08/30/04 — Give us choice: Parties don’t need to look just alike

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Give us choice: Parties don’t need to look just alike

The Democrats are doing all they can to win the presidency by claiming to be something the Republicans really are — strong on defense. Hence, Sen. John Kerry’s effort to create the image that he is a brave warrior.

The Republicans sometimes try to look like what the Democrats really are — strong on expensive, complex social programs. Hence, such boondoggles as President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and the unpopular program under which Medicare will help pay for drugs for the elderly poor.

This is no good.

The parties are trying to be too much like each other. Neither is convincing in its pandering to the other’s constituency, and their efforts nearly always end up in disaster.

Besides, when the two big parties try to look alike, it deprives the voters of real choice.

Picture the aggregate mass of voters as three blocs: The Democratic base, the Republican base and the Undecideds. Kerry and Bush are trying to win over the Undecideds.

The Democrats’ base is people who can tolerate higher taxes and people whose papas were Democrats, along with such groups as labor unions and people who belong to minority races. Kerry, in his efforts to win over the Undecideds, can safely move to the right as far as these voters are concerned. He can say almost anything about security, the intelligence agencies and the war in Iraq with no worry that it will dissuade these die-hard Democrats.

The Republicans’ base includes people who oppose higher taxes and government intrusion into their lives. By and large, they advocate narrow interpretation of the Constitution and are strong on defense. Evangelical Christians are also in this base. These are people who take their principles seriously. For Bush to make a leftward move to try to appeal to the Undecideds would be risky.

Even if the right-wingers didn’t move over to Kerry’s side if Bush seemed too soft on conservative principles, many of them might just sit out the election. Many who help finance the campaign might decide to do something else with their money.

Bush should stand fast on his fundamental beliefs, articulate them as clearly as possible and let the election take its course. Then if he is re-elected, as seems likely, he will have won with a clear mandate, and both he and the people will know the direction in which the nation should go.

It does little good for liberals or conservatives to win the presidency if they lose their principles along the way.

Published in Editorials on August 30, 2004 11:44 AM