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Jewish World Review March 13, 2000 /6 Adar II, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Deifying of the center


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 be George.


JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

03/08/00: The media, the establishment and the people
03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?

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