Election Gives Bush Mandate for Growth

Democrats continue to delude themselves that they lost last week’s elections simply because they faced a personally popular President fighting a popular war against terrorism. It is now, of course, irrefutable that President Bush is enormously popular and that Democrats crippled themselves by hindering his ability to fight terrorism aggressively. But Democrats are dead wrong when they say—as newly elected House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) recently did—that Democrats might have won had they only more forcefully attacked the President’s tax cuts and other economic initiatives. The election results indicate the economic growth policies that Bush has advocated are quite popular with voters, too. In particular, three issues came out smelling like a rose: free trade, tax cuts, and Social Security reform. The Club for Growth, which I run, endorsed 18 federal candidates and raised nearly $8 million from our 8,000 members to help them get elected. Almost all these candidates were running in tightly contested races. Every one was selected because he was a champion of the Reagan-George W. Bush growth agenda of smaller government, less taxes, and free trade. Every one campaigned for the idea that every young worker should have the right to invest some or all of his payroll tax into a personally owned private investment account. In every one of these campaigns, groups ranging from Emily’s List to the union bosses to the trial lawyers spent millions lambasting these Republicans for endorsing “the risky scheme of privatization.” Yet, 16 of these 18 candidates triumphed over Democratic rivals. Yes, it is true that many cowardly Republicans sprinted away from Social Security reform. They often were encouraged to do so by feckless establishment-oriented Republican campaign consultants, who see only risk and no reward from this issue. But they were proven wrong too. The Senate victories by Social Security choice advocates including Wayne Allard, Elizabeth Dole, Lindsey Graham, and John Sununu, along with equally impressive triumphs in the House by Chris Chocola of Indiana, Anne Northup of Kentucky, and Steve Pearce of New Mexico are a testament to the appeal of President Bush’s plan for personal retirement accounts for Social Security. The one Republican who made a point of denouncing Social Security privatization, John Thune of South Dakota, was one of the few high-profile Republican losers on November 5. John, you should have let your conscience—not GOP consultants—be your guide. Free trade advocates were also winners last week, even those from union-dominated districts. Perhaps the most important victory for the free trade movement occurred in North Carolina, where Robin Hayes prevailed against a blistering attack from left-wing interest groups. Hayes represents an area ravaged by the closure of textile mills, but he nonetheless gave President Bush a key vote for fast track trade negotiating authority earlier this year. Pat Toomey, who represents Allentown, Pa., home of steel mills, also voted for free trade, suffering the wrath of the unions, but still won by 12 points. On taxes, Club for Growth candidates pressed not just for preserving President Bush’s tax cut, but for more far reaching reforms: a Steve Forbes-style flat tax (this was a big issue in the New Hampshire Senate contest with Sununu endorsing the flat tax and Jeanne Shaheen defending the status quo), a cut in the capital gains tax, and faster income tax rate cuts. Free-market conservatives won even in districts thought beyond the reach of right-leaning Republicans. In Bergen County, N.J., when free-marketer Scott Garrett won the primary with the help of the Club for Growth, the Republican establishment moaned in protest that the club had backed a Republican who surely could not win in this moderate- to liberal-titling district. Emily’s List squandered an estimated $500,000 attacking Garrett. But he won by more than 20 points. Meanwhile, “moderate” Republican candidates in Bergen County suffered one embarrassing loss after another. President Bush now has an ignition key in the House to fire up a pro-growth agenda. As one Club for Growth newcomer, Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa), recently noted: “My overriding goal when I get to Washington is to push the House in as free-market conservative direction as it will possibly go. If the river needs crossing, I don’t care if I have to go on the fire or under the ice. I’m going.” So should you, Mr. President. Full speed ahead. The Democrats may misinterpret your compelling mandate from voters. You must not.