Is it time to swing back to the conservatives?

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted July 31, 2000

Swings to the left or right in this world seem to come in waves. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher ousted the Labor party and was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain. The next year Ronald Reagan was elected president of these United States. Then Helmut Kohl ousted a Socialist to become Chancellor of Germany, and in the year of Reagan’s re-election, Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister of Canada.

But then the reverse happened. Bill Clinton became president of the United States and soon it was Tony Blair becoming Prime Minister of England and Gerhardt Schroeder replacing Kohl in Germany. In 1993, Mulroney gave way to Jean Chretien in Canada.

The reason that this "wave" theory may of interest is because of what has happened in this hemisphere. Mexico has elected Vicente Fox, the first conservative to win office in that country in modern times. Fox was the governor of a small and rather obscure province. Whether he can govern Mexico (can anyone actually govern Mexico?) remains to be seen. But for the moment, the people seem to be thrilled that they have had a peaceful election in which they ousted the party that has dominated Mexican politics for most of the 20th Century.

Fox had an impressive win but it probably was a lot more impressive than the numbers suggest. That is because the incumbent party was used to stealing elections and no doubt did their best in this election as well. But Mayor Daley of Chicago was quoted once as saying, "You can only steal so much." In other words if the vote is close you can probably steal enough votes to "win." But if it is a landslide, you can’t steal enough votes to make the difference. My guess is, based on what the opposition has said in previous elections, that Fox actually got five to eight percent more of the vote than the official tally indicates.

While on some issues Fox was all over the lot, in the main he has to be regarded as a conservative. He is, by the way, a very fervent Catholic. That, in and of itself, is unusual because for almost all of the 20th Century Mexico was an anti-clerical state where a priest could not even be seen wearing a cassock in public. The leaders of the incumbent party were either non-believers or professed no religion at all. Fox is clearly a breath of fresh air in Mexico.

Meanwhile in Canada, there is once again a national Conservative Party that just might give the ruling Liberals a run for their money. The new party is called the Canadian Alliance. Ironically, the founder of the Reform party, Preston Manning had a vision for a new party that would fuse the Reform rank and file with some from the Progressive Conservatives and even remnants of the old Social Credit party. He thought by forming this new party he would end up being its leader. The new party was founded and Manning was ousted in favor of Stockwell Day, who is an Evangelical Christian with a platform which puts the Republican Party to shame. Currently he is the Treasurer of the Province of Alberta. He is not backing away from the social issues but he also favors a 17% flat tax. That is something Republican leaders (House Majority Leader Dick Armey being an exception) can’t bring themselves to put forward.

It remains to be seen if Day can win an election against the Liberals next year. But at least he will offer voters a clear choice. In recent years, except for the Reform Party out West, Canadians were given a choice between a Liberal party and so-called Progressive Conservatives. The problem is that the Liberals often were slightly more conservative than the party that called itself Conservative.

So Day is another breath of fresh air. Clearly Fox and Day (should he win an election) would be able to accomplish more if there is someone more like-minded in the White House than the current occupant.
If the election of Fox should prove to be the beginning of a wave then it might bode well for George W. Bush. It would be remarkable to see what might happen if values-oriented conservatives were in place in Mexico, Canada and the USA. I am no fan of NAFTA and opposed it with everything I had. But with a new set of leadership which could deal with real problems, it might be a whole new day in this part of this world. The current leaders have long claimed to deal with drug, immigration and trade problems. They have not at all. They have all played games.

If it is Fox, Day and Bush, it is possible that reality might set in. After all, Kohl, Thatcher and Reagan certainly dealt with the former Soviet Union far differently than did their predecessors.

Fox may turn out to be an aberration. Day could prove to be unable to put his party across nationwide. Gore right now still has to be regarded as the favorite here at home. Still and all, the Fox election was a shocker. It is entirely possible another couple of shockers are still to come. It could be interesting.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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