What do the 1996 elections tell us about where the American people want the country to go? Is the country still shifting toward conservative government?
What are the greatest opportunities now to advance the conservative agenda in the Congress? And what can conservatives in the 105th Congress learn from the successes and failures of the 104th Congress?
What are you most worried about in a second Clinton term, and how can conservatives fight the most dangerous liberal initiatives?
Policy Review posed these questions to 24 conservative political and intellectual leaders.
When the American people gave Republicans the majority in both houses of Congress in 1994, many journalists and pundits called it a sea change, a transformation of the political landscape brought about by an upsurge of voter discontent.
In 1996, President Clinton was re-elected on a campaign platform that echoed much of the GOP agenda, and Republicans retained their majorities in both Houses for the first time since 1928. It is clear that American politics and government are being transformed not by sudden upheaval, but by the steady current of common-sense conservatism.
There is no longer any question that the nation wants smaller and more effective government, lower taxes, and a return to the values of freedom and responsibility. Exit polls from the election show that more voters identify themselves as conservative than liberal by a margin of almost two to one.
The arrival of two more GOP Senators virtually guarantees a Balanced Budget Amendment.
It is now up to elected officials on both halves of the political spectrum to fulfill the expectations so clearly expressed by American voters. Both presidential candidates campaigned on conservative principles, as did most winning candidates for House and Senate seats, Republican and Democrat alike.
One of the first priorities of the 105th Congress will be to work with the moderate Democrats who campaigned on conservative principles. Since the election, I have made more than 30 calls to the more moderate of the Democratic members of Congress to invite them to work with us on reforms at a pace the president can handle. We learned in the last Congress that Bill Clinton can't take change in big doses, and we'll continue to reduce wasteful Washington spending and unnecessary government programs, although at a somewhat slower pace.
The American people returned a Republican majority in both chambers in part because they know they can trust Republicans to hew to a conservative path and hold Bill Clinton to his campaign promises. One priority of the next Congress will be to help Bill Clinton keep the promises he has made to the American people.
Last year, Bill Clinton responded to the conservative call to balance the budget by promising voters a balanced budget with family tax relief. By law, he is supposed to submit a budget proposal to Congress in early February. We will thoroughly examine the president's budget to ensure that it lives up to the promises he made during the campaign. Now that the GOP has retained a majority in the House and increased its majority in the Senate, the president will find it difficult to back out of a real balanced budget agreement. And with the addition of two more GOP Senators, the American people are virtually assured passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment in the 105th Congress, perhaps even with the president's support.
The president has promised to get tough on crime and drugs, two of the biggest threats to America's families. The Republican Congress will make certain that crime stays on the top of the president's post-election agenda, and that during Bill Clinton's second term the nation will take the necessary steps to stem illegal drug use among our children.
Bill Clinton also promised to save Medicare from bankruptcy without imposing any untenable hardships upon Medicare recipients. As the polemics of this last election showed, Medicare can be used as a powerful political tool, but we will ensure that the long-term solvency of the program and the needs of Medicare recipients will supersede politics.
With its continued majorities in both houses, the Republican Congress will also be able to pursue those issues that speak to American families and their values, including -- with the stronger majority in the Senate -- an increased likelihood that we will be able to override the president's veto of the ban on partial-birth abortions. And, as promised by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a vote on a constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms will be the first substantive vote of the 105th Congress.
We will also move forward on Superfund reform so that the money now going to lawyers will go instead to speed the cleanup of toxic waste in neighborhoods across America. Building on last year's historic welfare reform, we will continue to replace dependency with opportunity through enterprise zones, public housing reforms, and opportunity scholarships. And now that we've seen union officials openly trying to buy Congress and foreign interests trying to buy the White House, we must address the role of money in politics before the next election.
The 105th Congress will also continue to maintain and develop effective congressional oversight and review of the executive branch. One of Congress's key constitutional responsibilities is to assess whether government programs work and how they might be improved.
The move toward conservative government has been a steady tide, and the 1996 elections exposed the erosion of support for decades of liberal policies. For the first time in many years, we will see not a battle between liberal ideas and conservative principles, but rather a debate over how to apply conservative principles to repair the damage caused by decades of Big Government liberalism.
Elected officials no longer argue over whether to balance the budget, but how and when; not over whether to shrink the size of the government, but by how much and to what aim; not over whether to eliminate harmful welfare programs, but over how best to end the cycle of dependency and reward work and personal responsibility.
Conservatives should be pleased that common-sense conservatism has occupied the center of political debate. There is no longer any argument over whether the American people want to move our country in a more conservative direction; only a debate over how quickly we can get there.
Dick Armey, a Republican from Texas, is the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.
The lesson of the election is this: there will be no end to the era of Big Government until there is a Republican president, and there will be no Republican president until conservatives can say what America will look like in the post-Big Government era. The voters knew what they were doing. They elected a Democratic president who said the era of Big Government is over and, for insurance, a Republican Congress that actually believes it. They refused to put conservatives completely in charge because President Clinton persuaded enough voters that a Republican government would make tomorrow worse than today for everyone, except perhaps for men making more than $75,000 a year. So in the time of great change, the voters made sure not much will change.
The worst mistake conservatives could make would be to back away from a bold agenda. The country is moving our way. If we want to be a governing party instead of a congressional party, we must learn to paint a conservative picture of the future in a more compelling way than liberals paint theirs. All our recent presidential losses -- 1976, 1992, and 1996 -- have come because of our failure to do just that.
Our success has, in part, been our undoing. In 1964, Ronald Reagan defined our twin enemies: an evil empire abroad and an arrogant empire at home. Now we have won. The Cold War is over and the end of the era of Big Government has been proclaimed. In defeating our enemies, we have become good at saying what we are against, but not at saying what we are for.
Our task is harder than that of liberals. Their message of hope is a feint to the right plus a trivial federal program. Our message of hope is a real step to the right plus a dose of inconvenience: expect less from government and more of ourselves. Our message is a lot of trouble. It would be nice to be able to hire someone else -- say, the government -- to save our children from drugs, make our streets safer, strengthen our families, and restore our values. But only we can. Our advantage is that our message of hope actually works.
We conservatives have our work cut out for us. We must learn to say what we are for in plain words. We need choir practice. We sing the right song, but we are embarrassingly out of tune when we get to the part about the future. Sometimes the voters must listen to us and think we don't have a clue. We need to stop sounding like a convention of Washington lawyers who have not yet heard, for example, that family life is harder because schools close at 3 p.m. and parents work until 5:30.
Bob Dole was at his best when he explained that his tax cut would pay for four months of day care at Casey's General Store Child Development Center, in Ankeny, Iowa. The working mother at Casey's didn't need to believe in the tax cut to vote for Senator Dole. She did need to believe that he understood her struggles with day care. Eliminating the U.S. Department of Education and encouraging home schooling alone do not answer the education question for about 90 percent of American families. We must paint a vivid picture of how we will help create the best schools in the world.
In Congress, the greatest opportunities for conservatives are: (1) Enact the Balanced Budget Amendment; (2) make welfare reform work; (3) cut the capital gains tax in half; (4) eliminate chunks of overbearing laws and regulations and start over; (5) create a citizens' Congress with term limits. With a Democratic president, I hold no hope for two of the most important initiatives: a new tax system (I favor two low rates and just a few deductions) and a GI Bill for Kids that would convert federal money now spent on programs into scholarships that middle- and low-income students could use at any school.
The most ominous liberal initiatives? (1) Supreme Court Justice appointments; (2) a tilt toward labor; (3) more federal control of local schools.
I worry far less about what Bill Clinton will do than about what we will fail to do. We could become comfortable as a congressional party, a perpetual Republican insurance policy against the excesses of a moderate Democratic president. Some conservatives are even suggesting that the presidency has become miniaturized, barely worth having. This is very dangerous thinking.
The president's job is to recognize our urgent needs, develop strategies to deal with them, and to persuade at least half of us that he is right. The president should be the nation's agenda setter. Conservatives should see as indispensable a strong Republican president who can tell us where we are going and how we will get there. Without such a president, this country will never see a new tax system, parental choice among the best schools, a strengthening of national defense and of families, a balanced budget, or an end to the era of Big Government.
What I fear most about Bill Clinton's second term as president is that conservatives will fail to do what is necessary to persuade at least half the people that tomorrow will be better than today only if we expect less of government and more of ourselves.
Lamar Alexander is the codirector of Empower America and the chairman of the National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal.
Grover G. Norquist
The election of 1996 confirmed that the Reagan Republican coalition is the natural governing majority in the United States. In January, Republicans will hold a majority in the House of Representatives, an increased majority in the Senate, the governorships of 32 states that represent 75 percent of American voters, 51 percent of state legislative seats outside the South, and unified control of the governorship and state legislature in 12 states (compared with complete Democratic control in six).
Bill Clinton's re-election with a 49 percent plurality does not mitigate the depth of conservative strength any more than Eisenhower's twin victories or Nixon's 1972 landslide hindered the growth of government and the consolidation of the welfare state.
The welfare state was not built in 2 years. It will not fall in 2, 4, or 6 years.
If the AFL-CIO spent a mere 10 percent of its members' dues on political activities this year, then it spent $600 million in "soft money," "volunteer" staff time, and phone and photocopy costs to supplement the well-publicized commitment of $35 million in television, radio, and mail attacks upon Republican representatives. Yet even this tsunami of money from unions, environmental groups, and even foreign interests could not erode the firmly entrenched gains of the Republican Party at all levels of government.
The failure of the Dole candidacy does not indicate that the tax issue has lost its potency. The 105th Congress will have 200 House members and 44 Senators who have signed and campaigned on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge against raising income taxes. And more than 700 state legislators have signed the state Taxpayer Protection Pledge forswearing any tax hike. Initiatives placed before voters on November 5 also spoke loudly to the tax issue: Florida voted to require a two-thirds supermajority of the people to enact any new constitutionally imposed tax -- in effect, any state income tax. Nevada voted to require a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to enact any tax increase. South Dakota voted to require either a majority vote of the people or a two-thirds vote of the legislature for any tax increase. California voted to require a vote of the people for any local tax increase. Florida voters rejected a penny a pound tax on sugar to "save" the Everglades. Nebraska voters defeated an initiative sponsored by the teachers union to make "quality education" a "fundamental constitutional right." Oregon voted down an effort to expand a light-rail system.
