November 18, 2004


The fear myth: Actually, George Bush's victory had more to do with hope and growth (Lexington, Nov 18th 2004, The Economist)

IN THE past fortnight, the Democrats have come up with lots of comfort-food explanations of George Bush's victory—from the idea that the rascal stole the election for a second time (there were a mere 3.3m votes in it, after all) to the notion that he rode into Washington, DC, at the head of an army of hooded fundamentalists. But perhaps the most dangerous of all these myths is the idea that Mr Bush terrified the voters into re-electing him. He divided the country along “fault lines of fear”, according to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times; he relied on “fear of and hatred for modernity”, added Garry Wills, polymath and devout Catholic. Sooner or later every Democrat starts saying that the president used terrorism to partisan advantage.

This explanation is dangerous because it contains a measure of truth. The election certainly took place against a background of fear (Islamic fanatics are, after all, bent on killing as many Americans as they can). And the Republicans certainly played the fear card with gusto (as indeed did the Democrats: remember all the talk about reintroducing conscription). But if they are going to extract any useful lessons from their humiliation, the Democrats need to realise that the Republicans didn't just beat them on fear. They clobbered them on hope.

For the moment, the American right is better at talking about the future than the left. It is better at exuding optimism. And it is better at addressing the aspirations of an aspirational people. [...]

Mr Bush's optimistic message gave him a commanding advantage in pro-growth America. Joel Kotkin, a Los Angeles-based writer who knows as much about the grassroots economy as anyone, points to the close relationship between growth, both demographic and economic, and a propensity to vote Republican. Most of Mr Kerry's base was in stagnant America. Democratic strongholds such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Mr Kerry's Boston have been losing people and jobs.

Mr Bush's America, for the most part, is booming. This is not just because the red states that voted for Mr Bush are growing faster than the blue states that voted for Mr Kerry. It is also because Mr Bush did well in the fast-growing suburbs and “exurbs” in both red and blue states. Mr Bush's triumph in greater Phoenix, greater Houston and greater Atlanta was perhaps predictable. But Mr Kotkin points out that he also triumphed in what he calls the “third California”: the vast inland region that is producing the bulk of the state's growth at the moment.

How have the Republicans succeeded in turning themselves into the party of the future?

Turning themselves into? The point is that the future turned out to be what they predicted all along. The New Deal/Great Society-secular-permissive trial failed miserably. Archie Bunker was right--we needed the party of Hoover again.

Strangely enough, it was a man noted best for his trouble expressing ideas and passion who captured this truth most eloquently, Remarks by Senator Bob Dole: Dole Accepts Nomination (San Diego, California, August 15, 1996):

Ladies and gentlemen, delegates to the convention, and fellow citizens, I cannot say it more clearly than in plain speaking. I accept your nomination to lead our party once again to the Presidency of the United States.

And I am profoundly moved by your confidence and trust, and I look forward to leading America into the next century. But this is not my moment, it is yours. It is yours, Elizabeth. It is yours, Robin. It is yours, Jack and Joanne Kemp.

And do not think I have forgotten whose moment this is above all. It is for the people of America that I stand here tonight, and by their generous leave. And as my voice echoes across darkness and desert, as it is heard over car radios on coastal roads, and as it travels above farmland and suburb, deep into the heart of cities that, from space, look tonight like strings of sparkling diamonds, I can tell you that I know whose moment this is: It is yours. It is yours entirely.

And who am I that stands before you tonight?

I was born in Russell, Kansas, a small town in the middle of the prairie surrounded by wheat and oil wells. As my neighbors and friends from Russell, who tonight sit in front of this hall, know well, Russell, though not the West, looks out upon the West.

And like most small towns on the plains, it is a place where no one grows up without an intimate knowledge of distance.

And the first thing you learn on the prairie is the relative size of a man compared to the lay of the land. And under the immense sky where I was born and raised, a man is very small, and if he thinks otherwise, he is wrong.
I come from good people, very good people, and I'm proud of it. My father's name was Doran and my mother's name was Bina. I loved them and there's no moment when my memory of them and my love for them does not overshadow anything I do -- even this, even here -- and there is no height to which I have risen that is high enough to allow me to allow me to forget them -- to allow me to forget where I came from, and where I stand and how I stand -- with my feet on the ground, just a man at the mercy of God.

And this perspective has been strengthened and solidified by a certain wisdom that I owe not to any achievement of my own, but to the gracious compensations of age.

