A Bush victory will revitalize liberal support for the environment, abortion rights and civil liberties
By Adam Lederer | Indiana University
See original IDS Column
Trust me when I say, this was not a happy election for me. When it came to the presidency, I faced a decision on the ballot between the lesser of three evils. Ultimately, I held my nose as I pressed the button that recorded my decisions at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Indiana, on Election Day.
To be honest, neither Gore nor Bush are particularly appealing prospects to be president, and looking into my crystal ball, I doubt either one has the ability to last more than one term in office.
With that thought, I actually want Bush to be president of the United States for the next four years, and not because I am a Republican. I’m not. I voted for Ralph Nader this year because I am, for the most part, a left wing liberal with a few odd conservative streaks in me and I thought it was high time that the political dialogue in the United States needs a broader spectrum, particularly toward the left end. It also didn’t hurt that I live in Indiana, a state Bush was expected to, and indeed did, win handily.
Bush as president is a strategic thought—with the House and the Senate so closely divided, whoever is president will not be able to get much done, and we will have the ultimate “do nothing” Congress—hamstrung by the close split and the constant threat of Senate filibusters. This “do-nothing” Congress will probably not pass a lot of laws, which might be a minor blessing in disguise — considering Congress’s past record.
The truth is that liberals need to be out of power—the past eight years have been eight years of triumph with Bill Clinton ascending to the throne in 1992 defeating a sitting president and four years later thumping a well respected Republican in the form of Bob Dole. As such, liberal causes have advanced somewhat, but liberals themselves have become soft—losing that fire in the belly that coaches use to motivate people and motivate causes.
Take, for example, the environmental movement, a movement that has grown soft and weak with a “supporter” in the oval office. The environmental movement’s brightest days in the public spot light were when James G. Watt was Secretary of the Interior Department in the early 1980s. The environmental movement was able to effectively focus attention on the environment by using his name and actions in order to rally support. Today, Bruce Babbitt’s name effectively raises a collective yawn from the environmental movement—but doesn’t do a single thing to put fire in the belly of environmentalists and increase activism.
Liberals also need to effectively counter the Religious Right—and the Religious Right has rallied against Bill Clinton while liberals haven’t done much to counter the Religious Right. Four years of a Religious Right friendly president will help the ACLU and other liberal organizations focus attention on issues that matter: separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Liberals also need to focus on countering the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the American Flag, an effort that continues to exist despite the fact that a burning flag is something that ought to be celebrated because it represents the freedom to do what we want to do, a freedom that does not exist in too many other countries. Trust me, I’ve never had the urge to burn the American flag, but when they take my right to do so away, I will suddenly have the urge.
Clearly an offensive needs to be launched to support a woman’s right to choose. There has been a gradual creep over the past eight years to restrict the of women—creeping restrictions forcing parental notification, attempting waiting periods, and attempting to restrict partial birth abortions, a form that is rarely used and used only when the life of the woman is threatened. These “minor” restrictions threaten to blossom into full-blown restrictions that will lead to another era of back alley coat-hanger abortions. A Bush presidency will give the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) a focal point for their cause, as well as means the raise funds and increase activism.
And yes, this point reminds me of one of the most serious problems with a Bush presidency, and that is the Supreme Court. Bush has threatened to make appointments to the Supreme Court that will take the United States back in time to a period when women had no right to choose, when prayer in school was state-sanctioned and when free speech was restricted. However, it’s not likely to happen, since it takes a two-thirds majority of senators to confirm judicial appointments and only 50 or 51 senators will be Republicans. Just as Gore would be forced to compromise and moderate his choices if he is our president, Bush will be forced to moderate his nominees in the hopes that they are confirmed. Either way, we probably won’t be seeing extreme appointments to the courts for the next four years.
Which leads us to a history lesson: Usually the party of the incumbent president loses seats in the House at mid-term elections, with the only modern exception being the Republican losses in 1998. This suggestion from history means that the Democrats might be able to control the House and the Senate after the 2002 elections. If Gore is elected, Democrats will probably lose House and Senate seats in 2002, and that’s not really desirable in my book. If we can continue to tilt the board in favor of liberals in Congress that helps sets us up for a liberal president to be elected in 2004, assuming the Democrats learned the correct lesson from these elections.
And to close, a Bush presidency would also bring us one major victory when Rush Limbaugh is put out of business. Limbaugh has thrived on the Clinton presidency, and if Clinton had not been elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996, he wouldn’t have had anything to complain about for the past eight years. Limbaugh really wants Gore to win so he can spend the next four years complaining about Gore and how Gore stole the presidency from Bush on his radio talk show, thus making money. Nobody wants to listen to him praise Bush for four years — people only want to listen to complainers.
Adam Lederer is a graduate student in Public Affairs at Indiana University. Like Dick Cheney, he earned his bachelors and master’s degree in political science at the University of Wyoming.
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Comments about this column:
This was based upon an earlier column in the IDS.
I think is a fairly successful adaptation. I was constrained by space–there are a number of interesting points to make.
What’s also interesting is that it turns out I was echoing something that Peggy Noonan, a Reagan and Bush speechwriter, said in her 1994 book, Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Of course she was saying that the conservatives needed to be out of power having grown lax while in power during the Reagan/Bush years. She also said that Clinton was going to be a one-term president.
She was wrong, but I hope that I’m not.