As Maureen McGovern memorably sang after another Most Important Presidential Election Of Our Lifetime, "There's got to be a morning after." And just like in 1972, Democrats woke up humiliated, Republicans rose jubilant, and advocates of limited government cast their eyes anxiously at a secretive second-term White House with a spotty track record on liberty.
Much has changed for the better these last 32 years, but the Morning After 2004 was still filled with unanswered questions about the legacy George Bush will leave. reason asked a variety of pundits, pols, and profs to tell us their biggest hopes and fears for the next four years. Their answers, given in late November, follow.
I Hope…We'll See Democracy in the Middle East
It's probably a relief that the Iraqis, or most Iraqis, will be around in the months ahead to remind the second Bush administration of its democratization promises. Although the United States has focused on creating an auspicious climate for Iraqi elections at the start of 2005, creating an open society in Iraq has been decidedly lower on the list of American priorities since security in the country has gone south.
Will Bush in his second term stiffen his back and again insist on making Iraqi democracy (assuming that phantom comes alive) a linchpin for regional pluralism, helping undermine the Islamist militancy that caused 9/11? One must hope so, since otherwise the Iraqi adventure will have been a spectacular waste of life. Echoes of Arab democracy can still be heard in Washington, even if the advent of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state promises the inert realism that allowed so many Arab autocrats to prosper–unless Bush orders the pliable doctor (who would rather call a duck a rhino than jeopardize her relationship with the president) to place democracy at the top of her lexicon.
Why should Iraqi democracy matter? Because, as Bush has haltingly recognized, liberty is not solely an American or Western concept; because in the Arab context it will mean more security for the U.S.; and because many Americans and many more Iraqis have already died in an endeavor that can yet be salvaged, unless the conviction of defeat grabs us by the throat first.
Contributing Editor Michael Young is opinion editor of Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper, which is printed and distributed throughout the Middle East.
I Fear…We'll See Empire in the Middle East
Without any change in the principles that currently guide United States foreign policy, the shuffling of per-sonnel from this post to that means little. As long as Congress and the American people continue to allow the president to ignore the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war, further military interventionism is inevitable. The only questions are how much further we can stretch our military without a draft, and how long before we go broke.
Without a reorientation of our foreign policy toward that envisioned by our Founding Fathers, the only thing that will end the current policies of preemption, foreign aid, and interventionism will be national bankruptcy. We cannot afford to maintain an empire, and all empires eventually fall.
Ron Paul is a Republican representing the 14th congressional district of Texas.
I Hope…the Constitution Will Make a Comeback
Once appointed, federal judges aren't part of an administration, so they're not vulnerable to an administration's particular dysfunctions. Bush's court appointees won't be prone to getting fired for telling the administration things it doesn't want to hear, or for sticking to a principle rather than bending with Karl Rove's interpretation of the political winds. We have more reason to expect competent and successful change that accords with stated intentions in jurisprudence than in ordinary policy.
Those stated intentions aren't unambiguously welcome, of course. I neither want to see the 11th Amendment expanded further nor Lawrence v. Texas overturned. But there is a silver lining in the real chance that the Commerce Clause/10th Amendment revolution will continue and finally come to its overdue fruition. One to four Bush Supreme Court nominees could lead to some genuine supervision over whether Congress is usurping responsibilities of the states and exceeding the bounds of its Commerce Clause power.
This will not lead to the overthrow of the New Deal or of the intrusive federal state; the Supreme Court does not willingly move so far ahead of the political culture. But it could reinvigorate a public, political, and constitutional discourse around the idea that Congress is not a plenary legislature, and that it needs to exercise its authority within constitutional bounds.
Jacob Levy is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of The Multiculturalism of Fear (Oxford University Press).
I Fear…the Constitution Will Be Shredded
My biggest worry is that fundamental constitutional freedoms will be eviscerated, either directly through constitutional amendments or indirectly through legislation that strips federal courts of the power to enforce such freedoms. My biggest hope is that we will continue to see bipartisan resistance to provisions in the PATRIOT Act and other post-9/11 measures that unjustifiably sacrifice civil liberties without adequate countervailing national security gains. I am optimistic that libertarians, conservatives, and liberals will continue to work together effectively to resist the steady stream of proposals to expand unwarranted government power even further; and that we'll enact reform measures, such as the Safety and Freedom Ensured Act, to bring the PATRIOT Act into line with constitutional checks and balances.
Nadine Strossen is president of the American Civil Liberties Union and a professor at New York Law School.
I Hope…Regulations Will Be Restrained
New regulations come from two places: new legislation, often in response to some sort of momentary panic (think Sarbanes-Oxley, the extraordinarily costly response to turn-of-the-century corporate scandals), and continuous bureaucratic rule making. In its first term, the Bush administration exercised unusual restraint in producing new regulations.
"Since the younger Bush took office, federal agencies have begun roughly one-quarter fewer rules than Clinton and 13 percent fewer than Bush's father during comparable periods," The Washington Post reported in mid-August. Around the same time, The New York Times ran a remarkable chart showing that the Bush administration had imposed new regulations costing an average of $1.6 billion annually, compared to $6.2 billion for the Clinton administration, $8.5 billion for Bush 41, and $8.1 billion for the last two years of the Reagan administration.