Now I know that in some quarters I may not -- may be expected to run from this, the truth of this, but I was born in 1923, and facts are better than dreams and good presidents and good candidates don't run from the truth.

I do not need the presidency to make or refresh my soul. That false hope I will gladly leave to others. For greatness lies not in what office you hold, but on how honest you are in how you face adversity and in your willingness to stand fast in hard places.

Age has its advantages.

Let me be the bridge to an America than only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action.

And to those who say it was never so, that America's not been better, I say you're wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember.

And our nation, though wounded and scathed, has outlasted revolutions, civil war, world war, racial oppression and economic catastrophe. We have fought and prevailed on almost every continent. And in almost every sea.

We have even lost. But we have lasted, and we have always come through.

And what enabled us to accomplish this has little to do with the values of the present. After decades of assault upon what made America great, upon supposedly obsolete values, what have we reaped? What have we created? What do we have?

What we have in the opinions of millions of Americans is crime and drugs, illegitimacy, abortion, the abdication of duty, and the abandonment of children.

And after the virtual devastation of the American family, the rock upon which this country was founded, we are told that it takes a village, that is collective, and thus the state, to raise a child.

The state is now more involved than it ever has been in the raising of children. And children are now more neglected, more abused and more mistreated than they have been in our time.

This is not a coincidence. This is not a coincidence. And with all due respect, I am here to tell you it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.

If I could by magic restore to every child who lacks a father or a mother that father or that mother, I would. And though I cannot, I would never turn my back on them. And I shall as President vote measures that keep families whole.

And I'm here to tell you that permissive and destructive behavior must be opposed. That honor and liberty must be restored and that individual accountability must replace collective excuse.

And I'm here to say I am here to say to America, do not abandon the great traditions that stretch to the dawn of our history. Do not topple the pillars of those beliefs -- God, family, honor, duty, country -- that have brought us through time, and time, and time, and time again.

And to those who believe that I am too combative, I say if I am combative, it is for love of country. It is to uphold a standard that I was I was born and bread to defend. And to those who believe that I live and breathe compromise, I say that in politics honorable compromise is no sin. It is what protects us from absolutism and intolerance.

But one must never compromise in regard to God and family and honor and duty and country. And I'm here to set a marker, that all may know that it is possible to rise in politics, with these things firmly in mind, not compromised and never abandoned, never abandoned.

For the old values endure and though they may sleep and though they may falter, they endure. I know this is true. And to anyone who believes that restraint honor and trust in the people cannot be returned to government, I say follow me, follow me.

Only right conduct, only right conduct distinguishes a great nation from one that cannot rise above itself. It has never been otherwise.

Right conduct every day, at every level, in all facets of life. The decision of a child not to use drugs; of a student not to cheat; of a young woman or a young man to serve when called; of a screenwriter to refuse to add to mountains of trash; of a businessman not to bribe; of a politician to cast a vote or take action that will put his office or his chances of victory at risk, but which is right.

And why have so many of us -- and I do not exclude myself, for I am not the model of perfection -- why have so many of us been failing these tests for so long? The answer is not a mystery. It is to the contrary quite simple and can be given quite simply.

It is because for too long we have had a leadership that has been unwilling to risk the truth, to speak without calculation, to sacrifice itself.

An administration, in its very existence, communicates this day by day until it flows down like rain and the rain becomes a river and the river becomes a flood.

Which is more important, wealth or honor?

It is not as was said by the victors four years ago, the economy stupid. It's a kind of nation we are. It's whether we still possess the wit and determination to deal with many questions including economic questions, but certainly not limited to them. All things do not flow from wealth or poverty. I know this firsthand and so do you.

All things flow from doing what is right.

The cry of this nation lies not in its material wealth but in courage, and sacrifice and honor. We tend to forget when leaders forget. And we tend to remember it when they remember it.

The high office of the presidency requires not a continuous four year campaign for re-election, but rather broad oversight and attention to three essential areas: the material, the moral and the nation's survival in that ascending order of importance.

In the last presidential election, you the people were gravely insulted. You were told that the material was not only the most important of these three, but in fact, really the only one that mattered.

I don't hold to that for a moment. No one can deny the importance of material well-being. And in this regard, it is time to recognize we have surrendered too much of our economic liberty. I do not appreciate the value of economic liberty nearly as much for what it has done in keeping us fed, as to what it's done in keeping us free.

The freedom of the marketplace is not merely the best guarantor of our prosperity. It is the chief guarantor of our rights, and a government that seizes control of the economy for the good of the people ends up seizing control of the people for the good of the economy.

