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Jewish World Review August 23, 2000 / 22 Menachem-Av, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Consumer Reports

Al Gore's trickle-down populism -- HAS THE BUSH CAMPAIGN been crippled by the Gore freight train? I think not, but Gore's temporary convention bounce should serve as a wake-up call and an antidote for overconfidence for the Bush camp.

Last week's events in Los Angeles were very odd, to say the least. Granted, people have short memories, but, regarding the Democrat convention, we're talking wholesale amnesia. Throughout the week leading up to the main event analysts were almost unanimous in declaring the convention a flop -- especially when compared with the nearly flawless Republican one a few weeks earlier. Then Gore gave his speech.

My reaction was that it was an insultingly populist rant. Surely not that many people are going to fall for this, I thought to myself. I noticed that most talking heads were initially unimpressed as well.

The first post-convention polls revealed no significant bump for Gore. Then, things started to change. New polls showed an astronomical bounce for Gore. One pre-convention poll had Bush ahead by 16 points. Afterwards, another one had him behind by 6, representing a 22-point swing. That's amazing, particularly for such a lackluster convention.

As the polls evolved, so did many pundits' opinions -- retroactively, no less. They wanted us to believe that they had adjudged Gore's speech effective all along. They said Gore needed to hit a home run, and he did. What an insult to Mark McGwire.

I've read some of the poll analyses, and they strike me as unintelligible. They say that Gore finally carved out his own niche by distancing himself from Clinton and emerging as his own man. I'm not buying it. That's way too sophisticated an analysis.

The commentators' initial reaction (the negative one) was that Gore made a mistake by appealing to the Old Guard, the extreme left wing of the party. They said that as much as he needed to break away from Clinton in certain areas, i.e., integrity, he should have emphasized centrist, New Democrat themes to reach swing voters.

Without question, Gore blew off the center and went straight for his liberal base, but when we focus on this New vs. Old Democrat distinction I believe we're missing the boat.

On closer inspection, Gore did not stray far from the Clinton reservation. Forget the New Democrat thing. Clinton's political magic has never been in the substance of his policy proposals, but in marketing himself and the issues. The issues themselves have always been secondary. The common denominator between Clinton's campaigns and the new Gore campaign is the class-warfare theme. Clinton-Gore called it trickle-down economics. Gore-Lieberman are calling it the powerful versus the people. It's the same old divisive tune, and it works.

Democrats were using this strategy way before Clinton, but Clinton and Gore have taken it to a new level. It used to be a device mainly geared to campaigns. Now it is also a credo for governance. That's the scariest thing about the Clinton-Gore legacy and the most compelling reason that Gore must be defeated. America simply cannot long survive as a republic -- at least not as a great one -- with this relentless pitting of people against people. It is a guaranteed formula to complete our transformation from a harmonious melting pot to a balkanized nanny state.

Because swing voters are politically impressionable, Bush is going to have to do some educating. He should continue to stress themes of freedom and self-reliance (with a touch of compassion -- "every willing heart") because he's never going to out-promise Santa Gore.

The campaign is going to get dirty, and the media will mainly blame Bush. Gore will continue to tell his tall tales and trumpet polarizing themes. The further behind he falls -- he'll revert to being behind when his "bounce" settles -- the nastier he will become. When Bush calls him on it (because the "watchdog" media won't) he will be characterized as the one who drew first blood. Bush is just going to have to deal with it. The alternative would be to let the misrepresentations go unchecked.

One thing the major poll shifts do show is that neither candidate's support is very deep at this point, so the election will probably go down to the wire. As long as Bush stays the course and doesn't allow himself to be unduly ruffled by Gore's tactics and the media's inevitably uncritical portrayal of them, he should win quite handily in November.

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.



08/21/00: Prosperity without a clue
08/16/00: AlGore can run but he can't hide
08/14/00: When hate speech is OK
08/09/00: Bush: The pundits' enigma
08/07/00: GOP convention: Live or Memorex?
08/02/00: The first attack dog
07/31/00: The Cheney taint?
07/26/00: The anti-gun bogeyman
07/24/00: The raging culture war
07/19/00: Is Hillary 'Good for the Jews'?
07/17/00: How dare you, George?
07/12/00: Jacoby's raw deal
07/10/00: The perplexities of liberalism
07/05/00: Big Al and big oil
07/03/00: Partial-birth and total death
06/28/00: Some questions for you, Mr. Gore
06/26/00: Supreme Court assaults religious freedom
06/21/00: Waco: We are the jury
06/19/00: "Outrage" just doesn't quite cut it anymore!
06/14/00: Al Gore: Government's best friend
06/12/00: Say goodbye to medical privacy
06/07/00: Elian: Whose hands were tied?
06/05/00: Who, which, what is the real Al Gore?
06/01/00: Legacy-building idea for Clinton
05/30/00: Clinton: Above the law or not?
05/24/00: Not so fast, Hillary
05/22/00: Gore's risky, fear-mongering schemes
05/17/00: Can Bush risk pro-choice running mate?
05/15/00: Right to privacy, Clinton-style
05/10/00: Patrick Kennedy and his suit-happy fiddlers
05/08/00: Don't shoot Eddie Eagle
05/03/00: Congress caves to Clinton, again?
05/01/00: The resurrection of outrage
04/28/00: A picture of Bill Clinton's America
04/19/00: President Clinton: Teaching children responsibility
04/17/00: Elian, Marx and parental rights
04/12/00: Elian, freedom deserve a hearing
04/10/00:The fraying of America
04/05/00: Noonan: End Clintonism now
04/03/00: Bush: On going for the gold
03/29/00: Phantasma-Gore-ia
03/27/00: Treaties, triggers, tobacco and tyrants
03/22/00: Media to Bush: Go left, young man
03/20/00: Stop the insanity
03/15/00: OK Al Gore: Let's go negative
03/13/00: Deifying of the center
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?