The biggest concern for home schooling freedoms I had going into the 1996 election was the very real prospect that the Senate might ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. But two pieces of good news make that somewhat less likely. First, Jesse Helms was re-elected. Second, the Republicans retained control of the Senate. Without Helms, the Republican leadership on the Foreign Relations Committee would be suspect. And without a Republican majority we would have been in deep trouble.
Clinton can be counted on to make a valiant effort to push this treaty (and the equally dangerous U.N. Women's Convention) but we should be able to get the 34 votes we need to defeat ratification of either treaty-if we work really hard.
But I am not nearly as certain of the results of this election in the dozens of less visible issues that will work their way through both houses of Congress during the next two years. And I believe there are many reasons to be very concerned that the 105th Congress may be much more dangerous to our freedoms than was the 104th.
My basic concern stems from the media spin doctoring of the election results and the Republican reaction to it. The media has argued that this election was an endorsement of moderation and bi-partisanship. I think it was nothing of the kind. Name one candidate who ran and was elected under the banner "I think we should be more bi-partisan."
Dole's lack of moderation (was there any such lack?) cannot possibly be blamed for his defeat. The reason Republicans lost the presidential race boils down to four basic failures.
First, the Republicans failed to nominate a candidate who was materially different from Bill Clinton in terms of his basic political philosophy. Bill Clinton is a tax-and-spend liberal. Bob Dole offered the "lite beer" version of this same old brew. When voters are confronted with a choice between two people who have practiced the tax-and-spend philosophy throughout their whole political career, they are going to choose the real thing. Tax-and-spend Republicans just can't win the White House. Remember 1992?
Second, the Dole campaign failed to consistently articulate the social and sovereignty issues which could have made a case for clear differences between the candidates. Michael New should have been Bob Dole's running mate-not literally since Michael is not 35 years old and is constitutionally ineligible-but in the sense that in every speech in every city, Dole should have attacked Bill Clinton for his decision to put our servicemen under U.N. command and in U.N. uniforms. The Dole campaign used certain Christian organizations during the primary season and then left the issues that motivate the grassroots members of those organizations on the shelf. The Dole campaign was embarrassed by and refused to use the social conservative people and issues that are so much a part of the party's base.
Third, Bob Dole failed the personal niceness test. Regardless of whether the perceptions are true or not, Bob Dole was perceived as Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. Bill Clinton was Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. Voters like nice guys.
Fourth, the media failed to do its job giving the American public the relevant facts about the numerous scandals swirling around the Clintons. Those of us who can read the Washington Times each day (or the national weekly version available through the mail) have been fully briefed on many, many of these scandals. But 70% of the American public get their news from the TV networks. Most of these scandals were never mentioned at all by network TV. When voters heard the Dole campaign and others complaining about these scandals, voters had no idea what they were talking about. Voters judged the scandals to be irrelevant because "they weren't important enough to appear on the evening news."
Regardless of the real reasons Republicans lost, many, many of those who survived the election now believe that "moderation" is the new mandate.
Forget about any chance of eliminating the federal Department of Education. Look for more federal spending on education under the Republicans (just as under the 104th Congress). Goals 200 will be increased, not cut. School-to-work should be eliminated if people were thinking clearly. But there will be efforts led by Republicans to increase this dangerous, silly program.
Home school freedoms will undoubtedly be in jeopardy under such federal bills because Republicans who believe in a mandate for moderation are in some ways more dangerous than Democrats.
One of my favorite scenes in all literature is from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. The good Prince Rillian had fallen under the spell of an evil witch-queen and was only in his right mind once a day for a few minutes. Normally he was bound during these spells and the queen used her magic and the dull, heavy poison of wicked incense thrown in the fire to dull his mind and keep him under the enchantment.
On this occasion, however, Jill Pole and Eustis Clarence Scrubb, along with Puddleglum, a faithful Narnian marshwiggle, were in the room with the Prince during the time of his right mind. They hesitated for a moment in their rescue and the witch found them and began to work her magic, complete with the overpowering incense thrown into the fire.
In desperation, Puddleglum stepped with his bare, webbed feet onto the fire, eliminating the evil magic smell of the incense, allowing everyone to clear their heads and fight for their freedom against the power of the witch. And, as C.S. Lewis noted, there is nothing like the smell of burnt marshwiggle to give one a clear head.
It is our job (along with our faithful friends in groups like Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, and Family Research Council) to be the smelling salts for the Republican Congress. If we have to step into the fire from time to time to eliminate the potent magic of the media spin doctors, so be it.