Come what may on November 7, Governor George W. Bush has already accomplished a feat few would have considered possible.
The debate about the presidency began where debates increasingly have come to be positioned: on the "Liberal" turf. Especially since 1992, the question has no longer been whether to build socialism in America, only how fast and in what sequence. Dispensing other people's money, whether in the form of prescription drugs or federally funded (read: controlled) education is the agenda of European socialists, not the philosophy of America's Founders.
I must admit to my sense of discomfort when the banner of "compassionate conservatism" was unfurled. A somewhat similar rhetoric, suggesting that a Republican might be better at building socialism than the socialists themselves, has been tried in the 1996 presidential campaign.
Given the ongoing effort to keep immigrants and generations of students from finding out how America was supposed to function, and why Americans have succeeded where others failed, the "who gets what" discussions suggested an inevitable slide toward a Gore presidency.
And then, during the last few weeks, an unexpected turn.
Without announcements, without raising his voice, without a trace of aggression, the Governor of Texas shifted the debate onto an entirely different terrain. By declining opportunities - often to the frustration of his supporters - to counter outrageous pronouncements by his opponent, he succeeded in making the Marxist-Leninist slogans at the heart of Vice President Albert Gore Jr.'s campaign irritating even for the faithful. By refusing to look or act guilty, he succeeded in focusing attention upon the schoolhouse bully.
But it took more than that to accomplish the feat. Mr. Bush turned out to be very good at uttering simple, quiet, straightforward and common-sense lines. His response during the last debate to the question about executions in Texas has already received much attention. Less notice has been given to a remarkable exchange last Thursday night on CBS-TV's "Late Show with David Letterman."
"You are in the middle of your second term as governor of Texas, "Mr. Letterman remarked. "Is it fair to the voters in your state that you now seek a different office?"
"If two years ago I had promised not to do that, it would be unfair of course," Mr. Bush replied,"but I let it be known at the time that I was considering a run for the presidency in 2000."
"That was smart," said Mr. Letterman.
"No - that was honest," said Mr. Bush.
And so, with only two weeks left in the campaign, Mr. Gore appears not only handcuffed, but staring up a wall he cannot climb. While the talking heads are still arguing the socialist agenda, America is responding to Mr. Bush's simple, quiet, straightforward, common-sense lines.
It gets better. The indication is that much of America is still intact, still out there. Certainly, the "Re-Elect America" bus tour of our Center for the American Founding confirmed that welcome state of affairs. Americans eager to recommit to America have been found to cross party lines. Scores of Democratic office holders - governors, mayors, state and local legislators - are in fact closet Americans ready to be outed. How discouraging for them to see their party taken over by an alien ideology whose primary objective is to do away with the U.S. Constitution and forever alter the basic nature of this country.
Mr. Bush just might succeed in moving some, perhaps many, to do the right thing for America on November 7. Nowhere is this more important than in races that would determine the composition of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Why Democrats ought to consider not voting for Democrats this time around? Because many who run on the Democratic side of the ticket have as little in common with the traditional Democratic Party as with America's founding principles.
Some are quite open about it, as the 55 members of the Progressive Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives who aligned themselves with the Socialist International. Others use stealth. They speak of a "living-breathing" Constitution - code for doing away with it bit by bit.
Some of the openly socialist are the current ranking minority members of key House committees, such as John Conyers (MI) of Judiciary, Charles Rangel (NY) of Ways and Means, and Henry Waxman (CA) of Government Reform and Oversight. Others constitute large blocks in committees on Appropriations, Banking, Education, to mention some. In case of a Democratic majority on November 7, key committees would find themselves with chairmen who in turn find themselves at odds with the U.S. Constitution. Only the terminally naive believe that you can "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution, and be a socialist all at the same time.
And so, until such time that the Democratic Party distances itself from those who disapprove of this country, voters are being denied the choice they are supposed to have - a choice between two political parties equally committed to the American ideal. In the current line-up, only a Republican majority offers hope for America to continue as the freest, most successful, most peaceable, and most prosperous of societies - for the benefit of all who live here.
Mr. Gore, of course, is not the openly socialist kind. (Come to think of it, he is not the openly anything kind.) It is only his programs that come from the socialist repertoire. Regrettably, Jim Lehrer never asked him where those ideas had come from. What fun it could be to ask that question of Mr. Gore, and all the others!
I admit, I often wished Mr. Bush had asked just that question. Or said something like "I, too, have read Marx, but decided against it" when Mr. Gore mentioned the "top one per cent" for the fifteenth time.
But, whether by instinct or deliberation, Mr. Bush stuck to his simple, quiet, straightforward, common-sense lines.
To his misfortune, Mr. Gore is quite incapable of uttering simple, quiet, straightforward, common-sense lines.