Analysts delivering the election post-mortems this week are puzzled about why the two old standby issues of our time, peace and prosperity, did not play a role in this election. Prosperity is slipping through our fingers and peace is about to be sacrificed to preserve the price of regular unleaded. But voters did not seem to weigh those issues heavily when they voted.
That may be because neither issue is yet ripe. At this rate though, they will progress beyond ripe to rotten by 1992.Then the post-mortems on the 1990 election will become the pre-mortems for George Bush. Under Bush's stewardship, his party has slipped further into the minority in Congress and critical redistricting decisions have been handed to more Democratic governors. With Bush's own popularity slipping, it is no wonder that a few GOP candidates responded to his offer to campaign for them by saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."
The voters were equally at a loss to make sense out of this election. Should they have voted out the rascals who raised their taxes, or the rascals who profited from the savings and loan debacle, or the rascals who wait hand and foot on special interests? In the end, the voters proved once again that all politics are local. They took out their frustrations on the rascals at home - the incumbent governors.
That's bad news for Bush. Not only were many of those rascals Republicans, but the much advertised purge of Congress did not materialize. Now the president must figure out whether the urge to purge passed harmlessly, or whether it is still in its infancy and will peak in 1992 when Bush is the rascal at the top of the ballot and Dan Quayle is his right-hand man.
By 1992, Bush had better find a constituency because he doesn't have one now. Say what you will about Ronald Reagan, he had an army of "Reaganites" - people who would fall on their swords rather than desert him. The term "Bushite" is not even in the American political vocabulary, and nobody can accuse Bush of being coated with Teflon.
Bush's deficit reduction strategy was nearly sabotaged by an outlaw from his own party, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who barely won re-election in his own district. In Bush's home state of Texas, the voters elected a Democrat as their governor, Ann Richards, whose biggest claim to fame is her acerbic putdown of Bush - born with a "silver foot in his mouth."
Ronald Reagan surrounded himself with people who believed in him. Bush has surrounded himself with people who work for him and believe in their careers. And the voters don't know what to believe. Bush said he would be the environmental president and the education president, but he has become neither.
He said he would not raise taxes, but he did. He said he would win the war on drugs, but his general in that war has retired. He ushered in the most promising era of world peace since the end of World War II and then sent 250,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf. If 30,000 of them come back dead, as the Pentagon projects , then it will be the last straw for voters. Bush can kiss the White House goodbye in 1992.