January 29, 2004

by Joe Sobran

     After the first President Bush betrayed 
conservatives by raising taxes, in spite of his promise 
never to do so, many conservatives didn't bother voting 
for him in 1992. This was one of the reasons he lost to 
Bill Clinton, who reenergized the conservative movement 
and brought about a Republican takeover of Congress in 
the 1994 elections. In the meantime, Clinton's ambitious 
national health-care plan flopped.

     Principled conservatives should hope that history 
repeats itself in 2004. If John Kerry wins the 
presidency, Republicans may start acting a bit like 
conservatives again. Under the current President Bush, 
party loyalty has made them supporters of further 
expansion of the Federal Government.

     This election will be a battle of the big spenders. 
There isn't much to choose between Bush and Kerry (or 
whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be). But a 
Bush victory will ensure that the Republican Party will 
continue to betray conservatism.

     Unfortunately, most self-identified conservatives 
don't see it that way. For some reason, they continue to 
regard Bush as their guy -- maybe because, like Richard 
Nixon, he truly annoys liberals in spite of all his 
efforts to appease them.

     Kerry, a walking stereotype of liberalism, can 
probably win by simply toning down his rhetoric. If he 
avoids antagonizing and frightening conservatives, if he 
subtly resists the temptation to portray the election as 
a stark contest between opposed philosophies, a critical 
number of conservatives may simply stay home on Election 

     Fortunately for Kerry, this shouldn't be hard. He's 
a boring fellow. How boring? Well, let's put it this way: 
If you loved Al Gore, you'll like John Kerry. When you 
listen to him deliver the standard litany of liberal 
cliches, it's impossible to feel that much is at stake. 
He's perhaps the perfect candidate to de-energize Bush's 
base. That's what he needs to do.

     Democrats really hate Bush; that's what will bring 
them to the polls: fear and loathing. Republicans, on the 
other hand, don't hate Kerry enough to rally against him; 
they hardly know him yet. He should do all he can to keep 
it that way. He needs a strategy of ennui. Don't give the 
other side a reason to turn out to vote!

     A passionless campaign will be good not only for 
Kerry, but also, ultimately, for conservatism. Kerry may 
seem an improbable savior for the conservative movement, 
but Bush is destroying it. It would be a disaster for 
that movement to allow Bush to identify his grab-bag 
politics with it.

     Bush's only intelligent enthusiasts are 
neoconservatives, who might better be called 
pseudoconservatives. They love him for giving them the 
war they've hungered for since his father's presidency 
(even if it fell short of the "World War IV" they called 
for), and they don't really mind that he promotes bigger 
government all over the place. After all, they revere the 
memory of Franklin Roosevelt and other icons of liberal 
Democrats. They've changed parties without changing 

     The Iraq war, alias the War on Terror, has ceased to 
be a strength for Bush. By the time the fall campaign 
really begins, it may have become a huge minus. The 
costly occupation of Iraq (and, oh yes, Afghanistan) 
drags on pointlessly, and Bush has already abandoned his 
absurd insistence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons 
of mass murder that could threaten this country. Either 
his word or his judgment, or both, can't be trusted. The 
country has quietly lost faith in him. For an incumbent 
seeking reelection, that's very bad news.

     Bush will face other discontents too, including 
economic ones. He has tried to change his party's image, 
and he has succeeded only too well. It's now impossible 
to imagine the Republicans as supplying a prudent brake 
on fiscally improvident Democrats; they've taught the 
country how staggering Federal deficits can be. 
"Compassionate conservatism" turns out to be neither 
compassionate nor conservative.

     If Kerry wins the presidency, he'll have his hands 
full just handling the mess Bush has left him. He won't 
want to get us into new wars, and there won't be much 
loose change to pay for new Federal programs. Besides, 
the Republicans will try to frustrate his initiatives.

     Unless something unforeseeable happens, we can look 
forward to a dull campaign between a real liberal and a 
phony conservative. And for real conservatives, the 
duller the better.


Joe Sobran is a syndicated columnist and the editor of a 
monthly newsletter, SOBRAN'S. His books include ALIAS 
SHAKESPEARE (The Free Press 1997) and HUSTLER: THE 
CLINTON LEGACY (Griffin Communications, 2000).

You are receiving this message because you are a paid 
subscriber to Joe Sobran's syndicated column or a 
subscriber has forwarded it to you.

Your subscription to the E-Package is for private use 
only and thus you are not granted rights to publish this 
column -- either by printing it in a publication or by 
posting it on the Internet.

Those wishing to publish or post this column must 
subscribe as a publication and obtain a publications 
rate. Contact newsletters@griffnews.com for rates and 

Copyright (c) 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, 
www.griffnews.com. All rights reserved.


Read this column on-line at 

Copyright (c) 2004 by the Griffin Internet 
Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. This column may not 
be published in print or Internet publications 
without express permission of Griffin Internet 
Syndicate. You may forward it to interested 
individuals if you use this entire page, 
including the following disclaimer:

"SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available 
by subscription. For details and samples, see 
http://www.sobran.com/e-mail.shtml, write 
PR@griffnews.com, or call 800-513-5053."