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Everything They Think About Politics Is
Some of the dumbest reasons for a Gore victory.


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Jonah Goldberg

So here we go. You can tell this election is starting to wind down because the clichés are coming out fast and furious. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The fat lady is about to sing. The Blumenthal is about to hit the fan. It ain’t over till it’s over. Don’t sleep with a lot of bacon and Snickers bars in your tent in bear country.

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Sprinkled amidst all of these clichés are the near constant assertions that “X” or “Y” is at stake in this election. Al Gore actually says that “prosperity,” “Social Security,” “the environment,” and “the future” will be “on the ballot” this Tuesday. The NARAL forces insist that a woman’s “right to choose” is in the balance. The Democrats are putting out taped phone calls telling old people that Huns will break into their homes, turn off the air conditioning and take away their walkers.

The reality of course is that none of this is true. This occurred to me the other night in the green room at the TV show Politically Incorrect, the show designed to treat conservatives the way the Coliseum was designed to treat Christians. Of course, the great irony of the show is that it’s called “Politically Incorrect” when in fact it is precisely the opposite. It is a forum for making the fashionable liberal conventional wisdom seem bold and edgy.

The topic for my show was campaign-finance “reform.” My assignment was to defend the status quo, stand in the way of progress, denounce those who want to make the world a better place, pee in the corn flakes of orphans, and take away the chew toys of puppies. Of course, it could have been almost any topic: guns, abortion, censorship, crime, etc. It turns out that either the liberal conventional wisdom on almost every issue is wrong or I am.

So while I should be spending my Saturday morning watching Animal Planet and eating pancakes, I thought I’d go over a few of the things that we are told are either “at stake” in this election.

Let’s start with campaign-finance reform. Except for the fact that it doesn’t work and its unconstitutional there’s nothing wrong with any of it. Virtually every proposal out there involves depriving people of expressing themselves politically or forcing taxpayers to pay for the expression of people they despise. Pro-lifers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize pro-choice candidates and vice versa. Almost all of the things we are supposed to denounce — soft money, PACs, etc — were instituted as reforms. They’ve turned out to be incumbent-protection rackets. Spending limits serve the interests of candidates with the machinery of government and name ID on their side because challengers invariably need more cash to beat an incumbent. And besides, they’re unconstitutional. What would people have said if Congress had told those marching on Washington that they could only spend $50 on bus fare? It may seem gaudy, but cash makes it possible for us to exercise our rights.

Low voter turnout. About half of all eligible voters won’t vote on Tuesday. Who cares? Most people who don’t vote, don’t vote for good reason. They don’t care about politics. They may say they feel their vote “doesn’t count” and they may offer platitudes about how the system doesn’t represent them, but the reality is that they are just offering noble sounding excuses for the fact they don’t care very much. Hectoring them into the voting booths won’t make them care any more than they do now. And if the system doesn’t respond to their “issues” isn’t it possible that that’s because we live in a democracy and in a democracy someone is gonna lose? If the losers want to take their marbles and go home and not vote, that’s nothing to cry about.

Abortion. If one were to believe the Gore scare machine, one would think that on the Wednesday morning after a Bush victory, women would be handcuffed to incubation chambers and forced to churn out as many babies as the Patriarchy required. The reality is that even if Roe v. Wade were overturned (which would be appropriate simply as a matter of law), abortion would not be illegal for most women in the United States. It would be, rightly, left up to the states to decide. Some states would democratically choose to limit abortion, some states would go the other way. Many women need to travel a great distance to get abortions already. It’s doubtful that a Roe-free world would change the lives of those women very much. And, even if Bush appointed justices who could successfully reverse Roe, it would take years and years for this to happen.

Experience and “command of the issues” are more important than judgement and character. Al Gore can explain what more federal agencies do than George Bush. He does have more experience in government. But if experience and tenure in government were an overwhelming qualification than Bill Clinton should never have beaten President Bush in 1992. After all, President Bush had more experience than Bill Clinton then or Al Gore now. And, I don’t care how much Al Gore knows about the issues. If he is wrong on them, then his command of the details is meaningless. We are hearing more and more that Gore “deserves” to be president more than Bush. But the presidency has never been given out like a gold star for the kid with the best attendance record. The presidency isn’t a prize for the guy with the bigger sense of entitlement. It may be Gore’s “turn” but that’s the dumbest argument for electing a president I’ve ever heard.



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