A Strategy for Kerry
January 29, 2004
the first President Bush betrayed
conservatives by raising taxes, in spite of his promise never to do so,
many conservatives didnt bother voting for him in 1992. This was
one of the reasons he lost to Bill Clinton, who reenergized the
conservative movement and brought about a Republican takeover of
Congress in the 1994 elections. In the meantime, Clintons
ambitious national health-care plan flopped.
Principled conservatives should
hope that history repeats itself in 2004. If John Kerry wins the
presidency, Republicans may start acting a bit like conservatives again.
Under the current President Bush, party loyalty has made them supporters
of further expansion of the Federal Government.
This election will be a battle of
the big spenders. There isnt much to choose between Bush and
Kerry (or whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be). But a Bush
victory will ensure that the Republican Party will continue to betray
self-identified conservatives dont see it that way. For some
reason, they continue to regard Bush as their guy maybe because,
like Richard Nixon, he truly annoys liberals in spite of all his efforts to
Kerry, a walking stereotype of
liberalism, can probably win by simply toning down his rhetoric. If he
avoids antagonizing and frightening conservatives, if he subtly resists the
temptation to portray the election as a stark contest between opposed
philosophies, a critical number of conservatives may simply stay home on
for Kerry, this shouldnt be hard. Hes a boring fellow. How
boring? Well, lets put it this way: If you loved Al Gore,
youll like John Kerry. When you listen to him deliver the standard
litany of liberal clichés, its impossible to feel that much is
at stake. Hes perhaps the perfect candidate to de-energize
Bushs base. Thats what he needs to do.
Democrats really hate Bush;
thats what will bring them to the polls: fear and loathing.
Republicans, on the other hand, dont hate Kerry enough to rally
against him; they hardly know him yet. He should do all he can to keep it
that way. He needs a strategy of ennui. Dont give the other side a
reason to turn out to vote!
A passionless campaign will be
good not only for Kerry, but also, ultimately, for conservatism. Kerry may
seem an improbable savior for the conservative movement, but Bush is
destroying it. It would be a disaster for that movement to allow Bush to
identify his grab-bag politics with it.
Bushs only intelligent
enthusiasts are neoconservatives, who might better be called
pseudoconservatives. They love him for giving them the war theyve
hungered for since his fathers presidency (even if it fell short of
the World War IV they called for), and they dont
really mind that he promotes bigger government all over the place. After
all, they revere the memory of Franklin Roosevelt and other icons of
liberal Democrats. Theyve changed parties without changing
The Iraq war, alias the War on
Terror, has ceased to be a strength for Bush. By the time the fall campaign
really begins, it may have become a huge minus. The costly occupation of
Iraq (and, oh yes, Afghanistan) drags on pointlessly, and Bush has already
abandoned his absurd insistence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons
of mass murder that could threaten this country. Either his word or his
judgment, or both, cant be trusted. The country has quietly lost
faith in him. For an incumbent seeking reelection, thats very bad
Bush will face other discontents
too, including economic ones. He has tried to change his partys
image, and he has succeeded only too well. Its now impossible to
imagine the Republicans as supplying a prudent brake on fiscally
improvident Democrats; theyve taught the country how staggering
Federal deficits can be. Compassionate conservatism turns
out to be neither compassionate nor conservative.
If Kerry wins the presidency,
hell have his hands full just handling the mess Bush has left him.
He wont want to get us into new wars, and there wont be
much loose change to pay for new Federal programs. Besides, the
Republicans will try to frustrate his initiatives.
Unless something unforeseeable
happens, we can look forward to a dull campaign between a real liberal
and a phony conservative. And for real conservatives, the duller the better.