I’m Heartened by Conservatives . . .

by Michael Potemra

… and how they are responding to the Bush NEA announcement. Jonah says that most of the e-mail he’s getting-by something like a three-to-one margin-gives Bush a pass on this issue. This is a very important signal, because it shows a certain maturity of outlook on the part of conservatives: a dogged insistence on focusing on the Big Picture. On the two central issues facing government in our time-aggressively and proactively defending national security, and reducing the tax burden on American productivity-Bush is being a leader and the Democrats are being reactionary. To vote against Bush, therefore, is not in the national interest. Spending a few million bucks on the NEA is worth it if it reassures some people that Bush is not governing in a partisan spirit. My own personal view is that the NEA should not exist at all; I admit that, on issues like this, I am an ideologue. But if Bush is willing to stand up to his own ideological supporters–on what is relatively a trivial issue-he can win points as a national uniter, the president of all the people. And that way he can get a resounding victory in November, with an actual mandate for the important changes he, and I, and the vast majority of nonideological Americans can agree on. P.S. To those who worry that when a Democrat runs against a Democrat, the Democrat wins every time: Clinton ran as a triangulating centrist and won; Gore ran as a partisan liberal and lost. Bush is, in fact, a solid conservative, and he’s making some triangulating-centrist moves. He’s proving he’s not just a smart president, but a smart politician.

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