And our opponents portray the right to enjoy the fruits of one's own time and labor as a kind selfishness against which they must fight for the good of the nation. But they are deeply mistaken, for when they gather to themselves the authority to take the earnings and direct the activities of the people, they are fighting not for our sake but for the power to tell us what to do.

And you now work from the first of January to May just to pay your taxes so that the party of government can satisfy its priorities with the sweat of your brow because they think that what you would do with your own money would be morally and practically less admirable than what they would do with it.

And that simply has got to stop. It's got to stop in America.

It is demeaning to the nation that within the Clinton administration, a core of the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned, should have the power to fund with your earnings their dubious and self-serving schemes. [...]

[I] have learned in my own life, from my own experience that not every man, woman or child can make it on their own. And that in time of need, the bridge between failure and success can be the government itself. And given all that I have experienced, I shall always remember those in need. That is why I helped to save Social Security in 1983 and that is why I will be, I will be the president who preserves and strengthens and protects Medicare for America's senior citizens.

For I will never forget the man who rode on a train from Kansas to Michigan to see his son who was thought to be dying in an Army hospital. When he arrived, his feet were swollen and he could hardly walk because he had to make the trip from Kansas to Michigan standing up most of the way.

Who was that man? He was my father. My father was poor and I love my father. Do you imagine for one minute that as I sign the bills that will set the economy free, I will not be faithful to Americans in need? You can be certain that I will.

For to do otherwise would be to betray those whom I love and honor most. And I will betray nothing. [...]

The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents -- The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view.

But if there's anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.

And though, I can only look up -- and though I can look up, and at a very steep angle, to Washington and Lincoln, let me remind you of their concern for the sometimes delicate unity of the people.

The notion that we are and should be one people rather than "peoples" of the United States seems so self-evident and obvious that it's hard for me to imagine that I must defend it. When I was growing up in Russell, Kansas, it was clear to me that my pride and my home were in America, not in any faction, and not in any division.

In this I was heeding, even as I do unto this day, Washington's eloquent rejection of factionalism. I was honoring, even as I do unto this day, Lincoln's word, his life and his sacrifice. The principle of unity has been with us in all our successes.

The 10th Mountain Division, in which I served in Italy, and the Black troops of the 92ndm Division who fought nearby were the proof for me once again of the truth I'm here trying to convey.

The war was fought just a generation after America's greatest and most intense period of immigration. And yet when the blood of the sons of immigrants and the grandsons of slaves fell on foreign fields, it was American blood. In it you could not read the ethnic particulars of the soldier who died next to you. He was an American.

And when I think how we learned this lesson I wonder how we could have unlearned it. Is the principle of unity, so hard-fought and at the cost of so many lives, having been contested again and again in our history, and at such a terrible price, to be casually abandoned to the urge to divide?
The answer is no.

Must we give in to the senseless drive to break apart that which is beautiful and whole and good?

And so tonight I call on every American to rise above all that may divide us, and to defend the unity of the nation for the honor of generations past, and the sake of those to come. [...]

[O]n my first day in office, I will put America on a course that will end our vulnerability to missile attack and rebuild our armed forces.

It is a course President Clinton has refused to take. And on my first day in office, I will put terrorists on notice. If you harm one American, you harm all Americans. And America will pursue you to the ends of the earth.

In short, don't mess with us if you're not prepared to suffer the consequences.

And furthermore, the lesson has always been clear, if we are prepared to defend, if we are prepared to fight many wars and greater wars than any wars that come, we will have to fight fewer wars and lesser wars and perhaps no wars at all.

It has always been so and will ever be so. And I'm not the first to say that the long gray line has never failed us, and it never has.

For those who might be sharply taken aback and thinking of Vietnam, think again. For in Vietnam the long gray line did not fail us, we failed it in Vietnam.

The American soldier -- the American soldier was not made for the casual and arrogant treatment that he suffered there, where he was committed without clear purpose or resolve, bound by rules that prevented victory, and kept waiting in the valley of the shadow of death for 10 years while the nation invaded the undebatable question of his honor.

No, the American soldier was not to be thrown into battle without a clear purpose or resolve, not made to be abandoned in the field of battle, not made to give his life for indifference or lack of respect. And I will never commit the American soldier to an ordeal without the prospect of victory.

And when I am president, and when I am president every man, and every women in our armed forces will know the president is Commander-in-Chief, not Boutros Boutros-Ghali or any other UN Secretary General.

