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Jewish World Review July 20, 1999 /7 Av, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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What's politics all about? --
AS SOMEONE who has often been disappointed with Republicans, I can certainly understand the decision of Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent. Basically, he seems to be disgusted that the party has not supported the conservative positions which he believes in -- and which they claim to believe in, until it is time to vote.

Senator Smith's decision raises some very fundamental questions about the nature of politics in general. What is politics supposed to accomplish? Or is it supposed to accomplish anything beyond getting votes, on the one hand, or making symbolic statements on the other? And is making symbolic statements more important than getting votes?

What really seems to stick in Senator Smith's craw is the way the Republicans are tip-toeing around the explosive abortion issue. He speaks about the millions of unborn babies being killed while the Republican Party platform on this subject is honored more in the breach than otherwise.

Whatever you may think about abortion, it is an issue that shows no sign whatever of being resolved politically any time soon. Those who are "pro-life," like Senator Smith, often analogize the crusade against abortion to the 19th century moral crusade against slavery.

It is a shame that they do not study more of the history of that earlier crusade. It might suggest to them that they are going about their own crusade today all wrong, if their purpose is to reduce or end abortions, rather than to make ringing symbolic statements that will not save one baby's life.

The Republican Party faced a very similar internal division over slavery when it was founded in the middle of the 19th century. Many thought that William Seward would be its first nominee for president. However, people from Abraham Lincoln's camp spread the word that Seward was too "extreme" on slavery and that his election would split the country.

Accordingly, the Republicans turned toward Lincoln, who was considered more "moderate" on the issue -- being opposed to slavery but unwilling to split the country over it. We all know what actually happened. It was the more "moderate" Lincoln who in fact accomplished what the abolitionists had been talking about in vain for decades.

Would Senator Smith have supported Seward, risking losing the election and leaving a whole generation of blacks to continue suffering in slavery? Is making a statement really worth that?

To me, drunk driving is a bigger menace than high taxes. But I would vote for someone who would cut taxes, while I would be very unlikely to vote for someone who promised to end drunk driving. Why? Because no politician can end drunk driving -- at least not within my lifetime.

If Texas Governor George W. Bush's poll numbers mean anything, the Republicans have an opportunity to reclaim the White House and a good shot of retaining both Houses of Congress. Moreover, the next president of the United States has an excellent chance of appointing three new Supreme Court justices, at a time when our whole legal system is precariously balanced between those take the constitution seriously and those who treat it as a plaything for trial lawyers and headstrong judges.

Any hope of cutting taxes or giving poor children an opportunity to escape disastrous public schools depends on having someone in the White House who will not veto such legislation. Instead of seizing this golden opportunity, which might not return for another generation, Republicans now seem to think that they have the luxury of fighting among themselves.

In New York, Republicans there may produce a third-party candidate who would split the conservative vote, thereby putting Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate -- perhaps even shifting the Senate to the Democrats, and with it the power to confirm or not confirm Supreme Court nominees. That could be a much bigger disaster than Senator Smith's defection.

Rather than have bitter internal fights over the party platform plank on abortion every four years, perhaps the Republicans should let their presidential candidate have his own platform, expressed in his own words. If Congressional Republicans want to have a different plank -- or no platform at all -- that would not be the end of the world.

It might even be the best of a bad lot of choices.


07/16/99: Politically incorrect heroism
07/12/99: Cutting edge California retreats to old, failed ideas
07/07/99: A quagmire and a vision
07/02/99: The Fourth of July
06/29/99: "Urban sprawl" and liberal gall
06/18/99: A famous victory
06/14/99: A victory in Chicago
06/10/99: Mass shootings and mass hysteria
06/08/99: The other side of affirmative action
06/03/99: Childish labor laws
06/01/99: Demonizing for dollars
05/27/99: The real public service
05/24/99: Income, taxes and demagoguery
05/18/99: Random thoughts
05/14/99: Aborted knowledge
05/10/99: The new "fairness"
05/04/99: Holding parents responsible
05/03/99: Exit strategies
04/28/99: Tragedy and farce
04/26/99: Guilt and cop-outs
04/21/99: Choosing a college
04/16/99: When success fails
04/13/99: A photo-op foreign policy
04/09/99: Russia and the Serbs
04/06/99: Random thoughts
03/31/99: Irresponsible "experts"
03/29/99: Another Doleful prospect?
03/23/99: Random thoughts
03/22/99: Loving enemies
03/19/99: Naming names
03/15/99: Undermining the military
03/10/99: Joe DiMaggio -- icon of an era
03/02/99: Facts versus dogma on guns
03/01/99: Losing the cultural wars
02/22/99: "Saving" social security
02/18/99: Too many Ph.Ds?
02/8/99: A national disaster
02/8/99: Economic fallacies in the media: Part II
02/5/99: Why economists visit dentists so often
02/2/99: Warning: Good news
01/29/99: What is at stake?
01/26/99:Moral bankruptcy in the schools
01/22/99: Who is going to convict Santa Claus?
01/19/99: Seeing through the spin
01/13/99: A trial is a trial is a trial
01/11/99:Trials and tribulations
01/08/99: Rays of hope
01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1999, Creators Syndicate