– August 1993
The GOP is split. And the new divisions reflect the party’s growing reluctance to remain identified with, or wedded to, the old Cold War agenda of globalism, interventionism and multilateralism. On the mega-issues, it’s remarkable how the Republican Party is changing. Consider:
INTERNATIONALISM VS. AMERICA FIRST
Three years ago this writer wrote that the Gulf War would be “the last hurrah of the New World Order.” When that war ended in triumph, with the president’s approval rating at 91 percent, “neoisolationism” was said to have been permanently buried. The acolytes of Global Democracy were everywhere ascendant.
How times have changed. Today it is the New World Order that is dead. It died when President Clinton told President Izetbegovic of Bosnia the Yanks were not coming. The calls of Republicans like Richard Lugar, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Jack Kemp for U.S. military intervention were ignored, despite nightly horror films from Sarajevo. Not in 50 years have Americans been more reluctant to send their sons on military expeditions where no vital U.S. interest is in jeopardy.
Mr. Clinton will be playing dice with his presidency if he puts those 25,000 U.S. peacekeeping troops in Bosnia, as promised. And after the shoot-down of that U.S. helicopter in Mogadishu, with three Americans dead and grinning Somalis desecrating their remains, the clamor to bring the boys home is likely to prevail.
IMMIGRATION CONTROL VS. OPEN BORDERS
For years the Wall Street Journal editorial page has championed a GOP policy of unrestricted immigration, even pressing for a five-word amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “There Shall be Open Borders.” For a political leader to take that position today would be taken as a symptom of suicidal tendencies.
Again, the times, they are a’changing.
Where Candidate Clinton condemned George Bush for intercepting Haitian boat people on the high seas and returning them to Port au Prince, President Clinton is vigorously pursuing the Bush policy.
National polls show that three-in-four Americans want legal immigration curtailed, illegal immigration halted, and asylum laws tightened, toughened and enforced. Republican Gov. Pete Wilson of California is betting his re-election on a stand against illegals that would have gotten him branded a “nativist” and a “xenophobe” a year ago.
When Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also up for re-election, seized the issue, she provided everyone with political cover. And with 86% of Californians demanding action on illegals, the question is not whether the GOP is moving in the right direction, but whether it is moving too late, and has lost the issue to Mr. Clinton.
ECONOMIC NATIONALISM VS. FREE TRADE
Here, the Democratic Party, driven by the AFL-CIO, is turning openly protectionist.
While the GOP remains (especially in the Senate) a reflexive free trade party, in the House the tide is running the other way. The Trade Hawks, led by ex-Green Beret Duncan Hunter of San Diego, are signing up recruits. When House Republicans returned from the August recess, GOP whip Newt Gingrich found himself 40 votes short of where he thought he was on NAFTA.
Surely, one of the great political blunders in recent history was the GOP tax hike of 1990, reversing Mr. Bush’s “No new taxes!” pledge to the American people. It deepened the recession, split the GOP coalition, and surrendered the best issue the party had.
Unfortunately, the same conservatives who gave Mr. Bush cover for that tax hike of 1990 are lining up alongside Mr. Clinton on NAFTA. If they provide Bill Clinton with his margin of victory on NAFTA, that vote will be recalled in future intra-party battles. (“We’ll remember in November!” promises Ross Perot.)
While the GOP is split on the great issues, the trends are clear.
Globalism, interventionism, foreign aid, open immigration are not the growth stocks. Even that hallowed ideal of “free trade” has taken on the aspect of a lovely theory that failed to survive its collision with reality – the reality of the deindustrialization of America, the reality of a nation where government workers now outnumber manufacturing workers, the reality of a world where nations scheme and struggle to capture America’s markets, to become the economic powers of the future, while we indulge childish sports metaphors that “all we want is a level playing field.”
As Bob Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” There is a new spirit in the land, a will to put our own country and her people first, to let other nations defend their own borders, pay their own bills, fight their own wars. Call it The New Patriotism, but it is rising, and parties affixed to old ideas and institutions will follow both into the obscurity they deserve.