Conservatives have several opportunities in the 105th Congress. First, corporate welfare spending should be eliminated. The abolition of corporate welfare spending saves taxpayers money, eliminates a source of corruption, and reduces the role of government in the economy.
The labor unions' misuse of compulsory union dues to play politics gives Republicans an opportunity to recreate the Kefauver Commission that examined corruption in labor unions in the 1950s. The Beck decision by the Supreme Court in 1988 specifically forbids the use of compulsory union dues for purposes beyond the negotiation and maintenance of a member's contract. Yet the Clinton administration refuses to enforce this right of workers and the labor union bosses have unconstitutionally spent money that does not belong to them. Congress must shine some sunlight on the inner workings of this corruption.
And Congress should continue three crusades. First, school choice: Clinton will veto a plan to give America's poorest families control over their education. But let's make this father of a child in private school publicly and repeatedly expose his own hypocrisy. Second, tort reform: Clinton's party is owned by the trial lawyers. Make him sing for his supper and publicly admit that he is bought and paid for by vetoing reform measure after reform measure. And third, the Republican leadership in the House has promised a vote every April 15 on a constitutional amendment to require a supermajority of two-thirds to raise any tax. Congress should continue this anniversary tradition.
The experience of the 104th Congress teaches us to continue to push for a balanced budget by 2002 with tax cuts. Placed in this box, Clinton cannot expand government and must reduce both discretionary spending and entitlement costs. In just two years, with this strategy, Republicans ended two seemingly immortal programs: the welfare entitlement and farm subsidies. And Republicans should continue to be both persistent and patient. The welfare state was not built in two years. It will not fall to the forces of freedom in two, four, or even six years.
The greatest dangers of a Clinton second term are his judicial appointments, his vacillation in world affairs, and his willingness to abuse and corrupt the FBI and the IRS to attack and harass his political enemies. Republicans will have to work hard and learn fast to ensure that our foreign policy does not implode and to keep Clinton's bureaucracy from continuing to misuse its power.
Grover G. Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, in Washington, D.C.
For the first time in 60 years, a majority friendly to small business has taken root in Congress. As measured by National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the 103rd Congress voted with small business about 55 percent of the time. That number shot up to 70 percent in the 104th Congress. We expect it to be even higher in the 105th Congress.
The 104th Congress was gratifying for those of us who spent the last 40 years fighting the legislation of anti-business majorities. At the end of the 104th Congress, NFIB recognized a record number of "Guardians of Small Business": members of Congress who voted with small business at least 70 percent of the time. But the 104th Congress was by no means perfect. It was necessarily partisan, and its reform-by-leaps agenda provoked opposition from the press and the White House. We at NFIB hope to see a more incremental approach to reform in the 105th Congress and a bipartisan approach to passing conservative legislation.
The new Congress will have the opportunity to address fundamental issues such as tax reform, increased affordability and availability of health care, reform of the civil-justice system, elimination of the death (estate) tax for the family farm, ranch, and business, relief of crushing and unnecessary business regulations, and balancing the federal budget. The incremental steps on tax reform and health-care reform made at the end of the 104th Congress laid the groundwork for more changes in the 105th.
I am optimistic about this second term, based on President Clinton's statements during the campaign, in which he often mentioned small business, and his appointment of Erskine Bowles, former head of the Small Business Administration, as White House chief of staff.
However, we are urging small-business owners to be alert to small steps by the administration that, taken together, could result in health-care "reforms" that kill businesses by a thousand cuts. We hope President Clinton will not seek to enhance his legacy by increasing mandated health benefits, loading the costs of those mandates on the backs of hardworking small-business owners and their families. This is not the way to make health care more available or affordable, and it would destroy jobs and endanger the health of our economy.
The president has indicated he wants to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act. This, too, would be an unnecessary mandate on small business. It will be a sad day in America when we need the government to facilitate parent-teacher meetings or doctors' visits. In small business, employees are often the family members of the owner, and those who are not family members are nevertheless treated as such. Small-business owners and their employees get along very nicely without help from Washington.
Congress should fight such mandates by simply drawing a line in the sand. Tell the president, with all due respect, that he cannot dictate the way Americans run their lives, and that he cannot pay for government solutions with payroll taxes. Conservatives need to build a bipartisan coalition that will turn back every attempt to expand the role of government and prevent the cumulative effect of a thousand deadly cuts.
Jack Faris is the president of the National Federation of Independent Business, in Washington, D.C.
In 1994, the American electorate put liberalism to the sword and severely wounded the Democratic Party. The results were a clear mandate for change, but euphoric Republicans mistook it as a mandate for revolution. Now the 1996 election results are in, President Clinton has been re-elected, and the opportunity for swift and total change is over.
The American people want a culture and an economy that is family-friendly.
This is not to say that the country is any less conservative in 1996 than in 1994 or that the Republican Party is no longer in ascendance. In fact, the policies that President Clinton ostensibly embraced during his re-election campaign are clear evidence that conservatism is still setting the political and economic agenda in America and will do so for the foreseeable future.
The electorate's conservatism, however, is instinctive, not logically consistent or intellectually rigorous. The election of 1996 should remind conservatives that American voters generally care less about ideological labels and the impassioned pursuit of principle than about "getting the job done." The American people want their children to learn in school, they want to feel secure in their homes, they want to know they will be cared for in their old age, and they want a culture and economy that is family-friendly. Policy people and politicians covered in the dust and sweat of the arena may rejoice at calling this "conservatism." Average Americans call it looking out for their loved ones and their pocketbooks.
On Election Day, the American people chose a president who worked hard to show he was looking out for their loved ones and their pocketbooks, too. Although conservatives may have had better ideas, Bill Clinton had compassion. He came across as the family physician, while conservatives were portrayed as eager surgeons.
In the end, we failed to explain why our policies for devolution and privatization and less government were more compassionate. Ultimately, that is the reason why the electorate settled for the therapeutic model of Clinton's "Little Things Presidency," based on concerns like school uniforms, teenage smoking, illiteracy, and church burnings.
Voters may have reined in the Republican Party in 1996, but they objected less to the substance than to presentation and pace. The message from the American people is this: "Go ahead, but go slow. Offer us a competing vision that is convincingly compassionate, not cavalier. If you are saying less government is compassionate, tell us why. And, be careful on Medicare, on devolution of power to the states, on deregulation of the American economy, and a host of other issues. We only put Bill Clinton there to act as an emergency brake on any rash moves by a Republican Congress."
Humility, rhetorical moderation, and patience are the principal lessons that conservatives in the 105th Congress should learn from the failures and successes of the 104th. There is no presidential campaign on the horizon, so the 105th Congress should focus on policy, not personalities. It should aim to improve the lives of the average American by applying conservative principles to government policy, not by pillorying Bill Clinton. If the president wants to join in -- or even lead -- a conservative initiative, then conservatives should welcome him to the team. And whenever he reverts to his liberal instincts, conservatives should oppose him fiercely but without the bombast, arrogance, and hard-edged ideological rhetoric that so colored public perceptions of GOP legislative controversies during the first Clinton administration.
In terms of legislative opportunities, conservatives must defend welfare reform from the attacks that will inevitably follow Bill Clinton's reelection. Tax cuts and continued deregulation of the economy must remain priorities. The devolution of power to the states on everything from education to Medicaid must go forward. Term limits and a Balanced Budget Amendment are certain winners with the public and good policy to boot. And ensuring the financial stability of Medicare without alienating older voters or increasing taxes remains the Gordian knot of national politics.
With or without a Republican Congress, the presidency is still the most powerful office in the world. There are other, more discreet ways for the president to advance a liberal agenda. The "gays in the military" policy was decreed by executive order, as were most of his foreign policy and national security initiatives. And, the president still retains the awesome power of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. A Clintonesque judiciary could undo conservative accomplishments in the Congress, in state legislatures, and through ballot initiatives.
The 1996 elections were a lesson in compassion, not a repudiation of conservatism. We will achieve the dream of a generation of conservative governance once we offer our vision of effective compassion.
Jeb Bush is the president of The Foundation for Florida's Future.
Now, the people who brought us the Bush campaign of 1992 and the Dole campaign of 1996 are receding, temporarily, into the shadows. They have escaped, as Churchill would have said, "unsung and unhung." It is critically important that we conservatives understand why the Republicans lost in 1992 and 1996. If we listen to the liberal media, we will continue to make the disastrous mistakes that were made in these two dismal campaigns.
If the GOP can't speak to matters of the heart, it will never be a majority party.
The morning after the election, a friend of mine told the Wall Street Journal: "The evolution of the Republican Party into a confident, conservative, aggressive, pro-family Southern and Western party is complete." I respect my friend's superb political skills, but this way of looking at the Republican future will only bring the party permanent minority status. Looking at the electoral maps of 1992 and 1996, we see that a party limited to the South and West will never regain the White House. Barry Goldwater joked about sawing off the Northeast, but Ronald Reagan carried New York and Massachusetts twice. I'll go with Reagan.
Our analysis of the 1996 results brings forth this startling conclusion: The GOP was defeated in the past two presidential elections because the Catholic vote collapsed. Exit polls will not tell us this. What we learn from them -- and it is important -- is who came to the polls and what they did. But the Family Research Council's examination of selected counties with high Catholic populations show that the GOP turned off huge numbers of Catholic voters who had been powerfully trending toward the conservative social positions of Ronald Reagan and George Bush in the 1980s. These counties may be the keys to the electoral lock.
It is not that Bill Clinton was so popular in these counties. (In many of them, Clinton's 1996 vote tally is little better than that of Michael Dukakis in 1988.) It is that the "bread alone" Republican campaigns of 1992 and 1996 were so unpopular. The GOP turned off voters by talking about money, only money, and avoiding family and social issues. The party must find a way to regain the support of "soccer moms," to be sure. But it can't afford to alienate the "bocce uncles" in ethnic Catholic communities either.
