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Tom DeLay for President?
May 29, 2002
By Bob Volpitto

Way, way back in 1946, in the summer of that year, I worked as a "go-fer" in my stepfather's architectural office. In between those "go here, go there, do this, do that" assignments I had plenty of time to muse over political events that caught my interest. One afternoon I sat motionless at a desk with a manual typewriter in front of me that quietly begged to be used.

Thoughts of the coming national election rambled through my head. Almost absently-mindedly I rolled a sheet of paper under the platen. My ambition at 16 years of age was to become a member of the Fourth Estate. Sadly, at that time, those ambitions far outweighed my untrained abilities. Nevertheless, I began pressing the keys as ideas in my mind began to take shape in the form of words and paragraphs on paper.

I predicted, two years before the event, the Dixiecrat revolt. The Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman would rupture, I envisioned Southern Democrats would stomp out to hold their rump convention. (I confess I was not astute enough to name the place of that convention, Montgomery, Alabama, nor the head of the ticket, Strom Thurmond, to lead the States Rights party in the fall balloting. Also I failed to foresee the Progressive Party's left wing split and the subsequent nomination of Henry Wallace, but that's another story. What more can you expect from a kid still fighting acne?)

Here began the schism that that became obvious after the 1964 election when Barry Goldwater's campaign captured the once Solid South for the Republicans. Nixon's "Southern Strategy" polished and refined Goldwater's gift and George Bush became its foremost beneficiary in 2000. The party of Lincoln began its transformation to the party of the Confederacy as so aptly described by Dave Johnson in his article in "BuzzFlash" on May 15, 2002. The present day's Cultural War (Progressive Modernism vs. Radical Conservatism) is a continuation of the Nineteenth Century's American Civil war (Cooperative Federalism vs. Absolute State Sovereignty).

At 72, now over a half-century later and a career in newspapering past, I'm making another prediction. In 2004 George W. Bush will face a similar revolt from his one-time core constituency, the right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals whose Libertarian doctrine demands it rise up and clobber the Karl Rove-dominated resident of the White House (much as did the democratic revolutionaries who in 1917 rose up against the Rasputin dominated Czar Nicholas II in Russia's Kremlin, but, we expect, in a non-violent way).

Rule or ruin is the political war cry of the right wing.

Spearheaded by Tom Delay, the right wing movement will embrace with enthusiasm and determination the prospect of wresting the White House from someone they believe has betrayed their principles or destroy themselves and the Republican Party in the process. Caesar once told his legions to return from battle with their shields held high or resting supinely upon them. There was no compromise. The Roman either defeated his enemy or died in the attempt. If a soldier failed the emperor and his empire one out of every ten warriors was summarily killed by his superiors -- decimated. Cowards who survived but who were not victorious became casualties of their own. It was the way of the Roman Legions; it is the way of the Republican right wing.

Of course, Delay will not prevail in 2004 any more than John McCain prevailed in 2000. McCain could have led his troops to Phoenix for a rump convention, declared himself a Progressive Republican, accepted a nomination and ran against the two major parties and Ralph Nadar's Greenies. He would have had to settle for about 15-20 percent of the national vote (like Ross Perot did in 1992). Do you remember McCain's battle cry: "One more mission, my old comrades, one more mission". That call to arms brought shivers and a lot of us close to the prospect of becoming "McCain Democrats".

Third parties fall by the wayside.

Theodore Roosevelt's revolt in 1912, when he bolted from the Republican ranks and pulled his delegates with him to Baltimore where he was nominated under the Bull Moose banner, resulting in the narrow election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson and spelling the political demise of William Howard Taft. Senator "Fighting Bob" LaFollette of Wisconsin tried the same stunt in 1924 by running as a Progressive against Democrat John W. Davis and the incumbent Calvin Coolidge. Republican Silent Cal beat off both opponents and became a president in his own right. LaFollette later quietly returned to the Republican ranks.

In 1936 Franklin Roosevelt successfully fought off determined but thinly organized opposition from both the right and left wings in his own party to win a smashing victory. Likewise, as mentioned, Candidacies of Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond failed in '48. Of recent history, George Wallace in 1968 and 1972 opposed both parties and lost. Ross Perot led two failed attempts, one in 1992 and another in 1996. Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader had a fling at it in 2000 and also failed. Nader, however, did capture enough of the popular vote in New Hampshire to hand the election to Bush who also got a shove from behind from five justices of the Supreme Court that halted the counting of thousands of potential Al Gore votes in Florida. Buchanan, by a freakish ballot design, got enough unintended ballots in Florida to cost Al Gore the Sunshine State's electoral votes. Gore lost both states and the election despite a national popular vote plurality of more than a half million ballots. (Read John Nichols' Jews for Buchanan for a full explanation of the unbelievable event in Florida.)

