WHO’LL USE ALGORE AS A MOP? In 1988 I voted for George Bush. In 1992 I voted for the Libertarian candidate, André Marou. By the time the airplane glue and hair spray I had been huffing all weekend had worn off, it was too late to change my vote. Nevertheless, I took solace then, and I take it now, that if I thought Poppy Bush had even close to a chance to carry New York State, I would have voted for him. Indeed, I even volunteered for him here in Washington. Boy, did I meet a cool bunch of guys doing that!
Here comes Y2K and it’s time to start talking way too early about the next election. Richard Gephardt, the man who said during the impeachment debate, “May God have mercy on this House.” without even flinching in anticipation of a lightning bolt, has decided not to run for president. He hopes instead to serve as the Divine hand of God’s wrath on House Republicans. So, it seems more likely than ever that whoever wins the Republican nomination will be the only body standing between us and the Gore Presidency, which could mean that in no time at all the Marines will be wearing blue helmets, the Supreme Court will hear its first Third Amendment case ever — on the quartering of bureaucrats in our homes — and the new Mustang will come with a kickstand. Mothers, lock up your chluorofluorocarbons.
So this is serious stuff. In many ways this is far more serious than 1992 or 1996. As Jesse Jackson pointed out, Bill Clinton is “nothing but an appetite.” Like so many smart, fat kids from broken homes, all he hungered for was popularity. Therefore as a grown-up (loosely defined) politician, Clinton believed in nothing but the polls. And since the polls generally reflect a mildly conservative attitude on public policy, the risks were generally low if Bob Dole or George Bush lost (yes, the same polls which say “the people” are opposed to Clinton’s removal also show that “the people” are opposed to affirmative action, in favor of welfare reform, lower taxes, etc.).
But my goodness, Al Gore believes things. More dangerous, he thinks his beliefs are right, not because of his moral center or his faith in the liberal tradition, but because “science” and his own intellect tell him so. We’ll have plenty of time in the coming year to scour the blueprint of winches and pulleys inside Al’s brain. Today let’s just give him the respect that he is due and call him a man conservatives should truly fear. I have already written in this space that I think, barring something really bizarre, Al Gore will not win in 2000. America has elected only two sitting vice-presidents straight to the Presidency since the Twelfth Amendment was ratified. I doubt that Gore will be the third.
But betting that past political trends will pay off in the future is almost like betting that you’ll roll another seven because you’ve been doing it all night. So who will have the best shot of beating Gore? The simple truth has two parts. First, no one knows. Second, it doesn’t matter because that’s not how Republicans vote in primaries. If they did, Lamar Alexander might be president today because he had the best chance of beating Clinton 1996 (more about Lamar! shortly).
Factoring out regional prejudices, Republicans essentially nominate candidates based on two conflicting questions: “Whose turn is it?” and “Who’s the best conservative?” The problem is that these criteria are often at odds with each other. This explains the general logic of the Republican nomination process. In 1960 Nixon beat Goldwater in the primaries. Conservatives, then an embryonic movement, threatened to desert the party. In a great speech, Goldwater said “grow up conservatives” and they did, but to no avail. They backed Nixon who subsequently ran as the vice-presidential heir to a two-term president. He lost (see above). In 1964 the conservatives said it’s our turn and ran Goldwater. He lost (don’t see above). In 1976 Reagan ran against Ford in a classic competition between the best conservative and a guy who really deserved his own turn. Ford squeaked out the nomination but lost in 1976. In 1980 Reagan, the real conservative, won. In 1988 it alternated back to the guy on deck, George Bush. He managed to beat Michael Dukakis, the worst candidate of the post-war era. The rest, as they say, is fodder for MSNBC’s insipid Time and Again series.
It seems to me that we’re due for a real conservative. It would also be nice to have one who can win. So, in response to all of the requests for more CY2K columns in this space (“C” normally stands for cookie which is good enough for me. But for the purposes of my day “job,” “C” stands for “campaign”), I am preparing for this Friday my unofficial, I’d-rather-be-fat-dumb-and-happy-watching-Baywatch-for-another-six-months-than-tune-in-to-C-SPAN’s The Road to the White House guide to presidential politics.
Hopefully by Friday I’ll come up with a less toothy title. But you can help. In preparation for my guide — I’m actually going to call people who know what they’re talking about, and I’m not talking phone sex operators either — I could also use your help.
Hence, I am launching the Goldberg File Reader’s Poll. In order to inaugurate this marvel of modern technology, get to know you better, and find new ways to pad columns, I would like to know:
1. Your political self-identification. 2. Your favorite potential GOP candidate. 3. The candidate you think will win the nomination. 4. The candidate you think is best equipped to defeat vice-president Gore. 5. What the rallying issue for conservatives should be. 6. What you think the sweatiest movie of the last fifty years was. Yes, I mean what movie had the most volume of human perspiration on screen. (optional) Send your votes to VOTEGFILE@AOL.COM.
DON’T SEND VOTES TO Jonahemail!!! (and don’t cc them there either. Jonahemail@aol.com — for the time being is only for general comments, correspondence, and hate mail from people with a lot of cats. This parenthetical admonition is going on too long, isn’t it? Hello? Uh, I’m talking to myself through my computer again. “ECHO!” “echo….” That’s not good. Is it a sign you’ve been working alone too long if you actually hear the words as you type them and they sound like James Earl Jones? Except when you italicize and then it sounds like… Fran Drescher from The Nanny? Must…stop…typing… now…) Results will appear Friday, so don’t dawdle. Please only vote once, but encourage your friends and enemies to vote, too. Please, no essays — I will not read them, they make my lips tired.
FULL, ER, SEMI-DISCLOSURE: Hopefully, in the future I will be writing more about politics generally and less about the president’s pants specifically. To that end I should be clear about some things.
First, I have lots of friends working for and around potential presidential candidates. Fortunately, I’m not attracted to any of them — except one. She, I have been wooing steadfastly for quite some time. She is Lamar(!) Alexander’s Policy Director and she is a find, both as Policy Director and as the object of said wooing, though not in that order. Obviously, it’s pretty serious because I am making a colossal jackass out of myself in writing about it at all. Indeed, I would spend more time in Nashville with her except for the fact that Nashville is more boring than the flight to Nashville. I will not get mushier about her because already I can hear the iron gate on the he-man-woman-hater’s tree house slamming shut on me. She is to Lamar(!)’s Right (almost enough room for a crowd scene from Ben Hur there, as far as I can tell) and she may even be to my right (not very much room there — more like an ideological crawl space or air duct. But she’s quite svelte so she might make it). I like to think of her as the conservative Mikhail Suslov of the Lamar(!) campaign (look him up). Anyway, I mention this because when I write negative things about GOP guys like George Bush or Gary “You were supposed to cue me when it was time to blink” Bauer, some Washington friends question my motives. Outrageous! This column is without motives. I keep telling my editors at NR, motives cost extra. For what they pay, all they get is a rich pseudo-intellectual cocktail of moralizing, cynicism, rage, and movie trivia.