This I owe not only to the living, but to the dead, to every patriot, to every patriot grave, to the ghosts of Valley Forge, of Flanders Field, of Bataan, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, and the Gulf.

This I owe to the men who died on the streets of Mogadishu not three year ago, to the shadows on the bluffs of Normandy, to the foot soldiers who never came home, to the airmen who fell to earth, and the sailors who rest perpetually at sea.

This is not an issue of politics, but far graver than that. Like the bond of trust between parent and child, it is the lifeblood of the nation. It commands not only sacrifice but a grace in leadership embodying both caution and daring at the same time. And this we owe not only to ourselves. Our Allies demand consistency and resolve, which they deserve from us as we deserve it from them. But even if they falter, we cannot, for history has made us the leader, and we are obliged by history to keep the highest standard possible.

And in this regard may I remind you of the nation's debt to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush. President Nixon engaged China and the Soviet Union with diplomatic genius. President Ford, who gave me my start in 1976, stood fast in a time of great difficulty, and with the greatest of dignity. Were it not for President Reagan, the Soviet Union would still be standing today.

He brought the Cold War to an end, not, as some demanded, through compromise and surrender -- but by winning it. That's how he brought the Cold War to an end.

And President Bush, with a mastery that words fail to convey, guided the Gulf War coalition and its military forces to victory. A war that might have lasted years and taken the lives of tens of thousands of Americans passed so swiftly and passed so smoothly that history has yet to catch its breath and give him the credit he is due.

History is like that. History is like that. Whenever we forget its singular presence, it gives us a lesson in grace and awe.

And when I look back on my life, I see less and less of myself and more and more a history of this civilization that we have made that is called America.

And I am content and always will be content to see my own story subsumed in great events, the greatest of which is the simple onward procession of the American people. What a high privilege it is to be at the center in these times -- and this I owe to you, the American people.

I owe everything to you. And to make things right, and to close the circle, I will return to you as much as I possibly can. It is incumbent upon me to do so. It is my duty and my deepest desire. And so tonight, I respectfully -- I respectfully ask for your blessing and your support. [...]

My friends, a presidential campaign is more than a contest of candidates, more than a clash of opposing philosophies.

It is a mirror held up to America. It is a measurement of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. For as much inspiration as we may draw from a glorious past, we recognize American preeminently as a country of tomorrow. For we were placed here for a purpose, by a higher power. There's no doubt about it.

Every soldier in uniform, every school child who recites the Pledge of Allegiance, every citizen who places her hand on her heart when the flag goes by, recognizes and responds to our American destiny.

Optimism is in our blood. I know this as few others can. There once was a time when I doubted the future. But I have learned as many of you have learned that obstacles can be overcome.

And I have unlimited confidence in the wisdom of our people and the future of our country.

Tonight, I stand before you tested by adversity, made sensitive by hardship, a fighter by principle, and the most optimistic man in America.

Not only did this present us a Bob Dole who was, maybe for the first time in his public career, a sympathetic and comprehensible character, but it provided a profound metaphor for conservatism: a bridge that can connect us to the best of our past--in this case skipping over the detritus of the 60s and 70s in particular.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2004 1:31 PM

Seems to me from what I've been reading since the election that the Blue-staters are much more afraid of GWB than the Red-staters are of OSB.

Posted by: Rick T. at November 18, 2004 2:51 PM

Wow. Compare that to that callow, paper-mache scoundrel Clinton.

Part of my drift out of the Democratic party began because they were too many Democrats I knew in Washington who would snicker derisively at any number of sentiments expressed in that speech. I knew quite a few young staffers for older Democrat reps who would roll their eyes at their own boss' affection for country and other outmoded virtues -- The party cadres had become too venal.

Posted by: Twn at November 18, 2004 3:13 PM

I never understood the idea of a "blue-collar" guy from Queens singing about how great Herbert Hoover or LaSalles were. (The latter being luxury cars up there with Cadillacs.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 18, 2004 3:14 PM

"but it provided a profound metaphor for conservatism: a bridge that can connect us to the best of our past--in this case skipping over the detritus of the 60s and 70s in particular."


Much of our past well before the 60's and 70's was not proud and only rectified due to the application of classical liberalism. We had slavery and sweatshops and monopolies and corruption...on and on. How does one separate a good past to conserve from a bad one?

Posted by: Perry at November 18, 2004 6:43 PM

We have all them except slavery now. But a good way to decide is the popular will. There is probably 0% of the population that wants to bring back slavery, but 70% want prayer back in schools.