Partial-birth abortion is a horrific procedure. It shocks the conscience just to think of it. Even such liberals as Mary McGrory, Pat Moynihan, and Richard Cohen recoil from it. But Bill Clinton approves of it. His veto of the ban on partial-birth abortions was the cruelest act of any American president. Yet he paid no political price because the Dole-Kemp campaign refused to confront him about it. Joe Barrett, a perceptive analyst of the Catholic vote, says: "Bill Clinton knew the Republicans were afraid to confront him on partial-birth abortion. He knew he could get away with it." And he did. Dole might have turned to Clinton in the first debate and said: "You vetoed a bill to save unborn children at the very threshold of life. You approve of a procedure where the abortionist forces sharp scissors into the back of the child's skull and then inserts a catheter to suck out her brains. You say this is necessary because the child might have a handicap. Well, Mr. President, I know more about handicaps than you do. If I'm elected president, I'll sign that bill with my left hand."
On quotas and set-asides, Dole was not silent, only late and woefully incoherent. This is a powerful issue of justice. He could have made it a centerpiece of his national campaign. Instead, his message was garbled, confused, muted. Thus, while Dole got trounced in the Golden State, the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) carried the state handily. Clinton was allowed to say he opposed quotas. When? The party that nominated him has imposed rigid quotas on its own delegations since 1972. His own Cabinet was an exercise in quota-mongering, employing the now famous formula: EGG -- ethnicity, gender, geography.
The impact of these two vital issues on voters in crucial counties with large Catholic populations can only be imagined. Any inclination to write off the Northeast and Midwest, therefore, in the vain pursuit of a Southern and Western strategy must be resisted.
Of course the Republican party must continue to be the party that Reagan built. Of course it must continue to strengthen its growing dominance in the South and West. It must stand for a strong defense, smaller government, and lower taxes. But it must stand for more than that. The sanctity of human life, the defense of marriage, the rebuilding of a vibrant and decent culture, these things matter most. If the Republicans cannot speak to these matters of the heart, they will never become the majority party. Indeed, the party may not survive at all.
Gary Bauer is the president of the Family Research Council, in Washington, D.C.
The 1996 elections were a huge success for conservatives. The American electorate is still clearly trending to the right of center, and the 105th Congress will be the most conservative legislative body in the modern American political era. The newly elected Republican senators are decidedly more conservative than the Democrats (and Republicans) they replaced.
The ideological makeup of the next Congress is no accident. The American people are telling Washington they still want a social safety net, but with greater emphasis on personal responsibility. They want a government that is smaller and more efficient. They are not comfortable with one-party control of the White House, Senate, and House because the GOP offered no vision and optimism in this election. But they overwhelmingly prefer a conservative direction to a liberal one. Just look at President Clinton's tack to the right in favor of a balanced budget, welfare reform that ends the federal entitlement to government assistance and shifts money and power back to the states, a tougher approach to crime, and even limited tax cuts.
Conservatives face a great opportunity now that Bill Clinton is worried about establishing his place in history and is willing to distance himself from congressional Democrats. We should, therefore, press for passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment (with a supermajority provision for boosting taxes), tax cuts, and entitlement reforms.
True tax reform isn't likely with Bill Clinton in the White House. But the GOP must keep articulating a pro-growth vision for the future whose centerpiece is turning the initials "IRS" into "RIP" -- Rest in Peace. In the interim, while we press for a capital-gains tax cut and a major increase in exemptions for children, we must keep our eye on the real goal: fundamentally overhauling the federal tax code and replacing it with a simple, fair, low flat tax.
On Medicare, the GOP made an enormous mistake in the 104th Congress by constantly talking about increased deductibles, higher copayments, managed care, and "slowing the rate of growth." The key to communicating a positive message on Medicare reform is medical savings accounts. MSAs can give seniors more choices, more control, and more money in their pockets, without having to enter a dreaded HMO. We use a variation of MSAs at Forbes magazine. Even the United Mine Workers use MSAs. They work. It's time to make the case for MSAs before the American people.
It is also time to find our voice on Social Security reform. We must preserve the current system for those entering the system in the next 12 to 15 years. But we should start a new Social Security system for younger people, in which part of their payroll taxes would flow to their own Individual Retirement Account. Under this plan, they, not Washington politicians, would own the assets and invest them in the real American economy.
Perhaps the most important lesson from the last Congress is that we must first explain to the American people the magnitude of the problems we want to solve before we try to legislate solutions. Next we must build support for our solutions by creating grassroots coalitions and getting our message directly to the public through paid advertising.
My biggest concern about the 105th Congress is that conservatives may lose their nerve. The status quo is our enemy. We should strive for steady progress over the next two years while we prepare public opinion for substantial reform of taxes and entitlements. We need to get back on offense, set the national agenda, and avoid getting sidetracked by liberals. For example, we shouldn't balk at trying to ban partial birth abortions.
Congress will be tempted to place more limits on campaign giving. We tried that approach after Watergate and got the mess we have today. Instead, Congress should remove or substantially raise limits on individual giving as long as there is full and prompt disclosure. We should require independent campaign committees to make weekly disclosures of their spending and the sources of their money. Trust the voters to decide whether the candidate is selling his soul to some special interest. Do the same thing on campaign spending caps, which independent groups have already blown to smithereens. Stop the hypocrisy.
The bottom line: Conservatives have a golden opportunity to force President Clinton to deliver on his conservative-sounding rhetoric. Carpe Diem.
Steve Forbes is the editor-in-chief and CEO of Forbes magazine.
The conservative agenda of the 104th Congress was validated not only by the results of the 1996 election, but by the fact that President Clinton ran on much of the same platform. President Clinton knows a winning agenda when he sees it. What happens now? We carry it out. But this time, we must act as a long-term majority party. We must not act as though we have two years to win or lose. We will have to march to a more methodical pace.
My greatest fear is that the people elected will lose confidence in our own ideas.
As members of the first Republican Congress in 40 years, we changed the way Washington did business. Now both political parties agree that we must balance the budget by cutting spending, not by raising taxes. We all agree that the best decisions are made closest to the people, not by a remote government. We have all learned that the people want the government to perform its core functions better, and to stop wasting their money on programs that are no longer effective or necessary. Now most parts of the political spectrum supports a national effort to achieve strong families and revive "civil society" through personal responsibility and freedom.
This war of ideas is over. The people have chosen these ideas over bigger government. Now we must move patiently forward in implementing them.
I see a number of opportunities for the 105th Congress. We must continue our push for a smaller, more focused, more efficient federal government concerned with core principles and functions. We should pass the Balanced Budget Amendment. We must also eliminate corporate welfare -- those direct spending subsidies that only benefit very narrow groups. We should start by eliminating the two cabinet-level agencies that contain the most corporate welfare of all: the departments of Energy and Commerce. Obviously we must maintain the vital core programs of those agencies, including Nuclear Weapons Development, the National Weather Service, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the Census Bureau. But many others can be eliminated, privatized, or devolved to state and local levels of government. I support a proposal that would save $23 billion over five years by eliminating the Department of Energy and $6 billion for eliminating the Department of Commerce. These savings should be used to reduce the deficit and cut taxes.
Fundamental reform of the tax code and the IRS is also long overdue. Our tax code of 500 million words doesn't make sense to even the sharpest tax attorney. The code punishes families, entrepreneurs, and growth. There is also growing support in Congress to require every bill to cite precisely the constitutional authority for the statutory changes it proposes.
My greatest fear for the 105th Congress is that the people elected on the conservative agenda will lose confidence in our own ideas even though they clearly reflect the direction the American people want to go. We should not retreat in the face of victory. We cannot afford, for the sake of our children, to continue spending as we have. We can preserve such programs as Medicare and student loans while still reducing government and adhering to core governing principles.
I could not be more optimistic about the future of this nation. We are on the right track. We must press forward with confidence, compassion, wisdom, inclusiveness, and a smile. We must each look within ourselves for solutions to our terrible social problems of crime, loss of family, drugs, and welfare dependency. When we change individually, we will change the nation. I think people are beginning to realize that this, not more government, is the answer. This, above all else, is why the conservative movement is alive and well.
Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.
Sally C. Pipes
We are in a dealignment, not a realignment. Old parties are weakening, many voters split tickets in pursuit of divided government, and new party loyalties are slow to form. The challenge for conservatives, then, is to articulate a simple, cogent message based on first principles and their applications to specific policies.
The GOP must fend off Clinton's endless string of political promises which, if enacted, will expand the government.
Please indulge a California example. The elections in our state were, in many instances, disappointing, with the Republicans losing their majority in the state assembly. But the silver lining was the passage of the California Civil Rights Initiative. CCRI will abolish race and gender preference programs sponsored by the state and local governments. The proponents' campaign was largely based on a single principle: It is wrong for a government to discriminate based on race. The underfunded campaign was led by a man of unwavering principle and an ability to articulate his principles in both speeches and soundbites. CCRI prevailed even in the face of a well-organized campaign of distortion abetted by the free media.
CCRI wasn't enough to deliver California to Dole. In fact, Dole's last-minute embrace of the bipartisan initiative probably drove away potential supporters, because his campaign egregiously mishandled the issue. If Dole had sparked a national conversation on the meaning of rights and citizenship in a free society, beginning at the Republican convention and continuing through the election, he would have done a great service to his party and his country.
If conservatives are going to relimit government, or even halt the progress of Clinton's myriad of small welfare-state initiatives, they must convince the public that a government in a free society simply may not do certain things, even though some people would benefit from them. Affirmative action has benefited many people, proponents of racial preferences contend. The best response to this claim is not to deny it, but to ask, "So what?" It is wrong for the government to discriminate, therefore it should be proscribed from doing so.
