“W” Stands for Winner - Part One
Last Tuesday’s election defined more than just who gets to sit in the big leather chair behind the HMS Resolute desk in that oval-shaped West Wing room in the White House.
It also defined our two major political parties and laid out the future challenges faced by both Republicans and Democrats.
Yep, even the winning party has some challenges facing it. Sure, the pain is dulled by the euphoria of an historic victory, but once the champagne effects wear off, the ache will begin in earnest.
The GOP is facing a major conflict within its own ranks. Conservative and neo-conservatives expect President Bush to implement their agenda, and to do so immediately. A constitutional ban on gay marriage, overturning Roe v. Wade and paving the way for the exercise of faith to become a more ingrained aspect of our culture and process are at the top of the conservative agenda.
The President’s success in states where these issues were also on the ballot gives the conservative movement a sense of empowerment. I even heard one neo-con pundit remark that in Ohio, the President rode the social conservative movement’s coattails.
Ken Mehlman (Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign chairman) might have a different opinion, but no one can dispute the impact of conservative voters turning out in huge numbers nationwide to elect “their” guy.
With the likelihood of several Supreme Court appointments in the next few years, conservatives are already rubbing their hands together with excitement over the possibilities.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist is facing some serious health issues at a relatively advanced age. I’ve already read speculation that Justice Antonin Scalia would lead the list of replacements for the conservatives. Associate Justice Scalia is the most conservative member of the present court, and might be the most conservative member in the court’s history.
The increase in Republicans in the House and Senate will serve to further embolden the conservative movement. Pressure will mount to see the President’s choices and agenda enacted by the Congress.
Several planned changes in the President’s cabinet will represent another opportunity for conservative, but highlight the challenge ahead for Republicans.
There is no 2008 contender working in the West Wing. Vice President Dick Cheney has already said that he will not be a candidate for president, and the other strong conservatives in the inner circle lack the national reputation for a presidential run.
That does not mean to imply that a strong conservative with a national reputation does not exist, though. The question is whether they can gain a wider audience, and can align themselves with regional and local organizations to build the necessary coalitions. Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Rick Santorum is rock-solid conservative, but he is not well known west of the Mississippi.
The leading lights of the GOP for 2008 are not good fits for the conservative movement. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, known lovingly around the country as “America’s Mayor,” would have to be considered a front-runner in any book.
Mayor Giuliani represents the moderate wing of the party. He is softer on social issues than the neo-cons will accept. Sen. John McCain of Arizona is another moderate with a national reach and outstanding reputation. Again, the conservatives aren’t thrilled with Senator McCain, particularly on the social agenda.
These moderate Republicans are well respected, well informed, and more than ready to represent the national party. The real question is whether the conservative wing of the party can support them,
The President has a unique opportunity in the next four years that eluded him in his first term. Every time he said or did anything remotely controversial, Democrat party leaders like Sen. Tom Daschle, of South Dakota, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, of California, argued that he lacked the moral authority, since the judiciary, not the electorate, chose him.
The President possesses the necessary authority now, not just the keys to doors in the West Wing. He can use words like “mandate”, and “historic percentage of the popular vote” when he describes his policy agenda.
When he travels the country now touting the tax code reform, he’ll tell the voters that he will give them what they asked for.
That brings me to the problem for Democrats in the next four years. The rift facing Democrats is so wide I’m not sure you can peer across without binoculars. This election cycle was defined by the “progressive” agenda of their party.
Sen. Joe Leiberman, of Connecticut, Sen. Joe Biden, of Delaware, and other respected moderate Democrats were ignored in the interests of Sen. Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, George Soros (MoveOn.org), and Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11).
I see nothing wrong with people who believe in a progressive agenda, although experience has proven to me that I cannot afford a progressive agenda, because to give everyone what they want raises my taxes too high.
Democratic Sen. Zell Miller, of Georgia, defined this struggle, first in his book A National Party No More, and again in his riveting GOP Convention keynote speech.
He railed against leaving the south behind in the interests of large northern and western urban regions, he bemoaned the impact of labor unions forcing members to support candidates, and he attacked the diminution of the sacrifices of U.S. military service members.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont and other progressive Democrats see the success of President Bush’s reelection as an indictment of a party unwilling to take a firm stand to head in a bold new direction.
Governor Dean’s Agenda for America is the best possible insight into the direction progressive Dems would take our country. Multi-lateral world relations, strengthening the United Nations and NATO while limiting the U.S. military’s ability to act preemptively was a cornerstone principle.
Expanding access to health care, forcing employers to provide wider ranges of medical coverage, and providing relatively unlimited care options for the poor and unemployed were also important components in the progressive agenda.
In the area of education, rolling back the provisions of the “No Child Left Behind” Act related to teacher certification was an essential provision of Dean’s platform. So was limiting school choice by abandoning voucher programs.
Michael Moore (multi-millionaire movie director/producer), George Soros (billionaire currency trader), and any one of a thousand TV, movie, or recording artists seemed to agree that America is adrift, in need of a dramatic and radical course alteration.
Moderate and conservative Democrats appear to have a different view, and until now have lacked the collective voice to argue for their point. Sen. John Kerry’s rejection by voters gives them that chance. The majority of American’s polled as they left the voting booth stated that moral values were an important part of their decision for President. I’m sure that wasn’t just Republicans, either.
A majority of Americans rejected Hollywood’s assessment, and even the millions of formerly “disaffected” young voters failed to make their voices heard. I guess Sean “P. Diddy” Combs call to Vote or Die fell on deaf ears.
Whether the Democratic Party chooses the path of the progressives will be one of the most important political stories of the 21st century. Likewise, the roll of the neo-conservative movement in impacting the second term of George W. Bush’s presidency will define the GOP for the foreseeable future.
(Editor’s Note: In Part Two of Mr. Weldon’s analysis, the worldview is contemplated. It will be posted tomorrow on TheTentacle.com.)