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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 1998 /15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Will the Republicans ever learn?

THE FOOTBALL GAME IS IN THE FOURTH QUARTER and the two-minute warning has just sounded. The Republicans have the ball, first and goal on the one. How would you bet?

Save your money. It is too close to call.

The ability of the Republicans to throw away golden opportunities should never be under-estimated, as last Tuesday's election showed. The big question now is: Will this pattern be repeated in the elections in the year 2000?

As noted in this column last spring, the Republicans' strategy this year has been the same as the strategy used by Thomas E. Dewey in his 1948 campaign against Harry Truman -- rely on being ahead in the polls and coast into the election without making any waves. Now that the election results are in, it is obvious that this strategy doesn't work any better now than it did 50 years ago.

Sometimes caution is the most dangerous policy. If this election teaches the Republicans that, it can be a valuable lesson for the election in 2000.

While the Republicans in Congress have been too clever by half, the Republican governors have been a lot more outspoken -- and a lot more successful on election night. Perhaps one of them will provide the leadership that is so lacking among the Congressional Republicans. Or maybe Steve Forbes will be more successful in his second time around as a presidential candidate.

What makes the Congressional Republicans' electoral performance especially dreary is that they and the public are on the same side of a number of major issues and concerns. But no one will know it if you don't say so.

The voters in Washington state have now joined the voters of California in rejecting group preferences and quotas. So do the Congressional Republicans --- but in a whisper and acting like they are tip-toeing through the tulips.

Their great fear, of course, is offending minorities and those whites who will regard a vote against "affirmative action" as racist. Yet, as regards the minority vote, no one has less to lose and more to gain than the Republicans.

If the Republicans want to increase their share of the black vote, for example, they cannot do it the way the Democrats do it. Republicans have to offer something that the Democrats cannot offer.

The most obvious example is school vouchers. Blacks are the biggest supporters of school vouchers of any group in American society -- and the Democrats cannot possibly support vouchers because they are too dependent on millions of dollars from the National Education Association.

With both minorities and women, education is an important issue that presents a golden opportunity to gather new supporters from groups now supporting the Democrats. But you cannot do it with silence or with wimpish and half-hearted gestures.

Nothing is more certain than the opposition of the National Education Association to Republican candidates in the next election. But the Republicans have two years in which to attack the NEA and discredit their arguments. The alternative is to wait quietly until the NEA attacks in 2000 and then respond defensively.

Too many people in the public and in the media have the idea that being pro-education means pouring more billions of dollars down a bottomless pit to support the existing educational establishment. They will continue to believe that as long as no one says anything to the contrary.

The case has to be made that making dumbed-down education more expensive is not the answer -- and that it is precisely the existing public school establishment, including the NEA, that has been dumbing down our children's education for years. Put them on the defensive, for a change. Make the NEA explain why parents cannot be trusted with choices.

Crime is another issue where the arguments are all on the Republicans' side, if only the Republicans would make the arguments. Liberal Democrats who go easy on criminals get away with it by distracting attention with crack-downs on law-abiding citizens who own guns. Say so. Say it loud and often.

Whatever the issue, explaining the issue is crucial. The Republicans' biggest political defeat -- the government shutdown crisis of 1995 -- came from not bothering to explain the issues in plain English, instead of in Beltway jargon. Maybe what the Republicans most need is a course on English as a second language.

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

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.