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Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2002 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Robert W. Tracinski

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The election we deserve | As of the writing of this column, it is mid-day on Nov. 5, and the exit polls have not even begun to predict how today's elections will end. It might seem like a bad time to make predictions, given that this is considered one of the tightest congressional contests in years, with control of both the House and Senate at stake and the results dependent on more than a dozen close races across the country.

Yet I can confidently state my prediction: neither side will win.

If the Democrats keep control of the Senate and possibly even gain a majority in the House, they won't win much. They are fighting, not to achieve an agenda, but to avoid political oblivion. Currently, they control nothing on the national level but one branch of the legislature, and if they lose that, they can no longer block the appointment of conservative judges to the federal bench -- or to the Supreme Court. The left faces the prospect of being shut out of power.

But a Democratic win is a Pyrrhic victory, because Democrats have not campaigned for any substantive agenda. The two biggest issues facing the nation are the war and the economy. On both issues, the Democratic Party's official line has been to criticize the administration, while offering no new ideas or alternative policies of their own.

On the war, Democrats in difficult races have largely rushed to declare their support for an invasion of Iraq, while carping endlessly on the details: on whether America has enough support from her allies, on what kind of regime we will support after the war, on whether an Iraq invasion will interfere in some unspecified way with the other unspecified actions we are taking in the War on Terrorism. Note that these Democrats are not brimming with alternative suggestions: they are not making their own appeal to rouse our recalcitrant allies; they are not pushing for Senate hearings on a post-invasion Iraq; they are not suggesting that some other terrorist-sponsoring regime -- such as Iran -- really ought to be attacked first. They are content to let the administration take the lead, while they add nothing but complaints.

The same thing goes for the economy. The Democrats declare that Bush has "failed" in his leadership. Yet the Democrats in those races most likely to tip the balance of the House and Senate mostly support Bush's tax cut. Most Democratic economic proposals are marginal, temporary increases in certain kinds of uncontroversial welfare, like unemployment benefits.

The Democrats can't win a mandate for their agenda, because they have advanced no agenda.

But what is the Republican agenda? When it comes to fighting terrorism, what have the Republicans really done? They have supported President Bush, who has held up the nation's war effort for months while our Arab "allies" betray us and the U.N. Security Council natters, all so he can send inspectors back to Iraq to pursue a failed old strategy. Some unilateralist. And on the economy? The Republicans couldn't pass new anti-corporate regulations fast enough, they have dropped all talk of privatizing Social Security, and they have conscientiously me-tooed the Democrats on a government takeover of prescription drug coverage.

Oh, but of course, there is the burning issue of creating a Department of Homeland Security, legislation that hinges on . . . federal employees' union work rules. Wake me up when the election is over.

There are those who might argue that the voters themselves are divided, confused. I agree. Consider, for example, a recent poll that shows support for war against Iraq has dropped 10 percentage points to a narrow majority during the past two months of inaction. Many people are deeply uncertain on this issue. When the president speaks and makes his argument, he wins their support; when he stops speaking and lets others carp, he loses it. The same is true on many other domestic issues. The people do not know exactly what they want.

But this is precisely when we need real leaders who can present a new policy and make a clear case to the public. Instead, our political parties have pandered to the public's indecision, following every waver of the swing voters. Afraid that taking a stand will cause them to lose support, they have forgotten that taking a stand is the only way to win the people's support. So they will get what they deserve: an uncertain, indecisive election outcome.

Too bad we didn't get what we deserve: a race that would really mean something.

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10/31/02: The rush from judgment
10/23/02: The grand illusion
10/17/02: Loose lips in the pressroom
10/10/02: Permission to speak
10/03/02: The bear market makes the case for privatizing social security
09/27/02: Enron vs. Atlas Shrugged
09/19/02: Bush loses the war, again
09/11/02: What have we lost?
09/05/02: The case for "destabilization"
08/29/02: "Sustainable" development's unsustainable contradictions
08/22/02: The photographing of public art and architecture has apparently been deemed a threat to the Republic
08/14/02: Talk vs. ideas
08/12/02: Blood for oil
08/06/02: The welfare debate we're not having
07/30/02: Newsflash: Hauling CEOs away in manacles makes market soar!
07/23/02: Clearing the way for real airport security
07/16/02: The war on CEOs
07/09/02: Small-time crooks
06/27/02: Martha and the tall poppies
06/21/02: The post-colonialist famine
06/12/02: America's Maginot Line
06/07/02: Time's up for Pakistan
05/28/02: Freedom's defenders
05/22/02: What they knew and when they knew it
05/16/02: The mixed-economy monster
05/08/02: Conference in Cloud Cuckoo Land
04/25/02: The 'Palestinian" victims?
04/18/02: Why Israel must not withdraw
04/09/02: LIVE FROM RAMALLAH: The Theater of the Absurd
03/26/02: Campaign finance corruption
03/21/02: Who is George Bush?
03/14/02: The prophets of defeatism
02/21/02: The war on terrorism and the war on reality
02/14/02: Multilateralism's one-way street
02/05/02: The Powell Problem
01/29/02: A profligate and irresponsible distortion of congressional priorities
01/22/02: Liberal conspiracy theories
01/15/02: Fading shock and fading resolve
01/08/02: Argentina's intellectual collapse
12/31/02: The real person of the year
12/26/01: With friends like us ...
12/19/01: Ending the "peace process war"
12/11/01: The ruthless grip of logic
12/04/01: War powers without war
11/27/01: An Afghanistan Thanksgiving
11/20/01: The end of the beginning
11/06/01: The phony war
10/30/01: A war against Islam
10/23/01: The economics of war
10/16/01: A culture of death
10/11/01: An empire of ideals
10/01/01: Why they hate us
09/24/01: The lessons of war
09/20/01: What a real war looks like
09/17/01: America's war song
09/12/01: It is worse than Pearl Harbor
09/11/01: Out of the fire and back into the frying pan
09/05/01: The UN Conference of Racists
08/28/01: Waging war on profits and lives
08/20/01: The Bizarro-World War
08/08/01: The death toll of environmentalism
07/31/01: Where does America stand?
07/25/01: Barbarians at the G8
07/17/01: The carrot and the carrot
07/11/01: The real Brave New World
07/03/01: The child-manipulators
06/19/01: The scientist trap
06/11/01: The National Academy of Dubious Science