Will history deter Delay? Not in the least. He and his right wing evangelical fundamentalists know that although third party candidates have little chance of winning they can effect the outcome of elections and/or influence the policies of the winner. They know also that as they captured the Republican Party in Texas (and some say in as many as 18 other states) they can use the 2004 election as a building block, a stepping stone, for future campaigns.

Where did Bush fail his political core? Let's enumerate.

To start, Bush's proposed Faith Based Initiatives program is all but dead in the water and he seems to care little. Next, Bush's Free Trade political promise ended abruptly after he announced high tariffs on imports of foreign steel and lumber. His pending bailout of the textile industry via the same route is another nail in the coffin of Free Trade. Less government went out the window when the War on Terrorism came in. Intrusion into the lives, habits and beliefs of all Americans, as well as freedom of expression, and unregulated capitalism -- all dears to the right wing -- vanished with the passing and signing of the USA Patriot Act. Bush betrayed his core voters by signing into law a provision to hire 28,000 federal employees to check baggage at our airports. Now there will be more not less people working for the government. Prosecution of a so-called war enhances Bush's political standing but stagnates an economy that that had thus far benefited the "economic royalists" (as FDR characterized the over-wealthy). Today there is more Federal influence and regulation in public education because of Bush and his "No Child Will Be Left Behind" than the right wing can stomach.

Federal vouchers to pay for children to attend private institutions of learning in place of failing public schools is all but a forgotten memory for Bush but remains a live issue for the right wing. As to welfare reform, Bush has simplistically told unwed single moms and run-away-procreating males to get married, work more hours and get off the dole roll pronto. Right-wingers envision the absolute demise of welfare immediately as strongly as Herbert Hoover opposed creating it in the first place in 1931. Helping people survive destroys their initiative to help themselves, Tom Delay's and Rush Limbaugh's followers proclaim. Too many of the out of work people are satisfied with their $300 a week unemployment checks, Limbaugh tells his dittoheads, and they agree.

There's more. What about partial privatization of Social Security? That promise died when the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 600 plus points after September 11, 2001, and later when Enron defaulted on its employees' 401K accounts. These two events made the plan unpalatable to wage earners but remains a vital part of the right wing agenda. More and permanent tax cuts for the wealthy and an end to the federal Estate Tax, both initiatives Bush promised the super-rich right-wingers. These campaign promises got stuck in the Senate and, worse, Bush failed to lobby for their enactments.

Delay's right wing hoped for tort reform that would have put a cap on damage claims in federal cases. No help from Bush here either. Flag burning, changes in the bankruptcy laws to favor creditors, prayer in public schools and less restrictions on gun buying and ownership all remain high on the right wing agenda, but Bush has failed to press any of these issues although his campaign promises to the right wing indicated he would do otherwise.

What about slamming the doors shut at our borders to keep out foreign emigrants? Bush wanted to open those doors to flood the country with cheap labor from south of the Rio Grande as a political favor to corporate farmers. The idea is in limbo. A balanced budget and paying down the federal debt, about the only agenda outside of Free Trade former president Bill Clinton and his right wing political opponents agreed upon, Bush has scrapped in favor of deficits, deficits, deficits.

Campaign finance reform is an anathema to the right wing, but Bush held his nose, unceremoniously signed the bill and stole out of town before Delay and the right wing could find a stout rope, a fast horse and a tall tree. Abortion, stem cell research and cloning get on again, off again response from Bush whose weak, ambiguous statements far from satisfy Delay and his followers.

The right wing got its way when it came to appointments. But when some like Secretary of Army White gets into hot water over his Enron background or Secretary of the Treasury O'Neill is backed into a corner over his off beat proposals contrary to the right wing's, or Secretary of State Powell promotes the use of condoms, Bush is nowhere in sight either to help the appointees weather the storms of controversy or champion the right wing's point of view in these cases. He becomes the invisible president. He expends no political capital to help either side. Once a staunch Bush supporter, Pat Robertson is left hanging out to dry and is nowhere a part of the Bush scene. Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, is in Georgia running the Republican Party in that state but is not sitting at the right hand of Bush as many of Delay's followers expected. Karen Hughes, saw the handwriting on the wall and scooted off to Texas "to spend more time with her family". Jerry Fallwell and Newt Gingrich are as welcome at the White House as a plague of locusts.

In summary, Bush has more fences to mend than a Texas rancher does after a stampede. The right wing will have just cause to challenge George W. Bush at the GOP 2004 nominating convention and will feel obligated to oppose him in November.

Am I on track? Remember my 1946 prediction and tell yourself, "Maybe the old guy's got it right one more time".

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