This critique applies to many popular welfare-state initiatives, such as the recent debacle over raising the minimum wage, the violation by government of private-property rights, and intrusive education policies; conservatives must use it. Without a principled position, opponents of welfare-state programs easily yield to "yes, but": "Yes, I realize that all 212 federal job-training programs have been complete failures up to this point, but through careful study and the application of the latest social-science techniques, this latest one will succeed. Surely you don't deny there's a problem?"
The biggest danger facing Republicans in the 105th Congress is that they will be unable to fend off Clinton's endless string of targeted welfare-state programs, from expanded family leave, scholarships for community college students, mandates on health-care companies, health care for children, and so on. Aiding Clinton's cause is a sympathetic media establishment and a citizenry eager to receive its slice of the government pie. Our best hope of relimiting government is, as Amherst College professor Hadley Arkes is fond of saying, to start using principles we didn't even know we had.
Sally C. Pipes is the president of the Pacific Research Institute, in San Francisco.
John H. Fund
At the presidential level, Republicans proved in 1996 that you can't beat the Michael Jordan of political candidates with a tired Washington insider whose communication skills predated television, or even radio. At the congressional level, Republicans demonstrated they still have a chance to become a true majority party if they can convince Americans they are problem solvers and not merely stingy accountants obsessed with shrinking the federal fisc. We live in a post-partisan environment where it is difficult for a party to retain brand-name loyalty. Exit polls and the outcomes of various popular initiatives show the electorate often supports Republican solutions so long as they aren't identified with the GOP (as when Californians rejected higher tax rates on the rich while backing color-blind government).
Congress should hold hearings and issue subpoenas to expose how labor unions spend their members' dues.
Republicans need to show they really are for smaller government by abolishing the scandal-ridden Department of Commerce. Not only is the agency a slush fund for corporate welfare, but it also exemplifies the heart of campaign-finance scandals, which is the power of Washington to direct economic outcomes. Conservatives must also push to expand the concept of medical savings accounts that got a foot in the health-care door last year. The failures of the 104th Congress were writ in stone the day the Republicans decided not to take control of the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Tax Committee and adjust the ways they calculate budgetary and tax issues. They will continue to limit their liability to govern to the extent they leave the Congressional number-crunchers alone.
I worry that Republicans will try to bridge the gender gap by throwing many of their long-held principles into it. It's one thing to rethink how best to communicate why a smarter, smaller government can improve women's lives. It's quite another to buy Bill Clinton's salami-slice increases in state power because they fear the wrath of soccer moms and waitress moms. A majority of white women and married women voted Republican for Congress. There is no reason for panic on gender.
Unions -- especially the teacher-monopolies that control public education -- must be confronted. The last election proved they can't be placated. Congressional hearings and commissions must subpoena their records and expose how they spend their money. If just some of their members begin to publicly question where their dues are going, the unions' effectiveness in the 1998 elections and beyond can be curbed.
Finally, the GOP Congress must work even more closely with the 32 Republican governors to fashion legislation. Whether they cooperate and present a unified message to voters in the 1998 elections will dictate in large part if Republicans can cement and extend their grassroots gains.
John C. Goodman
Two years ago, the Democratic Party was imploding. Democrats were losing elections almost everywhere. They even lost mayoral elections in Los Angeles, New York City, and Jersey City -- places where there virtually are no Republicans. They had no platform and no agenda. They still have no platform and no agenda. Yet in 1996 they retained the White House, ran credible races for the U.S. House and Senate and gained 96 seats in state legislatures. How did this happen?
There are three lessons for the GOP: (1) Message trumps no message; (2) at the margin, the female vote can be won with rhetoric and small policy changes; and (3) a new kind of strategic liberalism has emerged from the Democrats' desperate attempt to regain power.
Message. When Americans entered the voting booths last November 5, everyone remembered the Democratic message: Republicans want to cut spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and education in order to lower taxes on the rich. Very few people could remember Bob Dole's message. Why? A simple idea repeated over and over again is easily remembered, whereas complex ideas, each explained in many different ways, are not.
Gender Gap. In the congressional elections, men favored Republicans by 9 percentage points; women favored Democrats by 10 points. Among suburbanites, men favored Republicans by 12 points; women favored Democrats by 6. Thus the gender gap can hurt either party. But Republicans must nevertheless be concerned. In 1996, many women who ordinarily might be expected to vote Republican (and whose husbands vote Republican) voted for a Democrat instead -- perhaps supplying the margin of victory in many races. This tendency has deepened over time. Between 1992 and 1994, the preference for congressional Democrats grew from 6 to 10 percentage points among all women and switched from 6 points for Republicans to 6 points for Democrats among suburban women.
What explains the gender gap? Apart from differences between the two parties over abortion, Democratic candidates repeatedly used the words "children" and "education" at their convention and in their campaigns, and addressed other issues of special concern to women. By all rights, candidates who are beholden to teachers unions should not be viewed as friends of children. Yet Bill Clinton successfully campaigned as the pro-education candidate. By contrast, Bob Dole's plan to abolish the U.S. Department of Education made him seem hostile to education.
Clinton promised more money for breast cancer research and Internet access in all schools. He signed legislation to allow women to stay in the hospital for two days after childbirth. (In focus groups, women indicated that the two-day mandate was one of the most important reasons why they preferred Clinton.) President Clinton and Democratic congressional candidates also highlighted issues over which the federal government has virtually no control, such as school uniforms and report cards for schools.
Strategic Liberalism. President Clinton may have declared that "the era of Big Government is over," but focus groups reveal that people do not equate health-insurance mandates with "Big Government." In this and in other areas, liberals have discovered that they can expand the power of government incrementally without appearing to be liberal, and can often woo women voters at the same time.
During the campaign, the president demonstrated his capacity to advance ideas inconsistent with his own past positions and inimical to key constituencies in order to gain electoral advantage. The mandate for two-day hospital stays is a perfect example. It is completely inconsistent with the HillaryCare plan of 1993, which sought to encourage everyone to join health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and to allow health-care specialists to make such decisions based on medical needs and cost effectiveness. The mandate also goes against the president's managed competition constituency.
This is a new kind of liberalism. The old liberalism was special-interest liberalism. One could predict the agenda of old liberalism based on the demands of its special-interest constituents. Strategic liberalism is much harder to predict. Counterstrategies are much harder to devise. Moreover, since strategic liberalism involves a new way of thinking, initiatives could come from younger members of Congress rather than the leadership. Expect strategic liberals to begin the 105th Congress with mandates of special interest to women: annual mammograms with no deductible; no deductible for mastectomies; annual pap smears with no deductible; checkups for children with no deductible.
The onslaught will continue, as special interests descend on the Capitol: chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, in vitro fertilization centers, et cetera. At the same time, the administration will push for KidCare -- Hillary Clinton's health-care plan adapted for children.
Conservative Response. The conservative response to traditional liberalism has been a completely defensive strategy: resist and retreat, resist and retreat. This would be a disastrous response to strategic liberalism. Conservatives would die a death of a thousand cuts. After two years, marginal voters would come to believe that only liberal Democrats care about health care for women and children.
The conservative counterstrategy must couple the traditional commitment to such "conservative" issues as lower taxes, deregulation, and privatization with a focus on such "liberal" concerns as health, education, environment, pensions, and other issues of interest to women. In each area, conservatives must offer an aggressive, free-enterprise agenda for solving problems.
John C. Goodman is the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, based in Dallas and Washington, D.C.
John J. Pitney Jr.
In 1994, conservatives were in a biblical frame of mind. After 40 years in the wilderness, House Republicans were finally crossing into the promised land of majority status. The 1996 election should prompt another look at the Bible, particularly the 41st chapter of Genesis. After Pharaoh discloses his dream about healthy cows and ears of grain consuming sickly ones, Joseph interprets its meaning: Egypt will enjoy abundance, but a famine will follow. During the fat years, Joseph tells him, make preparations to survive the lean years.
Just when power is starting to flow from D.C. to the states, Republicans are waiting on the receiving end.
For conservatives, a period of plenty probably lies in the near future. They should not assume that the abundance will last forever; instead they should prepare for serious challenges a few years beyond.
Things look fine right now. Perhaps even more significant than the GOP retention of Congress is the party's strength in statehouses. Republicans continue to hold 32 governorships, their highest level in a quarter century. Despite some recent losses in state legislatures, the GOP has held most of its 1994 gains. In Florida, Republicans now control both chambers in a Southern state for the first time since Reconstruction.
So just when power is starting to flow from Washington to the states, Republicans are waiting at the receiving end. Furthermore, GOP strength at the state level translates into a much deeper reserve of congressional candidates.
The GOP will probably do even better in 1998. In 33 of the past 34 midterm elections, the party holding the presidency has lost ground in the House. The historical pattern has been less consistent in the Senate, but Republican prospects look especially bright this time. They hold half of the 34 seats up in 1998, and only a couple of GOP incumbents face trouble. Meanwhile, Republicans could even beat several Democrats, especially extreme liberals such as Barbara Boxer of California. Early signs favor Republicans in state races as well.
The political community knows all about these trends, which makes the GOP's situation even cheerier. Access-hungry PACs will give heavily to Republicans. Many frustrated Democrats will retire, thereby opening a number of seats to strong Republican challenges.
Some optimistic conservatives have thus concluded that the GOP can expect a generation of political dominance. They should take another look at the 1996 returns, which offer clear signs of future trouble. In 1996, Republican House candidates got only 27 percent of the Latino vote nationwide. Previous elections yielded similar results, but the Latino electorate is growing in size and importance. Preliminary results suggest an increase in Latino turnout in 1996, at least in certain districts. The Clinton administration speeded up the naturalization of Latino resident aliens, and Democrats mounted a drive to get the new citizens to register and vote.
By 2025, says the Census Bureau, the number of Latinos will double from the current 27 million, accounting for 44 percent of the country's population growth. Not all will vote, but this dramatic demographic change will inevitably leave its mark at the polling booth. And if Democrats hold on to three-quarters of the Latino electorate, Republicans will have a growing problem.
Another trouble sign is regional. In the 1996 elections, the Northeast gave all of its electoral votes to Bill Clinton and accounted for two-thirds of the Democratic gains in the House. Among New England legislatures, Republicans control only New Hampshire, and they cling to the New York Senate only through gerrymandering. If Republicans begin to falter elsewhere, the Northeast will supply the Democrats with a firm base for revival.
