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Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 2002 / 3 Kislev, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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I have egg on my face | Today, I have egg on my face, for predicting a Democratic win. Pardon me while I wipe it off. In politics, you are either right or wrong, and when you're wrong, you need to understand why so you don't make the same mistake again - you make new ones.

Here's why I think the Democrats lost:

The closing week of the election featured old Walter Mondale as the poster boy for the Democrats. Having led them to defeat in 1984, he came back for an encore in 2002 with the same result. Not only did the has-been liberal go down to defeat in his home state of Minnesota, but he dragged the party's Senate candidates down with him.

Looking like an aging member of Brezhnev's Politburo, he seemed the ghost of liberalism past as he emerged as his party's best-known Senate candidate. His very appearance told one volumes about the Democratic Party's embrace of his tax-and-spend past. The repositioning of the '90s vanished in a nod of his gray head and, like twice-cooked pork in a Chinese restaurant, he led his party to a second defeat.

But, in a deeper sense, voters abandoned their traditional desire for split government in their desire to quiet the partisan bickering in Washington. In the aftermath of 9/11, a public-opinion survey asked voters to characterize the changes in their personal attitudes after the attacks. For example, the survey, conducted by in November of 2001, probed whether people felt "more suspicious of strangers," "more willing to give to charity," "more fearful of flying" or "more respectful of people in uniform."

The most frequently mentioned response of all of these common reactions was that voters felt "less tolerant of partisan bickering in Washington."

In the 2002 election, this disgust at political infighting with our nation on the line manifested itself in a desire to give our fighting, young president the power he needs to protect us in a dangerous world. Checks and balances seem, these days, less important than empowerment and action to most voters.

It's barely tolerable when Mom and Dad fight. But when the family is under siege and in crisis, disunity becomes terrifying for those who depend on their parents for protection. Americans don't want Washington to be a battlefield. They want Iraq to be the battlefield and for Washington to be united.

Finally, the 2002 election adds to the copious evidence that the economy is no longer the central issue on which electoral fortunes hinge. In 1992, Bill Clinton was able to power his way to the presidency by focusing on the economy (although other issues like his pledges to "end welfare as we know it" and to embrace a middle class tax cut also played a key role).

But, since then, voters have learned that America's economy is influenced by global forces and international bankers who are way beyond the power of the president to control. To the extent that the political process has a lever with which to move the economic numbers, it's through the Federal Reserve Board and nobody tells Alan Greenspan what to do.

President Bush completed, in 2002, the unfinished business of 2000. Deprived of a popular plurality when he was elected, he scored big with the American people this week and demonstrated that his presidency has a mandate and is not one big usurpation.

Unfortunately, I missed many of these developments as they were unfolding. The hardest thing to do in politics is to be an insider and think like an outsider - like a real, live voter.

To an insider, of course the Dems nominated Mondale: He's been a presence in the party for decades. But he reminded outsiders of a past they would rather forget.

The conflict endemic to Washington becomes normal to an insider. Like a mother of an unruly child, she doesn't really hear the crying and screaming anymore. But to outsiders, terrified of terrorism, the raucous display of partisanship is threatening and offensive.

To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, you've got to walk with kings but keep the common touch. It's hard to do.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris