith wants politicians to pay attention to the nonmaterial things of the spirit. It's difficult to stop an orgy of materialism and self-indulgence with a sermon from politicians urging sexual purity and help for the poor.

The arguments by those disaffected with the Republican Party go something like this: By "compromising" (which the Republican leadership says it hasn't done on key issues such as abortion and tax relief), the party's "base" will either stay home or vote for a third-party candidate. But the battle is for the mushy middle and always has been. If 40 percent always vote Democrat and 40 percent always vote Republican, then the struggle is for the middle 20 percent. The middle is not swayed, and can easily be switched to vote for either party, if the purists are painted as extremists (which they always are). Isn't that what Republicans did to liberal "purists" George McGovern in 1972, Walter Mondale in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988?

The response to that argument then becomes, "yes, but the Republican base is bigger than the middle 20 percent, and if you turn off the base, it doesn't matter where the mushy middle goes because the party will lose anyway." This, then, is a problem for the base, which misunderstands the incremental and not-always-getting-your-way nature of politics.

The stakes in the 2000 election are too high for internal bickering. We saw what happened in 1992 and 1996 when Bill Clinton was handed the presidency thanks to Ross Perot. Some Republicans might not have liked Bob Dole's squishy position on many issues, but does anyone argue that social conservatism is advancing more under Bill and Hillary Clinton than it would have under a President Dole?

Let's not hear any more about the supposed "glory days" of Ronald Reagan. Two of his Supreme Court appointments -- Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy -- have frustrated social conservatives on abortion and certain religious-liberty issues. Yes, they got Antonin Scalia, but a Republican nomination to the Supreme Court is always a roll of the dice.

Since the Republican Party was created out of the ashes of the Whig Party, no third party has risen to national power or prominence. Teddy Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" party, the States Rights segregationist party, George Wallace's American Party and Ross Perot's Reform Party have had the effect of dividing the vote and, in most cases (much of the Wallace vote eventually went to Richard Nixon), handing elections to those who oppose their policies more vehemently than the party from which they separated themselves.

If Bob Smith leads another party, and especially if he is joined by other social conservatives, the effect could be the same as it was in 1992 and 1996: votes will be taken from the GOP, which will ensure the election of a liberal Democrat president, whose social, economic and environmental policies will be a disaster for the country and curtains for all of the issues they care about. And that president will name liberal justices to the Supreme Court who will doom any curtailment of abortion and the gay rights movement for decades to come. Is that a price worth paying for "ideological purity"? The "Great Pumpkin" strategy of having faith in an impossibility doesn't work for Linus in the pumpkin patch. It won't work in politics, either.


07/09/99:Clinton has wrong answers on poverty tour
07/07/99:To tell the truth
06/29/99: A family to value
06/25/99: Remembering Eric Liddell
06/21/99: In the culture wars it's G-d vs. guns
06/18/99: Unequal justice under a bad law
06/15/99: Speaker Hastert wants reinforcements
06/11/99: Clues for the clueless
06/09/99: Victory? What victory?
06/07/99: Too good for prime time
06/03/99:The Creator and Commencement
05/28/99: The Cox Committee Report
05/26/99: 'A turning point for our country'
05/24/99: Barak is not Israel's savior
05/19/99: It takes a leader
05/17/99: Questions for Gov. Bush and the others
05/12/99: OAF-ish behavior explains U.S. mistakes
05/07/99: Israel's high-stakes election
05/04/99: Jeb Bush chooses to save kids, not institutions
04/26/99: Surrendering our civilization
04/26/99: War abroad, war at home

©1999, LA TimesSyndicate