In the 105th Congress, conservatives must begin a serious, long-term effort to counter such trends. They should take great care with their rhetoric: While adhering to a principled stand against illegal immigration, they must emphasize repeatedly that they are not criticizing Latinos who have arrived by lawful means. Through both legislative proposals and partisan communications, they must explain to Latinos how free-market policies benefit people who, like them, are climbing the economic ladder.
For the ecologically sensitive Northeast, conservatives need to develop the doctrine of free-market environmentalism. During the 104th Congress, Republicans stumbled when they attacked the EPA bureaucracy without explaining how they would replace command-and-control regulation with market incentives. Many voters concluded that Republicans were pro-pollution, not pro-reform. Now Republicans must show that cutting red tape does not mean befouling blue skies.
These efforts will require patience. Fortunately, conservatives have enough time, provided they remember what Joseph told Pharaoh.
John J. Pitney Jr. is an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, California.
Robert L. Woodson
Republican victories in the House and Senate would seem to indicate that the American people are moving in a conservative direction. Conservatives cannot assume, however, that a vote for Republicans is a mandate for their ideological agenda. They should remember that in exit polls during the 1994 elections, only 13 percent of voters surveyed said they had voted for Republicans. More than half had simply voted against Democrats. In truth, the election of 1994 was not a mandate for a Republican or conservative agenda, but an opportunity to develop a mandate. After that election, conservatives should have listened to the concerns of the American people. Instead, they became as insensitive to their constituents as the liberals they had replaced. It is clear, for instance, that the American people want smaller, more cost-effective government, but they didn't elect Congress to shut the government down.
Liberals defend their policies as "saving the children." This is the political equivalent of child abuse.
Though conservatives are right in critiquing liberal policies, they must go beyond the role of opposition to offer a competing vision, communicated through powerful symbols. Time and again, liberals have defended a government-dominated agenda in the name of "saving the children." This is the political equivalent of child abuse. In fact, liberal policies have always focused on custodianship, usurping the roles of the family and community that provide a natural and sustainable system of support. They have, in effect, sentenced our nation's low-income children to a lifetime of dependency on government help.
The conservative alternative cannot rely on ideological arguments about the excesses of government. We need a new vision to resurrect the family and the neighborhood as the primary support network for children -- as well as for adults in need. Such initiatives as the Community Renewal Act, parental choice in education, and charitable tax credits have been important steps in this direction.
Conservatives can learn a great deal from grassroots community leaders who embody conservative principles and values in their daily efforts to reclaim and revitalize their neighborhoods. One such example is Alverta Munlyn, a resident of a low-income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where city services are notoriously inadequate.
Although a city-run health center, which operates at a cost of $1.6 million a year, is just blocks away from Alverta's neighborhood, it has not met the medical needs of her community. Several elderly women have had their legs amputated because their diabetes went uncontrolled. One woman who was fearful that a lump in her breast might be cancerous was told that she would have to wait months to see a doctor. The clinic sometimes runs out of the insulin and syringes needed to treat diabetics and, at times, has been unable to deliver blood and urine samples to the city's medical lab because no drivers were available. The infant mortality rate, often considered a barometer of the health of a community, is four times the national average.
Alverta could not sit by as her neighborhood suffered. She developed a plan for alternative health care -- a community-owned and operated clinic -- and took steps to enact it. Networking with two private hospitals, Alverta secured the services of doctors as well as the use of their medical labs, X-ray facilities, and pharmacies. A site for a new clinic was chosen in an abandoned school building in the center of the neighborhood. Munlyn organized her neighbors, who raised $3 million, to prepare the building. The cost of operating this community health-care facility was projected to be one-third that of the existing clinic, saving the cash-strapped city $1 million a year.
With support from residents and city officials alike, Alverta's dream seemed close to being realized. But then it hit a roadblock: the unions of the city's service providers. A spokesperson for the 260 doctors who work for the city government warned that the clinic might interfere with plans to create a "public benefits corporation," and a labor leader from the union for city workers declared that such a clinic would result in a loss of jobs. Just two weeks after all players had signed on to this creative proposal to improve health care for the neighborhood, city officials changed their minds and blocked the health-care facility project.
Conservatives need to make common cause with America's Alverta Munlyns. How much more powerful their arguments for the devolution of resources and authority will be when they stand side by side with grassroots leaders and declare, "Here are the principles and values we promote, embodied and implemented by a resident of a low-income community." They need to market themselves in a way that will illustrate that point and will help the community.
Conservatives tend to argue that private is better than public. But the issue is not public vs. private. It is effective vs. ineffective. The effectiveness often lessens as its size and its distance from the people it serves increases. Large private charities, large private hospitals, and educational institutions can be just as indifferent and insensitive as large government. Conservatives should be in the front line, pushing devolution from large institutions to individuals and community-based civic organizations. In return for the support they offer, they will enjoy greater moral authority, because the grassroots leaders with whom they partner are the embodiment of the principles for which they stand. When conservatives can stand shoulder to shoulder with grassroots leaders and design their programs in accord with a practical problem-solving neighborhood initiatives, then they will deserve popular support. Otherwise, they will not, and should not, get that support.
Robert L. Woodson is the president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, in Washington, D.C.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
In his new book, James Michener writes about the predictable course of civilizations. He cites eight states of existence: genesis, exploration, accomplishment, expansion, and then loss of courage, contraction, loss of mobility, and decline. This framework builds upon Will and Ariel Durant's warning in 1944 that "a great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic disposition, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars."
America, this is our wakeup call. I believe Americans are listening, but are confused by what they see.
In the last two elections, voters have shown their support for a conservative agenda: rolling back government, reasserting traditional values, ensuring economic opportunity for all, and lifting the heavy burden of bureaucracy and regulation from our entrepreneurs. They thought that both President Clinton and Republican members of Congress offered these conservative ideals.
President Clinton did, in fact, cherry-pick our ideas and principles and make them his own. Whether it's family values, law and order, lower taxes, a balanced budget or government accountability, voters in 1996 validated the so-called "extremist" agenda of the 104th Congress. The 105th Congress must seize this national momentum toward less government and more freedom.
I remain concerned, though, that we have yet to address the more difficult challenge outlined by Michener. We cannot reassert our principles at home without coming to grips with our global policies.
As we approach the 21st century, Bill Clinton has yet to set a foreign policy. The Clinton era has been marked by inordinate attention to far-flung places like Mogadishu, Somalia; Port au Prince, Haiti; and Sarajevo, Bosnia, while the future of our children depends on what happens in Tokyo, Bonn, London, Paris, Moscow, Mexico City, and Beijing.
Conservatives must help anchor our country's foreign policy to principles of stability, predictability, and a clear vision of what the world's lone superpower should do. Some conservatives see us in a defensive crouch -- afraid to compete because we are doomed to lose. These conservatives favor trade protectionism, withdrawal from our overseas commitments, and isolationism.
I reject that vision. Our challenge is to establish a foreign and defense policy that is consistent with a bold, confident America not in retreat, as Michener warns, but standing tall astride the globe, expansive but not expansionist. Fundamental to such a policy is knowing when to put American lives at risk. Answering this question is the first step toward defining a coherent national security policy. Absent that, we lapse into an increasingly dangerous pattern: reinventing our national security policies, issue by issue, crisis by crisis.
We must develop a systematic policy for U.S. engagement, so that our actions in a crisis will be predictable for both our allies and our detractors. President Richard Nixon established that the United States would commit its military forces overseas:
- To honor treaty commitments;
- To provide a nuclear umbrella to protect the world from weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, or biological);
- To supply weapons and technical assistance to other countries where warranted -- but not commit American forces to local conflicts;
- To protect American citizens in a crisis.
Together with former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger's doctrine of how to deploy force -- overwhelmingly and confidently -- these principles form a good foundation for a 21st-century security policy. Desert Shield and Desert Storm were based on these convictions.
Yet President Bush's great victory stands in stark contrast to the way his successor has managed the civil war in Bosnia. Neither our allies nor our adversaries know what to expect of the United States. This vacuum of unpredictability pulled us into Bosnia. Our policy did not create the vacuum; the vacuum created the U.S. policy. We allowed others to set conditions for American leadership, and we ended up placing thousands of American troops in an area where we have no security interests. We must distinguish between a U.S. interest, which we do have in Bosnia, and a U.S. security interest, which we do not. Deployment of troops should hinge on the latter not the former.
Integral to our conservative vision of engagement in the world must be a trade policy that is also continually advancing. NAFTA and GATT are good first steps, but there is more to be done. The future of our global leadership depends on free trade, and this administration's record is meager. We must strengthen the Western Hemispheric trade alliance and commit to an hemispheric free-trade agreement by the end of the century. Why not engage Japan and China with free and fair trade, instead of managing our trade relationships issue by issue, product by product? No engine of economic growth is more powerful than trade. It is waiting to be engaged.
Finally, we have always helped victims of disaster -- natural and man-made, and we should continue to do so. But we must distinguish between humanitarian efforts and national security interests, between our commitment to peace for others and our commitment to strength for our children's future.
America is obligated to continue to inspire democracy in other countries, as we have done for more than two centuries. We will accomplish this by promoting our virtues, expanding commerce through trade, and vigorously identifying and defending our vital interests, not by needlessly sacrificing our sons and daughters or draining our resources in ankle-biting civil wars.
This is our duty as Americans. And this must be our vision in Congress as we take the helm of America's journey into the new millennium.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, is a senator from Texas.
Pete du Pont
History will record the failure of the Democrats to win back control of either House of Congress as the story of the 1996 elections. Conservatives have successfully repelled the liberal counterattack following the 1994 elections, and on many fronts actually gained strength. Traditional Democratic liberalism is moribund.
Choice in education will spread until, like the Berlin Wall, the government monopoly collapses.