The newspapers framed their reports as criticisms. Journalists and legislators tend to treat regulation as feel-good symbolism, a cheap way to demonstrate right-thinking attitudes. Its costs, in both out-of-pocket expense and foregone benefits (including never-explored innovations), get far less scrutiny than the taxes and spending that constitute the usual view of "economic policy."
Less new regulation isn't deregulation, but the Bush administration's low-profile focus on regulatory costs represents a real challenge to bureaucracy as usual. My hope for a second term is to see this approach continue–and to push back against the current drive for tighter Food and Drug Administration restrictions. My fear is of new legislative panics, leading to new regulatory laws, particularly in biomedicine.
Virginia Postrel is the author of The Substance of Style, recently published in paperback by Perennial, and The Future and Its Enemies (Free Press).
I Fear…Spending Won't Be Restrained
By the time the books are closed on the current fiscal year, federal spending will have risen by roughly 20 percent in real terms since the last budget signed into law by Bill Clinton. This four-year spending explosion has not been limited to the areas of defense and homeland security. Spending at the Department of Agriculture will have risen in real terms by an estimated 19 percent, at the Department of Labor by 40 percent, and at the Department of Education by 74 percent.
The entire eight years of the Bush administration are thus unlikely ever to be seen as a landmark in the fight for smaller government. At best, a concerted effort at spending restraint in the second term will make a difference between a so-so record and a historically disastrous one.
The Bush administration has spent no political capital in the fight against big government in the first term. Instead, it has opted to focus on spin (talking about how Washington has ratcheted down spending growth to 1 percent–true only if you exclude 82 percent of the budget). Bush may have no greater desire to use political capital on this important fight in a second term. But continuing to turn a blind eye to congressional spending will jeopardize the president's tax agenda. Given that taxes were one area of substantial domestic policy differentiation between Republicans and Democrats in 2004, if that distinction evaporates much of the Republican voting base may find better things to do when the next election rolls around.
John Berthoud is president of the National Taxpayers Union.
I Hope…We'll Keep Taxes Down by Eliminating Corporate Welfare and Entitlements for the Rich
Commentators frequently refer to the Bush "tax cuts," but this is a misnomer. Government spending has risen sharply, so our taxes are going up in the future, especially once you consider the implicit liabilities from Social Security and Medicare. Bush has given us a "tax shift," combined with a long-run net tax increase. We simply haven't yet been told which taxes are going up and when.
To keep American taxes at reasonable levels I would eliminate all farm subsidies, tariffs, quotas, and price supports, along with other forms of corporate welfare. More important, I would repeal the Medicare prescription drug bill, slowly raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare, and introduce means testing for benefits.
Tyler Cowen is an economics professor at George Mason University, director of the James Buchanan Center and the Mercatus Center, and author of the forthcoming Markets and Cultural Voices (University of Michigan Press).
I Fear…Deficit Worries Will Bring Tax Increases
The one mistake that could cripple a second Bush term is to accept the campaign promise to "cut the deficit in half in four years" as a central goal of the administration. The deficit is an uninteresting and unimportant number that is the difference between two very important numbers: total federal government spending, and total federal taxes.
The true cost of government–and the correct target–is total federal spending as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product. To reduce government spending as a percentage of the economy, Republicans should first cut taxes to increase economic growth and then restrain the growth of federal spending below the growth of the economy. Democrats cannot compete on a political field of battle dominated by pro-growth tax cuts and spending restraint; they are against both and have no alternatives.
But if the ghost of Dick Darman wafts through the White House and convinces the administration to focus on the deficit, then tax cuts are a problem, not half the solution, and Democrats have an equally valid solution: raise taxes. A fixation on the federal deficit–rather than spending as a percentage of the economy–destroyed the presidency of the first Bush. I fear it could happen again.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.
I Hope…We'll Hear More About Ownership
Even though George Bush has no commitment to limited government, the right rhetoric can have a power of its own. The task is to come up with a proposition that a large proportion of the electorate will hear and instinctively say, "Damn right." For years, libertarians haven't had one. We have tried to reinfuse words like freedom and rights with the power they once had, but they have become too degraded by overuse. Ownership may still have that power. To say that the money we spend on Social Security is for our own retirement and that we ought to have ownership over it sounds to me like the Damn Right proposition that could catalyze a political majority.
Charles Murray is W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Human Accomplishment (HarperCollins).
I Fear…We'll Hear More About God
"Talk about your faith!" That is the punditocracy's resounding consensus following the Kerry defeat. It will usher in a new level of political hypocrisy.
Even before the election, Kerry was trying desperately to retool himself according to the emerging wisdom. It was a losing battle. He could never match Bush's easy recitals of faith. "My faith plays a big part in my life," Bush said in the third debate. "I pray a lot. And I do. And my faith is a very, it's very personal. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for our troops in harm's way. I pray for my family. I pray for my little girls."
Remember those words; they are the future.
