As the year’s most venerable holiday approaches – Father’s Day – undoubtedly former President Bush has got to be one of the nations happiest fathers. He has two sons in the family business. Governors in Florida and Texas and his namesake is on his way to becoming the chairman of the board: the president of the United States.
But taking over the family business isn’t easy. Often the old man doesn’t want to let go and in this case those Bush values of civility and traditional thinking could spell the kind of razor thin debacle that handed the White House in 1992 to an Arkansas Governor who most people hadn’t even heard of just a year before.
Because the Democrats think they have it won. “It’s not even going to be close,” according to Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa. Beck claims his election forecasting models are founded on the elections since 1948 and integrate economic and political conditions into the functions of the long outdated Electoral College. The model gives Vice President Gore 56.2% of the vote 6 months from now. At the University of Wisconsin Professor Thomas M. Holbrook went further. Using largely the same strategy he’s giving Gore almost 60% of the vote. The way they’ve positioned their models within the anachronistic structure of the Electoral College Gore can’t lose so it’s up to Bush Jr., to win.
The first decision that Bush, Jr., is taking a beating on is his vice presidential pick. His decision should be governed by three lessons learned from his Dad’s administration. One: conservatives unite behind economic issues and form circular firing squads over social issues. Two: when the circular firing squad says ready, aim, fire Bush Jr., will be in the middle reading their lips. Three: he can’t win on the abortion issue but he can surely lose on it.
Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center has some interesting numbers on abortion. 31% of Catholics and 32% of Protestants are pro-choice. Move the questions further with factors like rape, incest or health of the mother and the numbers climb. 62% of Americans on average hold some intermediate position on abortion all the time. In all of this there is a whole generation of new voters born after Roe v. Wade who consider abortion rights the norm and the only chance that pro-life proponents have of changing that is to control the Supreme Court. The next President may be the first president in three generations to have the opportunity to appoint a majority to the court and President Gore isn’t very likely to have a pro-life candidate on the top of his list.
Nevertheless the circular firing squad of the Republican Pro-Life movement, despite the endorsement of Reverend Pat Robertson of his candidacy, has opened fire on Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge because of his pro-choice stance. The media smells blood with reports that one of the architects of the Republican disaster of ’76, Dick Cheyney is heading up a team trying to recruit retired Missouri Senator John Danforth, now an Episcopal minister to run with Bush Jr. A move that is likely to make Albert Gore the next president of the United States.
No doubt the nation could do far worse than Jack Danforth. The very problem is his quality. His steady, quiet and honorable pro-life determination will become the isolating media factor in the election. He will be the issue, just as Dan Quayle became a hot potatoe in 1992. Democratic strategists would like nothing better than to turn this election into a national referendum on abortion rights and if they succeed those 60% numbers won’t be so far fetched.
Last week one of Pennsylvania’s leading conservatives called the pro-life attacks on Ridge “myopic.” Considering the numbers “myopic” is kind. Damn near blind to reality is probably closer to the truth.
George W. Bush should tell Dad and Dad’s old guard that its time his team took over and then judge Tom Ridge by the people who really don’t like him. Democrats, organized labor, welfare rights groups and the educational status quo who have battered Ridge for 5 years because of his stands for school choice, welfare and tax reform. The struggles he’s had with the eternally elected in Harrisburg to shake things up and turn America’s rust bucket into the Silicon Valley of the east.
Undoubtedly it’s hard to break into the family business and change the way things always have been done. Someday George W. Bush is going to have to do it anyway so why not now? Even to the most ardent pro-life advocates a winning Bush/Ridge ticket has got to sound better than Gore/Gephart for the next four years.