Conservatives actually gained strength in many areas. In the U.S. Senate, conservatives gained seven seats, including Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and two from Kansas. In spite of the loss of 67 state legislative seats and control of some legislative houses, the party's gains of more than 600 state legislative seats in the last two years are essentially intact.
In the 90 or so referenda around the country, conservatives won, too. The California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) leads the list, and tough tax limitations passed in half a dozen states while green initiatives failed. And it's no accident that the only two successful Democratic presidential candidates in the second half of the 20th century -- Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton -- were Southerners who campaigned as the most conservative of the candidates in the Democratic primaries, and then ran moderate-conservative presidential campaigns. President Clinton got elected in 1992 as the candidate of the middle-class income-tax cut who would "end welfare as we know it." In 1996, he wanted to balance the budget, fight crime, and end teenage drug abuse.
So where to from here? Congress will likely begin by presenting the President with legislation that, at one time or another, he has supported. The middle-class tax cut is a prime candidate for prompt action. Fighting teenage drug abuse is another. In 1996, all the candidates talked about crime. It remains to be seen whether something can be done about it at the federal level without repeating the problems of the last crime bill. Continued, careful progress toward a balanced budget and regulatory reform are also good bets.
Liberals, frustrated with the political success of the "leave us alone" coalition, will probably eschew costly new governmental programs and embrace employer mandates and other indirect methods of satisfying their constituencies. Liberals will try to achieve their social objectives through employer mandates in the health-care arena as well as through the regulation of telecommunications and energy. Another danger is Jesse Jackson's suggestion at the Democrat National Convention that if only 5 percent of the $6 trillion in private pension funds could be tapped, social activists could reap a $300 billion windfall. Employers and employees, watch your pension funds!
Besides conservative legislative successes, the elections of 1994 and 1996 will also encourage individual freedom, private solutions, and local responsibility to deal with our nation's challenges in the next two years. Already educational-choice initiatives and experiments are flourishing throughout the country. Educational-choice programs will continue until eventually, like the Berlin Wall, the government monopoly of our children's education will collapse into rubble -- and with it the teachers unions.
Nor is it any longer impossible to contemplate the first baby steps toward moving our nation's government retirement system slowly toward to a more private system. Over the next four years, these steps will comprise expansion of IRAs and 401(k)s and tax benefits for private systems. As this shift occurs, the next generation of Americans will realize that there is a better way to plan for their retirement than relying on the government. They will be its strongest supporters.
A final prediction: Eventually the U.S. Postal Service will also be stripped of its monopoly and replaced by a more private system.
And what will be the legacy of the first Democratic president re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt? If he can avoid the perils of Whitewater, it seems a good bet that Clinton's finely honed political instincts will tell him which way the wind blows, and history will say, "Oh, he was there, too."
Pete du Pont is the editor of IntellectualCapital.com, the first online interactive public policy magazine.
William A. Niskanen
Conservatives should understand the following lessons from the 1996 elections: American voters (and the stock market) prefer divided government. For 30 of the past 50 years, at least one house of Congress has been controlled by a different party than that of the president, and this pattern will now continue for at least two more years. Most voters, I suggest, do not wholly trust either major party and prefer those policy outcomes that require a bipartisan agreement to those approved by a partisan majority.
Strategists for the 105th Congress should note the unusual success of the 104th.
The election strengthened the status quo distribution of political power. President Clinton was re-elected. The Republicans won a few seats in the Senate and lost a few seats in the House. There was no change in the number of state governors by party. The conservative-libertarian shift reflected in the 1994 election was neither repudiated nor strengthened; the voters are willing to give conservatives another chance but not an unlimited line of credit.
A final lesson is more a consequence of the passage of time than of the election: Almost all the old-guard Republican senators have now retired. The new Republican leaders in the Senate are younger, more conservative, and more like their counterparts in the House. This should make it easier to coordinate Republican policy positions and tactics between the House and the Senate.
Strategy for the 105th Congress should be based on a recognition that the 104th Congress was unusually successful. Congress approved several important reforms of congressional procedures that were part of the Contract With America and are likely to survive: subjecting Congress to laws that apply to other employers, limiting unfunded mandates, granting the president a line item veto, and establishing a process for reviewing and blocking major new regulations. The 104th Congress also approved the most important substantive legislation in 60 years affecting agriculture, telecommunications, and welfare. This record should prove that divided government is not a barrier to substantial reform. Conservatives made their major recent mistakes when they abandoned their principles to resolve some ephemeral crisis or to avoid controversy in the rush to adjourn.
My list of issues that the 105th Congress should address is too long to summarize briefly; those who are interested can read the new Cato Handbook for Congress. I do have a short list, however, of measures that conservatives should not initiate:
1. Do not initiate a Medicare reform proposal. Clinton has fouled his own nest on this issue; let him sort this program out on his own without the cover of a bipartisan commission.
2. Do not press the social conservative agenda. Most of these issues can and should be sorted out by state and local governments.
3. Do not initiate new hearings on old scandals. Let special counsel Kenneth Starr and the courts deal with these charges. The authority of Congress to hold hearings on the behavior of public officials is more valuable as a club in the closet. Try a cooperative strategy first; it might be productive, and you don't really want to deal with a President Gore.
The 1996 election set the stage for continued progress on the conservative agenda. I worry more about missed opportunities than setbacks. I doubt if Clinton will propose any major new domestic initiative; the danger of a misconceived foreign venture is much greater. The conservatives' biggest challenge is capturing the moral high ground from those who exhibit compassion by spending other people's money, from those who propose an expansion of government power in response to almost any perceived problem.
William A. Niskanen is the chairman of the Cato Institute, in Washington, D.C., and a former economic advisor to President Reagan.
If conservatives are serious about reducing the cost and size of government, we must ask ourselves how government came to be so large and so expensive in the first place. The answer is that many conservatives were as happy as liberals to cede to government what had been the primary responsibility of individuals and charities.
Freeing families from their enormous tax burden could quickly close the gender gap.
Every study I've seen suggests that the premier problems in America are not economic and political, but moral and spiritual. Their solutions will not be found inside the Beltway, but inside the human heart. In fact, putting American families back together again would do more to solve social ills and reduce government's size and cost than any other proposal I've heard.
So what's a conservative to do following a mixed-message election?
First, the congressional Republican majority must seize from Democrats the compassion issue, which has allowed them to denounce even reductions in spending increases as insensitive to grandmothers and little children. To do this, Republican leaders should call a summit meeting with the nation's religious leaders asking them to reclaim their former (even God-mandated) role of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison. The clergy should be given lists of those local families and individuals receiving public assistance and encouraged to begin the process of redemption in those lives. Marvin Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion could serve as a textbook for those who don't recall how religiously based societies fought poverty a century ago.
Nothing will kill liberalism and its costly programs quicker than a reduction in the perceived need for such programs. And nothing will rekindle compassion in people's hearts more quickly than a chance to help another person rebuild his or her life. Reducing the need for programs should at least parallel, if not precede, reducing the programs. Otherwise, Democrats will accuse Republicans of lacking compassion and reprise the battle over Medicare reform. When compassion is the issue, Democrats always win. But if the need for the welfare state is diminished, Republicans can cut programs and get credit for proper stewardship of the taxpayers' money.
Next, Republicans should continue to explain that the reason so many families earn two incomes is that one parent works to support the family while the other must pay the family tax bill. Bob Dole tried to sell that message during his campaign, but he was a poor salesman. The message, however, remains a good one -- if it is not seen as selfishness.
Freeing families from their huge tax burden would expand choices and opportunities and relieve some of the pressures that sometimes lead to divorce or neglect of the children. Such a policy could quickly close the "gender gap."
The 104th Congress suffered from nearsightedness. The Republican majority was so excited about the end of 40 years of wandering in the political wilderness that its exuberance overwhelmed sound judgment. Great social movements take time, but the GOP majority treated change like fast food when it should have found the time and ingredients necessary for a gourmet meal. Or, to use another metaphor, after four decades submerged under the welfare state, the conservative agenda rose too fast and suffered the political equivalent of the bends.
The biggest danger in a second Clinton term is the fate of the Supreme Court. Liberalism's worst excesses have come through the federal judiciary, not the legislative branch. The congressional majority should apply "strict scrutiny" to the records of Clinton nominees. A high rating from the American Bar Association is no reason for automatic confirmation, especially if the nominee's rulings favor Big Government at a time when voters want to reduce its size and cost.
Above all, Republicans must keep the public informed about what they are doing. Never again should they wait too long to respond to Democrat lies, distortions, and demagoguery. In addition to appearances on the regular news shows with their slanted questioners, Republicans should get their message out through year-round advertising on TV and in newspapers, pounding it home over the defenses of a hostile media, a disingenuous and sometimes lying Democratic leadership, and a shameless president.
Since the New Deal era, liberals have peddled a perverted form of the 23rd Psalm: The government is my keeper, I shall not want. Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of poverty, the Health and Human Services department is there, comforting me with food stamps and AFDC payments.
Republicans should counter this from the bottom up, highlighting success stories and role models and encouraging others to emulate good behavior. Congress might experiment with incentives in the form of tax credits or outright cash gifts to companies and individuals who succeed in relieving government of the burdens of maintaining a welfare state.
Congress cannot do any of this alone. The conservative movement should ask something of every American -- but without using the word "sacrifice." We are investing in our future and our children's future, not with more money, but with more of ourselves.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.
Americans are deeply divided between two competing visions of government. One of them, clearly, is conservative -- limited government, deregulation, decentralization, lower taxes, and reduced government spending together forming a sometimes uneasy alliance with conservative positions on "social issues." The other vision is not easily characterized, partly because it is not yet fully formed. It is not liberalism -- liberalism cannot speak its name in American politics today. But neither is it liberalism-in-disguise, as many conservatives apparently believe. Elements of both the honest and the veiled liberalism survive, but their influence has diminished. The Democratic Party today not only wishes to be seen as having moved to the right; it has moved to the right. But that does not mean it has moved into anything like conservative territory.
The Democratic Party has moved to the right. But that does not mean it has moved into conservative territory.
