Death of the new Democrat;Gore and Bradley battle to out-left one another

Warren Beatty may have the charming good looks, witty personality and debonair style to grab people’s attention, but he has all but faded into the political sunset after weeks of speculation on his candidacy. Why? Because there is no place left for him in his party’s presidential nomination process where there has been a serious battle between Al Gore and Bill Bradley to “out-left” each other. (Paul Begala take note: These guys are not “moderate progressives.”)

The two Democratic candidates are running from more than just Bill Clinton’s moral shortcomings. They are also running from his so-called “centrist” approach to governing. In doing so they are abandoning those middle of the road positions which, while based on few, if any principles, enabled a man with few, if any principles, to be elected twice. On issues from health care to abortion to the environment to spending proposals for every special interest group, Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley have been battling fiercely to be seen as the more liberal candidate. Or as Naomi Wolf might phrase it when not teaching children her “third way,” they are slumming through the liberal ghetto from Alpha to Beta.

Take gun control, for example. In response to the spate of tragic school shootings this year, Mr. Bradley has called for a total ban on cheap “junk” handguns (whatever those are) and has proposed nationwide gun registration.

Mr. Gore embraced the same stance, but upped the ante by saying that Americans should be imprisoned if they use a firearm in the presence of a child. “I am not satisfied as long as even one criminal traumatizes a child through violence,” Mr. Gore said at a Boston event in July. “If you commit any violent crime in front of a child, you should pay an even higher price for it: more time in jail.” On labor issues, the two candidates have sounded like characters out of a sequel to Warren Beatty’s ne’er-do-well movie, “Reds.”

Bill Bradley has spent considerable time trying to convince the labor unions that he would stand up for the “little guy,” proudly noting that he is “the only candidate to receive a union pension” (as a member of the NBA Players Association). The vice president has vowed to raise the minimum wage by a dollar an hour and would veto “every anti-union measure that has come to the White House.” So much for free trade. With this ideological buffet, it is not surprising that the AFL-CIO, Teamsters and United Auto Workers have had difficulty in choosing which candidate to endorse.

There is little distinction between the two candidates. Both candidates are courting the gay vote, with Mr. Bradley going so far as to say he’ll get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military and will amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include homosexuals as a protected group. On environmental issues, Mr. Bradley has received the endorsement of Friends of the Earth. Yet Mr. Gore’s radical views have been well documented in his book, “Earth in the Balance.”

In fact, Mr. Gore may have “out-lefted” Mr. Bradley when his book equated our economic system with totalitarianism: “The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy.” Perhaps Friends of the Earth feared being hit by friendly fire!

The differences between the two only become apparent when one is chastising the other for not being liberal enough. Lately, Mr. Gore has criticized Mr. Bradley for voting in 1981 for the “slashing budget cuts that raised child poverty and diminished health care coverage and hurt public schools.” Mr. Bradley recently attacked Mr. Gore for not supporting government funding of abortion, challenging him on the stump as to whether he “will make sure Medicaid recipients receive their federally funded abortions too?”

A self-described “tax-and-spend, bleeding heart, die-hard liberal Democrat,” Mr. Beatty was considering a run for president because he was disillusioned with the political process in general and disappointed with the Democratic Party in particular. As Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley move further to the left to pursue the nomination, they leave behind millions of voters who will ultimately choose neither in the November 2000 elections, while presenting a great opportunity for the GOP.

The inaugural in January 2001 can be a grand celebration for Republicans, not only in their recapturing of the White House, but in the nation’s repudiation of both liberalism and the “new Democrat” stealth version of liberalism. Messrs. Gore and Bradley will deserve much of the credit for the Republican victory.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the bed-hopping liberal Warren Beatty’s legacy of moving the Democrats to the left supplants the bed-hopping “centrist” policies of Bill Clinton?

Craig Shirley is president of Craig Shirley & Associates. Diana Banister is vice president.

LOAD-DATE: December 1, 1999

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH

Copyright 1999 The Washington Times LLC All Rights Reserved

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