- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2000

Perhaps the liberal Democrats are justified in the exalted view they have of their own moral heft. No other political point of view spends so much of its time selflessly lecturing the opposition on how to improve itself. Liberals are forever telling us how we conservatives can better our electoral chances and in general be more true to our highest conservative ideals. Columnist E.J. Dionne is particularly selfless in advising us on how to be true conservatives.

Of course, conservatives have reason to grow suspicious when those liberals advising us on how to improve our electability counsel us to nominate candidates who are liberals. And that almost always is their advice. Remember how they warned us against our suicidal impulse to nominate Ronald Reagan?

Our liberal friends are also very helpful in advising conservatives on tactics. When conservative politicians make the mistake of soliciting votes from staunchly conservative supporters, liberals speak right up, admonishing against such reckless imprudence. When George W. Bush stepped foot on the campus of South Carolina's Bob Jones University, you can be sure that Mr. Dionne foresaw Mr. Bush's imminent doom. (By the way, what happened to Mr. Reagan's presidential possibilities when he visited the Bob Jones campus in 1980?)

Interestingly, our liberal prelectors never think it politically dangerous for liberal politicians to solicit votes from the staunchly liberal. The other day when Bill Bradley and Al Gore went on stage before an audience of black political leaders and did contortions before them, I heard no liberal commentator admonishing against the reckless pandering that ensued.

Viewing the spectacle, one would have thought that Mr. Bradley and Mr. Gore were running for election in South Africa. Bill Sammon, reporting in The Washington Times, recorded that "the vice president and the former New Jersey senator talked of reparations for descendants of the slaves, promised 'info stamps' that the poor could use to buy computers and harshly scolded white Americans for not holding similar views on how to unify the races."

Now the Democrats are showing themselves to be even more energetic in helping the conservatives to victory. In this week's Republican primary, the liberals went beyond advising us of the best presidential nominee we could choose. They actually pulled on their boots, buttoned up their winter coats, and went out and voted for him. They tried to save us from Mr. Bush, the candidate from Bob Jones University. Their choice was Sen. John McCain. Fifty-one percent of those voting in the Republican primary in Michigan admitted to being independents or Democrats. Thanks, fellows.

But Mr. McCain is really not much of a liberal. His rating from the right-wing American Conservative Union was 77 in 1999. He is against regulation, big spending, excess pork. He is a friend of the military, the tax cutters and limited government. Are his stands on campaign finance and tobacco the desiderata that make him a true-blue liberal? Has liberalism come down to this?

Thus far, Campaign 2000 qualifies as one of the nation's most bizarre presidential elections. Democrats are deciding the presidential nominees of both parties. The party bosses have been banished. Sectional interests are history. The new kingmakers are the primary voters of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan. By the end of March, the nominees of both parties will have been chosen by 9 or 10 percent of the electorate. Today there are only two candidates in the Democratic primary. In the Republican primary there are three, the last one being Alan Keyes.

Something is indeed wrong. The major issue in the Republican primary is that rich people and rich corporations are actually paying for the cost of elections. The major issue in the Democratic Party is which candidate is more ardent for abortion. Bring back the smoke-filled room.

The party bosses, of course, have been the targets of liberal reformers for years. They gave the nation the likes of Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Now the blessings of three generations of reform politics are upon us. Perhaps by Campaign 2004 Alan Keyes will win. The liberals might tell us he is the true liberal.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor-in-chief of the American Spectator.

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