With all the talk about George Bush’s need to generate bipartisan consensus policies in the wake of the closely contested presidential election, it’s important to recognize that the so-called political center today is right of center, not left. In terms of electoral votes, popular votes, and congressional results, the new right-of-center center that has developed in the past 15 years is still intact. Today’s political center is not a Gore-Gephardt center, but instead a Bush-Breaux center — or perhaps even a Bush-Lieberman center, provided that the Connecticut senator returns to his pre-campaign, New Democrat leanings on school choice, a partial-birth abortion ban, and personal-retirement-account Social Security reform.
All that said, George Bush’s political strength today is greater than pundits would have us believe. While he lost the popular vote by 337,000, let’s not forget that he won 30 states to Gore’s 20 (plus D.C.). Also, looking at the county-by-county breakdown, Bush won 2,434, or 78%, of the counties throughout the land, compared to Gore’s 677 counties. In popular-vote terms, Bush’s counties yielded 143 million, or 53% of the vote, compared to Gore’s 127 million. Additionally, Bush’s popular-vote strength was located in the fast-growing parts of the U.S., i.e. the mid-South, the deep South, the Southwest, and the Rockies. The fastest-growing business states, except for California, went to Bush. These included Nevada and Colorado in the Rockies, Arizona and Texas in the Sunbelt, and Georgia, both Carolinas, and Virginia in the Old Dominion.
Gore won big in the population-losing states, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois. In a sense, while Gore won the old economy and clings to a retro, status-quo, big-government liberalism that still holds sway in large portions of the Old Economy states, it was Bush who won the New Economy areas of new investors, new business owners, new entrepreneurs, and people who believe that free markets are the engine of prosperity — not government regulators, planners, and entitlers.
In Congress too, Bush has more strength than media geniuses would have us believe. The margins are tight but the GOP has in fact held Congress for the fourth consecutive time. You have to go back to the politically conservative 1920s to match this. Tight margins are still better than no margins, and suggest again that the bipartisan center is really a center-right.
Remember, the Democrats controlled both houses throughout the liberal policy era of the 1960s and 1970s, when the nation moved to the left on social and economic policies. During the Reagan ’80s, the GOP held the Senate for six years, but the Democrats controlled the House. The Gipper was able to attract boll-weevil Democrats to get across-the-board tax cuts and a defense build-up. But then, Democratic control between 1986 and 1994 tilted polices leftward, with two income-tax hikes and a substantial increase in domestic spending and regulation that stalled the economy and the stock-market advance.
The point is that the GOP’s sweep of the House, the Senate, and the presidency, no matter how thin the margins, represents a considerable achievement — so much so that we should be optimistic that a so-called bipartisan consensus and reconciliation period will surely produce center-right policies, not a leftward lurch.
The new center-right center does not favor big-government solutions. It does not believe in business bashing or class-warfare rich bashing. It does not believe in regulating, planning, or targeting the major sectors of the economy. The new center-right center will support gradual and sensible reform plans for education, health care, Social Security, and taxation — which is exactly what Bush campaigned on and emphasized in his acceptance speech last night.
The new center-right center in American politics favors equality of opportunity, not equality of results. It believes in personal responsibility and spiritual renewal, not societal victimization and the condoning of destructive behaviors. It believes in free-market entrepreneurship and shareholding ownership, not massive new entitlements or other transfers of wealth from producers to non-producers. In other words, George W. Bush has a much stronger electoral and political mandate than people seem to recognize. In this manner he has an excellent opportunity to lead the nation towards greater moral, spiritual, and economic prosperity in the first years of the new century.