The trouble behind. The most conspicuous failure of the 104th Congress was its irresistible impulse to set its actions in a broader context. There is nothing wrong, and much right, about cutting taxes, cutting spending, deregulating. and so on. People like those things fine all by themselves. It is not necessary to try to persuade them that these changes are the Third Wave, or that they are consistent with libertarian philosophy, or that the streets should run red with the blood of counterrevolutionaries. Republicans had become so persuaded that they were speaking to Everyman's real concerns -- and they were, by the way -- that they imagined that they were doing so every time they opened their mouths. In this remarkably honest period in American politics, there was occasionally such a thing as too much candor. This is a case not for dishonesty, but for less matter and more art.
The trouble ahead. It is impossible to know what legislation President Clinton might sign. Some have advocated waiting for him to make the first move on controversial issues like Medicare reform, so that Republicans won't take it on the chin in the realm of public opinion. This may work in some areas, but it lets Clinton pick the space he will work in.
Far better to let a hundred flowers bloom on the Republican side. Legislate, legislate, legislate. Keep sending him tax cuts until he finally likes one well enough to sign it, and then send him the rest anyway. There are, to be sure, certain practical obstacles, such as the senate filibuster wielded by Minority Leader Tom Daschle. But idle hands are the devil's workshop, so Republicans ought to busy themselves on Republican things.
The danger for conservatives is that Bill Clinton and Al Gore may delineate and capture a political space somewhere to the right of the Left but to the left of the Right, and that this space contains enough votes to allow Democrats to rebuild a majority coalition. The new Democratic policy agenda is unlikely to contain anything like government-guaranteed health insurance, huge stimulus packages, or massive job-training programs. The more likely model for Democrats is the Family and Medical Leave Act -- a program that is mandate-laden but unbureaucratic, pitched to middle-class concerns, and much harder to attack than massive programs like ClintonCare.
The best way to avoid that trap, once again, is to keep Republicans at work on Republican things. If a united Democratic congressional caucus and White House reach across the aisle to Republicans more often than Republicans reach across to Democrats, then conservatism is in trouble.
Tod Lindberg is the editorial page editor of The Washington Times.
The electorate, sometimes a brutal tutor, has been kind to the Republicans. The lesson of the 1996 election is that the American people generally support the direction the party is traveling in, but are worried about the driving. Don't change direction, they are saying, your policies are sensible and necessary. But slow down and navigate more carefully. This republic is not the land of revolutionary jihads.
The resuscitation of society is dramatically different work from the demolition of government.
Three areas require attention: mindset, message, and messenger. Republicans must think and talk in the language, not of revolution, but of governmental reform and social renaissance. The past two years proved just how natural is the impulse among conservatives to oppose rather than propose. For decades, this tendency was well honed through the daily practice of confronting the totalitarian state abroad and the welfare state at home. The former is now functionally gone, the latter is at least ideologically spent.
The challenge now is to create something new -- a humane and viable American society. The resuscitation of society is dramatically different work than the demolition of government. A society ravaged by cultural decay and social regression needs a politics of persuasion and prudence. Republicans must quickly evolve from political wrecking balls to architects of a prudently redesigned federal system and a revived civil society.
All this requires a different message. To use a football analogy, American politics is played between the 40-yard lines. The greatest gains for conservatism came in convincing the country that liberals had pulled America and the Democratic party too far to the left. These converts to conservatism were not looking to replace the ideological stridency of the Left with a rigid triumphalism of the Right. What they wanted was nonideological common sense, which is what conservatism has historically been about. At stake is nothing less than a realignment that favors conservative ideas. America will be governed from neither the Left nor Right, but from the middle, albeit a middle dramatically redefined by conservatism. On a host of domestic policy issues -- welfare, crime, affirmative action, taxes, and decentralization -- today's center was yesterday's Right. Properly guided, these trends can be guided toward more important reforms, from downsizing government to voucherizing housing and health care to privatizing retirement programs.
Finally, regarding the messenger, Republicans must think generationally. Half of Clinton's advantage was generational -- he embodied the Zeitgeist of the Baby Boomers, and to a lesser extent of Generation Xers. For the vast majority of the new electorate, the complexity and diversity of life obscures core certainties. The great temptation in an age of complexity is nostalgia. If the conceit of the Left is that it often ignores the past, the folly of some on the Right is thinking we can live in the past.
The Republican party should skip a generation or two in its leadership to bring up talented women, minorities, and young people. To think that Republicans can govern for long on the Anglo vote alone is fantasy. The party must find a way to connect its principles to the aspirations of new generations and emerging constituencies. Hence the party would be unwise to nominate anyone over the age of 55 in the next presidential campaign.
The greatest legislative priority of the new Congress must be entitlement reform. Republicans need to seize the historic moment to craft a bipartisan package to reform Medicare and Social Security. This is both a moral imperative and a political opportunity. There is a new antientitlement constituency forming, led by Generation X, which is deeply concerned about the crushing burden of debt it will carry. Entitlement politics are already beginning to shift as politicians are forced to pay greater attention to this emerging generation.
Republicans must also address the threat that judicial review poses to constitutional balance. Increasingly, the courts have arrogated to themselves the power to decide controversial moral and political questions. The result has been a serious erosion of self-government and of the credibility of the judiciary. To avoid a constitutional crisis, we will need to restore judicial restraint. This might well require congressional action to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Ultimately, the success of such efforts will depend upon increased conservative influence in America's culture-forming institutions, particularly the academy and the legal profession.
Finally, we must recognize that many of our urgent national problems can't be solved through legislative fiat. Our efforts instead should be directed toward facilitating the efforts of citizens to solve problems at the local level. For example, Republicans need to develop and refine policies which encourage local involvement and private charity. The nation is on the verge of a historic turn-of-the-century civic and moral transformation, promising to curb teen pregnancy, renew fatherhood, recover character, and inspire faith-based charity.
Republicans have been in the classroom, cramming for two years of tests in parliamentary skills that the other party perfected over 50 years. Confounding the naysayers, it has received pretty decent grades and is now poised to excel.
Don Eberly is a former White House aide, the founder of several institutions for renewing civil society, and the author of Restoring the Good Society.
Thomas W. Carroll
The election of 1996 demonstrated that when candidates articulate and believe in a conservative agenda, they generally win. When candidates take contradictory positions on major issues and convey with their every action that their positions are campaign props and not a reflection of their core beliefs, they generally lose. The American public clearly supports a conservative agenda of lower taxes, a balanced budget, and strong action against crime and drugs. The re-election of President Clinton is a testament to the essentially conservative message he adopted (tax cuts, balanced budget, welfare reform, school uniforms, et cetera), and to Bob Dole's implausible stand as a pro-growth presidential candidate.
In hindsight, it is clear that the crowning achievement of Republicans in the 104th Congress was the Contract With America. Their biggest mistake, however, was their failure to articulate a second Contract. Once the Contract votes were completed, congressional Republicans lost their momentum. And the GOP erred in selecting Medicare as the key issue of the 104th Congress. The Democrats were able to step into this vacuum with liberal issues such as health care and the minimum wage. Without a unified position, the Republicans were left looking defensive and divided.
Republicans must offer the public an agenda for the next two years. They would be wise to force President Clinton to offer a detailed Medicare rescue plan, but wait-and-see is not a sensible long-term strategy. The Republican agenda should include cutting taxes across the board, rolling back regulatory burdens that afflict small business and individuals, eliminating federal intrusion into education and the arts, combating drugs, and affirming the rights of parents.
As well, someone in Congress should step forward and defend the right of individuals to have fun. If adults enjoy smoking or drinking, let them. If we expect adults to sacrifice their lives on foreign soil and turn over half of their income to the government in taxes, they should at least be entitled to smoke if they so desire without fear of condemnation by the FDA or the president of the United States. Similarly, if someone likes to collect guns or hunt -- or even wear fur coats, let them. It is, after all, a free country. Politicians should stand up to the politically correct. Fun-loving Americans across the nation would applaud.
Thomas Carroll is the president of Change New York.
Paul M. Weyrich
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the 1996 election is that half of the registered voters didn't bother to show up. The 1996 elections saw the lowest percentage of voter turnout since l924. That suggests that neither political party is connecting with the American public. Without recognizing it, both parties may already be on life-support systems. Most candidates refused to discuss the values-related issues that contributed to the large increase in turnout in 1994. Absent that, many voters saw little difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. Thus, when we hear about President Clinton's "mandate," it is helpful to keep in mind that only about 24 percent of the total eligible electorate voted him back into office.
Before he leaves, Clinton will have chosen 60 percent of the federal judiciary.
Was Bob Dole's defeat inevitable as some of his supporters are now saying? The Zogby poll, the only one which was right on the money, suggested otherwise. A week before the election, Bill Clinton was attracting only 44 percent of the vote. Bob Dole was within striking distance. He simply didn't connect. Voters gave him every chance to tell them why he should be elected President instead of Bill Clinton. He never did so in a fashion that could be easily understood by the voters.
The election of 1996 is significant because it is the first time that Republicans have kept control of the Congress in back-to-back elections since 1928, and because Republicans held on to most of the ground they gained in state legislatures in the 1994 elections and subsequent defections by Democrats. It is extraordinary that Republicans lost only 67 state legislative seats nationwide (net), after gaining more than 600 seats from 1994 to 1996. Many of those losses were in New Hampshire's huge house of representatives, as well as in Vermont and Maine, so the actual number of chambers affected was relatively small.
The election results of 1994 were not, as the media contended, a fluke, and not likely to be reversed soon. Indeed, 1998 will be the six-year-itch of the Clinton administration. Throughout U.S. history (except during the Civil War, every party that occupies the White House over an eight-year span suffers significant losses in the sixth year of that cycle. That means Republicans should be able to look forward to controlling the Congress at least until the year 2000. That fact alone will cause many older Democrats, who were used to power and who have been in limbo for the past two years, to throw in the towel in 1998. Republican opportunities will be legion, although the weakest Senate incumbents of both parties are up for re-election in 1998.
The 1996 elections have produced a more ideologically-polarized House and Senate. Newly-elected Republicans are more conservative than the retiring congressional incumbents they replace. Newly-elected Democrats are more liberal than their predecessors. As a result, fewer moderates remain in both chambers.