Posted by: oj at November 18, 2004 6:51 PM

Mark Helprin was a hell of a speechwriter.

8+ years later, my wife still laughs when I paraphrase some version of:

"And the first thing you learn on the prairie is the relative size of a man compared to the lay of the land"

She was my girlfriend when we watched this speech. Dole was her first Republican vote. This speech helped seal the deal.

Posted by: JAB at November 18, 2004 6:53 PM


No, not what I mean. Of course we can vote the popular will. Do you not agree we have moved forward on the spectrum of liberty, justice and equality? The last time I looked we donot have children in factories or promote corruption to gain monopolistic advantage to name a few.

If we have progressed as a society, how can conservatives defend their philosophy in light of many aspects of our dark past?

Posted by: Perry at November 18, 2004 8:51 PM


No. We traded slavery, segregation, and local government for abortion, euthanasia, the Welfare State, etc. we're less free.

Posted by: oj at November 18, 2004 9:12 PM

No, this was a topic of another thread. I would like to know how conservatives can justify conserving the ills of the past? Whether or not we do or don't have new ills is besides the point. Ideally, wouldn't true conservtism conserve slavery for future generations when taken as an example?

Posted by: Perry at November 18, 2004 9:58 PM

Perry: You're absolutely right, we need to get rid of all the ills of the past to make room for all the shiny new ills popping out of campuses everywhere. As soon as you figure out how to identify them, let us know.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 18, 2004 10:16 PM


We should have conserved slavery, just not chattel slavery.

Posted by: oj at November 18, 2004 10:39 PM

It was a straight forward question David.

Posted by: Perry at November 18, 2004 10:42 PM

Slavery and segregation were involuntary and could not be changed by those most affected.

Abortion, euthanasia, and accepting welfare are all individual choices, and can be affected by the attitudes of those partaking.

We are effectively more free now than in the past, whatever the philosophical argument is against that position.

Liberty, freedom, and morality are frequently confused in this forum. They are certainly intermingled, but they are not interchangable.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 19, 2004 3:25 AM


Who chooses to be aborted? How many ill and handicapped are comptent to make the decision? Look at the cycle of welfare dependency the State effected in the 60s/70s.

Ten million blacks were brought to America as slaves. 40 million Americans have been murdered in the womb.

Posted by: oj at November 19, 2004 8:42 AM

I agree Michael,

However, I was not revisting that tread from few days back. I just wanted to know how a political philosphy (conservatism as a definition) built on preserving what has been, can be justified when one considers much of the past was a "Liberty, freedom, and morality " wreck.

Any comments are much appreciated.

Posted by: Perry at November 19, 2004 8:42 AM


It wasn't.

Posted by: oj at November 19, 2004 8:51 AM

Perry --

Conservatives do not "Throw out the baby with the bath water", but they do throw out the bath water.

I have not decided who throws out the baby with the bath water, perhaps liberals (in some sense of the word.)

The far left tends to throw out the baby and keep the bath water.

Essentially conservatism is not as absolute or radical as you presume. Change is not perceived as absolutely evil, rather it is seen as potentially evil and thus must be most carefuly considered before it is accepted. I rather expect that having considered various changes, conservatives balk at more of them than you would. On the other hand, leftists routinely ignore any possibility of adverse or unintended consequences of any 'bright' idea that occurrs to them.

There do exist some conservatives that insist, rather stupidly (I think), that insist that even the weather should not be allowed to change but those folks should not dominate your idea of what a conservative is.

George Bush is a radical conservative in that he is attempting to repair the damage done by the left over many years. As such he really annoys both the far left and the far right.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at November 19, 2004 9:51 AM


First of all, I would dispute the assertion that those evils that concern you were all caused by traditional conservatism and cured by classical liberalism. Child labour in factories was hardly a Burkean or traditional religious invention. Nor was chattel slavery. Both of these had as much to do with the sudden advent of an ideological hyper-individualism (resulting from the collapse of feudalism) and a distorion of property rights theory as they did with tradition. A rote, populist resistance to change in the face of an injustice is not necessarily conservative as understood today.

What makes you think the past was a "morality wreck" compared with today? Which morality?

Posted by: Peter B at November 19, 2004 10:47 AM

WTF LaSalle?

Give me a '65-'66 Mustang, '67 Cougar, Hemi-cuda, Pontiac GTO, Dodge Charger, any of the classic muscle/pony cars -- classic FoMoCo and Mopar iron. Or a Shelby Cobra 289 or 427...

Posted by: Ken at November 19, 2004 7:19 PM
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