The 2004 campaign season is well at hand. Following the dramatic turn-around from earlier polling results, the strong showing by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and John Edwards (D-NC) has brought renewed focus by the media on the possibilities of President Bush not only facing formidable opposition, but also losing his bid for reelection. A newly released Newsweek poll shows Kerry defeating President Bush if the election were held today. Of course, the poll is meaningless in the sense that President Bush has not yet begun to campaign, but it does add fuel to the fire that 2004 could be as close as the historic elections of 2000. With that in mind, it’s time for conservatives across the country to focus on the big picture and realize that a Bush loss is far worse than a Bush victory.
The Newsweek poll garnering so much media attention shows Sen. Kerry defeating President Bush by 49%-46%. The result is understandable considering the endless attacks on President Bush by the Democrats challenging him for the White House. These attacks, levied during debates, stump speeches, and television commercials have largely gone unanswered by the president or the Republican Party. If the public is only getting one side of the story, then there should be no surprise when the president’s numbers head south. The true test of public opinion will come once President Bush begins his campaign and America hears both sides of the story. Of course, the ultimate public opinion poll will be the 2004 presidential election itself.
In addition to the hits being taken by the president from the Democrats, President Bush has also sustained damage from those on his side of the political aisle: Republicans and conservatives who vote Republican. The anger expressed by conservatives toward President Bush is primarily focused on two issues: border security/immigration and federal spending.
President Bush’s recent announcement of a “temporary worker” program has drawn harsh criticism from conservatives across the country. The volume of feedback I have received on this issue has been almost unanimously one-sided and in opposition to the president’s plan — a plan which conservatives feel is synonymous with “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Under the Bush plan, illegal immigrants could apply for a 3-year temporary worker designation which would grant them legal status to remain in the U.S. provided they have employment or have a job waiting for them. In addition to the illegal immigrant being allowed to gain the benefits of residency in America, the worker’s family would also be allowed to join the worker inside the U.S.
The other “stick in the eye” for conservatives is the massive increases in federal spending which have occurred over the past three years. Increases in the rate of growth of non-defense, discretionary spending in the current Bush administration are double that of the Clinton administration. Republicans have gone on a spending spree, and there appears to be no end in sight. Despite the fact that smaller, limited government is one of the tenets of conservative, Republican philosophy, congressional Republicans have shown over the last several years that they can spend with the best of them. To President Bush’s credit, the budgets presented to the Congress by the administration have included modest increases in non-defense, discretionary spending by most observations. However, the budgets returned to the president for final approval have shown no restraint and are loaded with excess pork.
As a conservative, I share the philosophical concerns of friends and colleagues. Following the events of September 11, 2001, border security should be of the utmost concern, and promoting programs that not only potentially weaken security but also reward illegal behavior is just plain wrong. In addition, one of my core beliefs in which I identify myself as a conservative and as a Republican is my belief in smaller, limited government. If one of our core values is no longer being observed by our elected officials, then feelings of anger and betrayal are understandable and justified.
The key question going into the 2004 presidential election is “What is a conservative to do?”
The answer to this question is simple: conservatives must wake up and smell the coffee. The best choice for conservatives; the best candidate to advance our agenda; and the best person in which to put our hope and faith is President George W. Bush.
On the two previously mentioned issues of immigration policy and federal spending, conservatives only need to look at the alternatives to see that President Bush is the right person for the job. Regarding immigration policy, if Sen. Kerry were to become America’s next president, there would be no need to debate the merits of granting legal status to a portion of illegal immigrants, because wide spread amnesty would be the policy of choice. Both Kerry and Edwards favor amnesty for illegal immigrants and would open the flood gates on America’s already porous borders. According to campaign information, both Kerry and Edwards favor legalizing the status of illegal immigrants who have worked in the U.S. for a certain period of time.
The best hope for the immigration issue and border security is for conservatives to work diligently for President Bush’s reelection and to demand sensible immigration reform from members of Congress. The real work on immigration will be done in Congress. Conservatives must push for meaningful reform, while working to ensure that the candidate who most closely shares our views wins in November. That person is President George W. Bush.
In regards to federal spending, one can only imagine the budgets that would be submitted by Kerry, Edwards, or Dean. A score card of liberal votes in Congress maintained by Americans for Democratic Action shows that Sen. Kerry actually has a more liberal voting record (93%-88%) than his Massachusetts counterpart: Sen. Ted Kennedy. Thus, a Kerry presidency means spending restraint by the Executive Branch goes right out the window. Conservatives have a right to be angry over spending, but the way to fight for our cause is to demand that our Republican legislators trim the pork. It is also up to us to push for presidential leadership in this area. We should support President Bush in his call for fiscal responsibility. We should also call on the president to unleash his veto pen if fiscal responsibility is not what he gets.
Much has been written in recent weeks in op-eds, letters to the editor, Internet discussion boards, and so on regarding conservative dissatisfaction with the current administration. The Bush administration should listen to their concerns, and the conservative community should work for positive solutions. Staying home on Election Day is not the answer. Voting for a third party candidate is not the answer. Writing in a protest vote is not the answer. Had just a small percentage of liberal voters stood with Al Gore in Florida rather than voting for Ralph Nader, the entire outcome of the 2000 presidential election could have been different. Conservatives cannot stay home in November. We must be on the ground working for President Bush and advancing our agenda in the process.
The conservative movement needs a voice, and it needs a leader. President Bush is that leader, and he has stood by conservatives on many of the issues we hold dear. The president is a stalwart on life issues and has been unwavering in his support of a ban on partial birth abortions. The president has been equally strong in putting forward judicial nominees who respect the Constitution and who will not legislate from the bench. The president is a leader in the war on terror, and I can think of no one better suited to occupy the oval office in this time of turmoil. The best way to fight for the conservative agenda is to fight for the reelection of President George W. Bush.