The Presidential Election

11/9/00

It is clear that the final vote tally in Florida will recognize Bush as the victor. It is equally clear that the frenetic legal challenges gushing out of the chaos will never stand in court. Thus, Bush is the President-elect.

But to win this election is no great cause for him to rejoice. He will have the task of setting up a new administration while suffering the distraction of protracted legal battles. He will be a minority President with an almost evenly divided Congress. He will face relentless acrimonious opposition, never ceasing to besmirch his legitimacy. The opposition will eventually swell to widespread unrest among students and other radical factions of society. He will be hard pressed by enemies both domestic and foreign. In short, the next four years may be the stormiest in our history.

To save himself and his party from drowning and to preserve conservative values as a force in American politics, Bush must lead with uncommon, unnatural wisdom. He must altogether forsake conventional policy objectives and devote himself from the beginning to emerging victorious from the coming crisis. He must shun the small-minded ideology of the Newt Gingriches. He must demote to second priority all measures like a tax cut that mainly serve to express a Republican self-image. In other words, he must forget politics of the past and avoid all advice conditioned by it. Washington insiders will not be able to chart the right course in strange waters.

What must he do? First, he must establish his legitimacy to the greatest degree possible. Through recounts and the like, he must ratchet up his totals as high as he can. And he must prevail in court. At the same time, he must take a statesmanlike stance before the media and portray Gore as a sore loser (a characterization many will be ready to accept, after seeing his win-at-any-price mentality in debate).