Senator John McCain has been running a dogged campaign against his Republican rival, Governor G.W. Bush of Texas. The centrist senator has slowly been forcing the popular governor more and more to the right. As Bush comes to embrace the strong support of the "Christian Right" in his party, McCain gains the support of more and more independants and Democrats in the open primaries of states like South Carolina and Michigan.
This support from outside the party has been greatly discounted by the Bush camp. It has been characterized as a clandestine effort by the Democrats to derail his campign, a supposed attempt to nominate a weaker candidate in the Republican party.
This allegation by the Bush campaign may indeed be true. With an overwhelming lead in the Democratic race, Al Gore has not to loose by mobilizing efforts to nominate the GOP candidate who, in his eyes, is weaker. But the indignation Bush shows over this is both shortsighted to his party, and in my view belittling to the American electorate.
The post-Republican party has been gowing into a political organization controlled by a core group of traditional business interests seeking a reduced regulatory role for government, and a vast army of grassroots soldiers seeking an increased role of government in the regulation of our morals. Bush, a child of the first group, has over the course of the campaign embraced the interests of the foot-soldiers in order to secure the nomination through the primary election process. Understandably, he is afraid of a fresh draft coming through the open door of the insurgent McCain effort.
But Bush's criticism of McCains conglomeration of moderate Republicans, independants, and conservative democrats will do his party great harm in both the general election and in the years to come.
The very coalition that McCain has built to win the New Hampshire and Michigan primary election is the one that will bring victory to the GOP in November. The presidency cannot be won on the support of the GOP alone. The Bush allegation that the McCain democrats are merely fair weather friends operating on the direction of the Gore campaign is an insult to the great intelligence of the American voter.
I will concede that the American public, by and large, isn't very smart. We don't read very much, out favorite "sports" tend to be NASCAR and WWF wrestling. But, I think voters still take their vote very seriously. While there may be some voters who have cast ballots in the spirit of Bush's hypothesis, there are a great many more democrats who voted for McCain because they feel he will make a great leader for our nation.
The great folly of the Bush campaign is that not only are these voters the electorate that can hand the GOP a victory in the general eleciton, but also the group that can re-energize the party for the new century.
These people are akin to Nixon's silent majority, and very much the same Democrats who brought Reagan victory in 1980 and 1988. These are people who are offended by the handouts and meddling of the wellfare programs of the left (not to mention their great economic cost). But they are also offended by the indignant righteousness of the religious conservatives of the far right.
This is the new populism of America - the same sentiment that got Jesse Ventura elected to the governorship of Minnesota. It is a feeling that government's role isn't regulation of home or office, but rather careful stewardship of our national interests. The new populism cares not for liberal activism nor for conservative religion. They realize the compromise the two have made in government - increased rhetoric which hides the ever growing federal governemnt, debt, and derailment of the national dreams.
Unlike the populism of old, coming from the far left, this one comes from the center. It is the folly of the GOP and it's heir aparent Bush to embrace this group and make them the center of their party. By casting them as drones of Al Gore, Bush will repel them back to the Incumbant running on the great success of the "New Economy."