Jewish World Review July 13, 1999 /29 Tamuz 5759
Politics isn't religion, in which appeals to theological purity at least have some basis. As one of the dictionary definitions says, politics is about "political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices."
Smith and some of his fellow social conservatives are asking too much of politics. At a time when many are worshiping the golden calf of the Dow Jones Industrial Averages, Smith wants politicians to pay attention to the nonmaterial things of the spirit. It's difficult to stop an orgy of materialism and self-indulgence with a sermon from politicians urging sexual purity and help for the poor.
The arguments by those disaffected with the Republican Party go something like this: By "compromising" (which the Republican leadership says it hasn't done on key issues such as abortion and tax relief), the party's "base" will either stay home or vote for a third-party candidate. But the battle is for the mushy middle and always has been. If 40 percent always vote Democrat and 40 percent always vote Republican, then the struggle is for the middle 20 percent. The middle is not swayed, and can easily be switched to vote for either party, if the purists are painted as extremists (which they always are). Isn't that what Republicans did to liberal "purists" George McGovern in 1972, Walter Mondale in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988?
The response to that argument then becomes, "yes, but the Republican base is bigger than the middle 20 percent, and if you turn off the base, it doesn't matter where the mushy middle goes because the party will lose anyway." This, then, is a problem for the base, which misunderstands the incremental and not-always-getting-your-way nature of politics.
The stakes in the 2000 election are too high for internal bickering. We saw what happened in 1992 and 1996 when Bill Clinton was handed the presidency thanks to Ross Perot. Some Republicans might not have liked Bob Dole's squishy position on many issues, but does anyone argue that social conservatism is advancing more under Bill and Hillary Clinton than it would have under a President Dole?
Since the Republican Party was created out of the ashes of the Whig Party, no third party has risen to national power or prominence. Teddy Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" party, the States Rights segregationist party, George Wallace's American Party and Ross Perot's Reform Party have had the effect of dividing the vote and, in most cases (much of the Wallace vote eventually went to Richard Nixon), handing elections to those who oppose their policies more vehemently than the party from which they separated themselves.
If Bob Smith leads another party, and especially if he is joined by other social conservatives, the effect could be the
same as it was in 1992 and 1996: votes will be taken from the GOP, which will ensure the election of a liberal
Democrat president, whose social, economic and environmental policies will be a disaster for the country and curtains
for all of the issues they care about. And that president will name liberal justices to the Supreme Court who will doom
any curtailment of abortion and the gay rights movement for decades to come. Is that a price worth paying for
"ideological purity"? The "Great Pumpkin" strategy of having faith in an impossibility doesn't work for Linus in the
pumpkin patch. It won't work in politics,
07/09/99:Clinton has wrong answers on poverty tour