29 January 2004
It's the Democrats' fondest dream, even ahead of confiscating all the guns in the country and using them to shoot holes in all the sport-utility vehicles. The reliably right-wing Spoons, however, thinks the Republicans are the ones who really need to focus on replacing George W. Bush:
Clinton is pretty much the perfect example of why conservatives need to defeat George Bush this year. Remember, that immediately following Clinton's 8 years of relatively conservative Democrat-ish-ness, the Democrats put up a candidate that was virtually a carbon copy. Now, imagine yourself as a liberal Democrat in 1996, upset with Clinton's rightward drift. You could have argued (correctly, as history would judge), that electing a "conservative Democrat" like Clinton would only postpone the day when you'd have a chance at true liberal government. You would point out that, if Clinton were re-elected, the party would surely run another just like him in 2000. That person would either win, or would be defeated by an awful Republican. Either way, (your argument would go), a vote for Clinton in '96 would be a vote for, at a minimum, 8 more years of "conservative" government. From your perspective, then, wouldn't it have been better to see Bob Dole elected in '96, so the liberal wing of the party could rebel and put up a Howard Dean or a John Kerry in 2000?
The same is true for conservatives, now. Elect Bush in '04, and we've got a liberal Republican for four more years. Worse, we're almost assured of getting a similarly liberal candidate in '08 (as Republicans are not going to run against the record of a successful two-term predecessor from the same party). Accordingly, if Bush wins in '04, then '08 will be a contest between another liberal Republican, and a Democrat. Either way, a Bush victory means no conservative presence in the White House until 2012, at the earliest, and perhaps not until 2016 (which is really too far ahead to think about).
Conversely, if we elect Kerry now, for example, then the Republicans will spend the next four years being a conservative resistance. This will have the effect of keeping the Democrat President from governing too far to the left. It will also mean a decent shot of electing a reasonably conservative President in '08. That's why I won't be voting for Bush in '04, and that's why I think conservatives, as a whole, will be better off if Bush loses.
This actually makes a certain amount of sense, though it's not clear whether Machiavelli or Rube Goldberg is the primary influence. It depends on two premises: that Bush isn't all that conservative, which is pretty much true, and that the Democrat to be named who is supposed to defeat Bush won't be substantially worse, which is, I think, highly arguable.
Still, there is a lot of rumbling to Bush's right: social conservatives tend to think of him as insufficiently motivated, and fiscal conservatives are appalled at his profligate spending. I don't believe, though, that most of them are disgusted enough to pull the lever for a Democrat; third parties, notably the Libertarians, should pick up a fair number of protest votes, but I can't imagine any of this year's Democrats, who range from leftist to really leftist, getting any kind of boost from the right wing.
I have to admit, though, that the Spoons plan is ingenious, and surely it will appeal to some folks on the right: after all, what could be more conservative than delayed gratification?