- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 30, 2004

During the 2000 election, Pat Buchanan siphoned off some conservative votes from Gov. George Bush and Ralph Nader siphoned off some liberal votes from Vice President Al Gore. This time, Mr. Buchanan has endorsed President Bush but Mr. Nader is still there for liberal voters who are unhappy with the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

That doesn’t mean that President Bush has nothing to worry about as regards conservative voters. “None of the above” may not be on the ballot but sometimes it still gets more votes than any of the candidates who are listed. That is, people stay home.

Conservatives have had some policies to be unhappy about during the Bush administration — loose immigration policies and runaway spending on domestic programs perhaps leading the list of complaints.

Sadly, with the electorate as closely divided as it is, no administration of either party is going to enforce control of our borders. That is the brutal fact. Most of the public may want the borders better controlled and some teeth put into our immigration laws. But neither party dares risk alienating the Hispanic vote, especially now that there are more Hispanics than blacks and the Hispanic population is growing faster.

The closely divided electorate also makes it difficult to say “No” to all sorts of other constituencies, including Midwest farmers in battleground states. It has been a bidding war, and neither party is willing to be outbid.

Another area in which the close division of the country — and of the Senate — has had a negative impact is with judicial nominees. With courts playing an ever bigger role in determining our policies, or even our presidents, the choice of who sits on the Supreme Court for life can matter more in the long run than who sits in the White House for four years.

Mr. Bush has nominated some good people to the federal courts, but Senate Republicans have let the Democrats stymie their confirmation. With a number of Supreme Court vacancies expected soon, it matters enormously who is the president who will nominate new justices and who is in the Senate to confirm them.

With virtually all the major issues where conservatives may feel disappointed with the Bush administration, the closeness of the electorate and the consequently thin Republican margin in Congress is at the root of the problem. If conservatives stay home on Election Day, things will not get any better and could get a lot worse, especially if John Kerry becomes president as a result.

If conservatives want Republicans to fight for conservative principles, then the answer is to give them a real majority to fight with, not their current thin majority on paper that can easily collapse under pressure if a few liberal or timid Republicans lose their nerve.

Voting is not about finding soul mates or venting your frustration when you don’t. It is about choosing between alternatives for shaping the future direction of this country.

For a conservative, this election should be a no-brainer. Both Mr. Kerry and John Edwards have been rated as more liberal than Edward Kennedy. That’s not Republican spin. They were ranked that way by the leading liberal organization in the country, Americans for Democratic Action.

The Kerry camp and much of the mainstream media may say that “liberal” is just a label. Really? It doesn’t mean higher taxes, softer on crime, racial quotas, a weaker military and judges who impose their own opinions instead of applying the law?

Actually, at one time liberal did not mean those things. But that time is long past. Today, liberalism means what liberals have done.

What Mr. Kerry has done throughout his long career in the Senate is vote for all the things that liberals support. That record is what got him his high rating from Americans for Democratic Action.

That record is also what Mr. Kerry is now trying to camouflage by appearing in hunting clothes and carrying a gun, by telling automobile workers that he drives an SUV, by loudly shouting words like “strength” and “tough” when discussing military policy.

Stop and think before saying that “liberal” is just a label — and stop and think even longer before voting for one.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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