So now what comes next? So far, Republicans have behaved correctly since the election. It is time for Bill Clinton to take responsibility for governing the country. If he moves left, he will become again as unpopular as he was in his first term. If he moves right, he will enrage his base. Either way, Republicans would do well to make no moves until Clinton is forced to take a stand.
Organized labor is the big loser in the election. It spent a fortune (probably $300 million or more) to win back the Congress. It failed. The Religious Right saved the Republicans, but some in the GOP have already drawn the long knives to further disassociate the party from issues of concern to social conservatives. The Republican establishment risks precipitating a new party if they persist on alienating these conservatives.
Our military continues to suffer greatly under the Clinton regime. We have been blessed by not having any world threats we can't handle. It is amazing that we got through the first four years of Clinton without a major collapse. If Clinton stretches American forces any thinner, however, that collapse is nigh. The most dangerous outcome of the 1996 election is that by the time he leaves office, Bill Clinton will have had the opportunity to appoint nearly 60 percent of the federal judiciary (if he lasts the whole term, and I believe he will not). He may get to appoint three more Supreme Court justices. If so, the Clinton legacy will linger for more than another generation. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has warned Bill Clinton that he had better temper the sort of judges he is sending up for Senate confirmation. It will take only 41 of the 55 GOP Senators to block a confirmation.
And what of the Clinton scandals? Most Republicans are interpreting the elections as a message from voters to ease up on their investigations. I don't see it that way. Of course Republicans need to be careful how they go about their investigations, but I think it would be a dreadful mistake for the GOP to surrender this territory to Clinton.
Paul Weyrich is the president of the Free Congress Foundation, in Washington, D.C.
Exactly what did this last election tell us about what the American people want? Half the American people -- the nonvoters -- didn't tell us directly what they want. But their indifference tells us that no one has reached their minds and hearts.
Conservatives in Congress failed to remind Americans what they were doing and why they were doing it.
Half the people who did vote chose to re-elect a moderate-sounding Bill Clinton because he is a man of the '90s and seems to understand us. But they retained a Republican House and Senate because the economy is doing pretty well and because President Clinton is a little loose with the truth and the national checkbook.
The American people don't want their entitlements axed, but neither do they want to pay for loafers on welfare. They want regulatory barriers lifted, but not if it means relaxing environmental standards.
Voters embraced a moderate to conservative campaign message. Gone were radical social policies and government-run health-care plans. Suddenly tax cuts were a good idea and the budget deficit could be reduced in less than 10 years. President Clinton was spouting lines like: "Families are the foundation of American life."
Voters heard a message they liked -- a conservative message of tax cuts, balanced budgets, welfare reform, tough crime policies, education choices, family values, and neighborhood and personal charity -- all items on the agenda of the 104th Congress.
So how did Bill Clinton replace his abysmal record with that of the 104th Congress? Conservative leaders in Congress failed to remind Americans in simple, compelling language, what they were doing and why they were doing it. They used the language of the head and forgot about the heart. Clinton co-opted the successes of the 104th Congress, got on his white horse, and took the high road to the White House, while his henchmen in Big Labor did the dirty work.
The lesson for the 105th Congress is that it was not the meat of the conservative message that troubled voters, but the presentation. The 105th Congress need not please everybody -- just the majority of voters who sent conservative lawmakers back to Congress and sent a conservative-sounding president back to the White House.
Conservatives should call the president's bluff on his campaign promises. They should refuse to discuss compromises until Clinton offers the budget he discussed during the 1996 campaign. For example, the president said he would agree to balance the budget in seven years. This means the federal government will spend about a trillion fewer dollars between now and 2004. Conservatives should hold the president to his agreement.
If the 105th Congress wants to take big or controversial actions, like wiping out a whole federal department, it must do so early and completely. If, instead, the budget for an agency slated for the scrap heap is merely cut, special interests will the opportunity to mobilize against those "mean conservatives."
We can expect to see more of Bill Clinton's "triangulation" strategy -- steering a course between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. If Republicans do not have a clear game plan, Clinton will get 75 percent of what he wants and conservatives will get 25 percent. Both will declare victory. Conservatives need a sensible agenda with a compassionate public face.
The 105th Congress can expect labor unions and liberals to seek government-run health care. A unified front of special interests will try to block entitlement cuts and a Balanced Budget Amendment. The payoff for labor's campaign spending will be pension "reform" and federal protection from independent contractors. Stronger environmental regulations will be proposed. The National Education Association will insist that the federal government use the public-education system to provide health care and day care for all preschool children.
Liberals are opening a can of worms. But conservatives can use worms to bait their own hooks.
Bob Williams, a former state legislator and a certified public accountant, is the president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, in Olympia, Washington.
In re-electing GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, the American people rejected the scare tactics of the Left and ratified its movement toward limited government. The Big Government coalition, however, will not disappear in the 105th Congress. The greatest menace to the conservative agenda over the next two years is the White House, aided by the Left's deft and well-funded demagoguery.
The greatest menace to the conservative agenda is the White House, aided by the Left's demagoguery.
After seeing his grand health-care scheme go down in flames, while other initiatives such as the minimum-wage hike and the Kennedy-Kassebaum health-care reform sailed through the Congress, President Clinton and his allies will aim to expand government a little at a time. Instead of openly attempting to socialize health care or the workplace, for example, President Clinton will likely emerge during his second term as an "aggressive incrementalist."
"Aggressive incrementalism" remains the president's most practical option to appease the Democrat Party's left wing. It is a crafty way to avoid the label of "Big Government liberal" while offering to ease the life of middle-class families. These initiatives -- mostly in the form of mandates on business -- will be sold individually as little ways that employers should help their workers. But as most businesses know, the weight of all these "little ways" add up to big costs. Of course, any new mandate on business, especially in the area of workplace issues, presents a new opportunity for employment lawyers to exploit these foggy areas of the law. President Clinton gets a "twofer" -- he pleases both Big Labor and the trial lawyers.
These incremental reforms include an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act; universal health insurance for children; a six-month health-care safety net for the "temporarily unemployed"; and a list of other health insurance requirements like mastectomies (following the recent law requiring 48-hour hospital stays for new mothers and mandating parity for mental-health coverage). And, of course, government agencies will move forward with their own aggressive rulemaking. From indoor-air quality to ergonomics and the like, Big Labor will be pushing government bureaucrats to micromanage our workplaces like never before.
President Clinton will likely move ahead with various executive orders to pay back key political supporters like labor and the environmental lobby. Chairman William Gould of the National Labor Relations Board will continue to act as a labor advocate rather than an impartial arbiter of labor law. For example, he will aggressively promote his "single-site organizing rule" to make it easier for unions to organize small businesses.
The aggressive incrementalists can be stopped. With the passage of the Congressional Review Act and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, regulatory agencies have been curbed on paper, but Congress needs to make sure the agencies are complying with the new laws. Congress must show due diligence to ensure that regulators are not operating uncontrollably (as they now are). If it fulfills its oversight function aggressively, Congress has the tools to slow down the pace of regulation.
Now that everyone "agrees" that government is too big, conservatives have a great opportunity to further cut government spending. Corporate welfare is the perfect place to start, but Republicans and Democrats alike must join to wean their friends in business from the government dole.
Small businesses continue to support a big cut in the capital-gains tax. Cutting the tax in half is the best thing Congress and the president can do to spur growth. If an economic slowdown becomes the main issue of the 1998 mid-term elections, Clinton will deepen his party's losses in the House and Senate. A cut in the capital-gains tax is his best insurance against the possibility that an economic downturn may threaten the health of both the economy and his party.
Karen Kerrigan is the president of the Small Business Survival Committee, in Washington, D.C.
Thomas C. Patterson
The 1996 election was simply not a referendum on public policy. The Left learned in 1994 not to fight elections on the issues. President Clinton so obscured the policy differences between conservatives and liberals that the public did not perceive that any such differences existed.
Unfortunately, most Republicans actually helped him in this regard; very few ran on the principles embodied in the party's Contract With America. Apparently intentionally, they failed to make the case that the Contract needed to be augmented and extended.
Exit polling suggests that those who voted for Clinton were not supporting any particular policy or even policy direction. Clinton voters voted primarily on personality issues and their perceived self-interest as members of a favored group. The old political bromides were correct on this point: In times of relative prosperity, voters seldom see a need to take any political risk or to tolerate significant change. Republicans failed to supply the incentive necessary to induce voters to inconvenience themselves. And, of course, Bill Clinton was the perfect candidate for a media-intense age marked by voter apathy.
Clinton's core liberal constituencies hope that this lame-duck president will now have an unfettered opportunity to enact the liberal agenda. However, Republicans were granted legislative majorities to prevent this. Their task probably won't be difficult. For one thing, the press is much less likely to protect a president who faces no more elections and whose past behavior may very well yield Pulitzer Prize material to enterprising reporters.
A much more perplexing problem for conservatives is how to achieve important public-policy goals such as the structural reform of Medicare, restraint of federal spending (including defunding the Left), tort reform, and the reduction or elimination of the federal role in education. These issues all involve tradeoffs between short-term political concerns and lasting results. Conservatives must figure out how to take their case directly to the people, emphasizing our courage and contrasting that with the shortsightedness of the president and his backers.
Conservatives need to explain to voters that we are not so much anti-government as ungovernment. For example, our vision of welfare reform is not improving the design of the program, but truly getting the government out of the business of inducing dependency. In education, we favor control by parents, not bureaucrats, and we believe that teachers and principals, not administrators, should set policy. We do not stop to calculate whether we can "pay for" tax cuts, but rather insist that we are reducing the ultimate government intrusion into personal economic affairs.
We also need to take our legislative victories wherever we find them and keep moving the policy debate to the right. Home runs are great, but they're not the only way to win. We should not fear to appear doctrinaire or radical when speaking the truth. We should always contrast ourselves with politicians and bureaucrats. Ours is a message of hope and optimism that can appeal to a public weary of business as usual.