But I am puzzled by what exactly we learn from such recitals. Several hypotheses present themselves:
1. When a candidate parades his faith, he reassures voters that he is a good, moral person who will not do bad things. This, however, is a dubious assumption in light of history and experience.
2. It guarantees that the candidate will always make the right choices because God will direct him. But what if both candidates are praying for guidance? Who will trump whom?
Unlike a policy proposal, a profession of faith is a conversation stopper. It can't be challenged. And nothing follows from it. Moliere might have believed that the public display of piety is ground for a sound thrashing, but such cynicism is not in America's blood, at least not now. We are bound to assume that the self-confessed believer is utterly sincere.
My only hope for ending the upcoming rush to religious declaration is a candidate who announces that his is the one true faith, to which unbelievers must convert or face damnation–a venerable faith position with a much longer pedigree than our current bland tolerance. It will be a nice test of the country's appetite for religious fervor.
Heather MacDonald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Are Cops Racist? (Ivan R. Dee)
I Hope…Bush Will Learn the Right Lessons From Alaska
One of the last actions of the Clinton administration was to prohibit oil and gas exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). Since directional and other new drilling technologies enable sensitive areas to be developed without environmental damage, the main damage here was to the full development of U.S. energy potential. With more Republican seats in Congress, Bush's support of ANWR development legislation is likely to pass.
Administration action on an Alaskan gas pipeline is also likely. I fear, however, industry pressure for federal subsidies or guarantees of the pipeline, which should not be granted. If industry truly sees the pipeline investment risk as too high, that means it's too soon–energy prices are not high enough–to justify the investment.
These developments are also likely to lower energy costs within Alaska enough to enable major new mining and industrial developments to occur. Since the Alaska Permanent Fund has already set the precedent that public assets belong to the citizens and not just the government, there is the prospect that existing and future Alaskan citizens will benefit directly. May the lower 48 and the rest of the world follow this important precedent.
Vernon Smith is an economics professor at George Mason University, author of Bargaining and Market Behavior (Cambridge University Press), and 2002 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
I Fear…Bush Will Learn the Wrong Lessons From the Election
"Great election, kid. Don't get cocky." That could be Han Solo's advice to President Bush. But it's not the advice he's getting from either the left or the right. Eager to explain away Kerry's defeat in a way that lets them feel morally superior, many on the left are saying that it was all about "moral values," particularly gay rights and abortion. Eager to expand their power in the second term, advocates for the Christian Right have been swift to agree.
Listening to them would be a big mistake for Bush. There's no question that incidents like the Janet Jackson breast episode have angered a lot of Americans who feel that the entertainment industry doesn't respect their values. And gay marriage polls badly even in the bluest of blue states. But there's little reason to believe Americans eagerly cast their votes in November in the hope that busybodies would finally start telling them what to do.
In their book The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge explain how the Republican coalition could go wrong: "Too Southern, too greedy, and too contradictory." Taking the advice of advocacy groups left and right is likely to send the Bush administration in that direction. Is Karl Rove smart enough to realize that?
Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, runs the popular weblog InstaPundit.com.
I Hope…Trade Will Be Freer
Let's be blunt: The steel tariffs were an abomination. The increase in farm subsidies was a travesty. In Bush's first term, his administration's trade policy was hardly a paragon of virtue. But it was good enough for stalwart free trader (and Democrat) Jagdish Bhagwati to admit during an election year that between Bush and Kerry, the Republican had the more responsible trade policy.
The record reflects Bhagwati's assessment. The administration jump-started the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks in the wake of the September 11 attacks. After the debacle at Cancun, when a clash between the developing and developed world dashed any hope of progress, it was U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick who got the process back on track. And the only reason there is a WTO round at all is that President Bush fought for and (barely) won trade promotion authority, something Bill Clinton was never able to do. I haven't even mentioned the spurt of bilateral and regional free trade agreements, including pacts with Australia and Central America.
The administration should also be praised, in true classical liberal fashion, for what it has not done. The Bush team has not taken steps to block offshore outsourcing, despite intense bipartisan pressure to halt the newest forms of trade.
And finally, remember those steel tariffs? They're gone now.
Daniel Drezner is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and the author of The Sanctions Paradox (Cambridge University Press).
I Fear…Society Will Be Less Free
The last four years have not been kind to privacy in America. In fact, the first administration of George W. Bush was the most anti-privacy administration in history. While the post-9/11 fight against terrorists has been the excuse given for virtually all of the anti-privacy measures instituted since that fateful day, many of the powers granted to or assumed by the administration have less to do with a clear-cut, narrowly crafted "war on terrorism" than with a general desire to gather as much information on the American citizenry as possible, as easily as possible.
The next four years are likely to be even worse. The newly re-elected president is certain to use the "political capital" of which he boasts to reauthorize all those provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act that are scheduled to sunset in 2005 and to dramatically expand the law's scope. Even more than outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft, Attorney General?designate Alberto Gonzales appears to support virtually unlimited executive branch power to gather evidence on the citizenry.
Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, is the American Conservative Union's 21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom and Privacy.