Annapolis Institute Overview


Dole makes all the right moves

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, August 15, 1996

All of a sudden, this autumn’s presidential contest is looking more competitive. One reason is the reality of the broad foundation of core votes for any truly conservative candidate. Another is that voters are beginning to pay attention — and will really tune in after Labor Day. And, finally, Republican hopeful Bob Dole has made all the right moves during the past two weeks.

Doing things right began with Dole’s forceful and articulate announcement of his pro-growth, pro-family, tax-cutting economic program. He fueled momentum by naming the aggressive and self-confident Jack Kemp as his running mate. Kemp was an inspired choice who will bring enormous energy, enthusiasm, a large intellect and genuine blue-collar appeal to the autumn campaign.

Dole’s “big mo” also reflects a superbly orchestrated Republican convention which, as one wag noted, is more like a TV production studio than a party nominating convention. Of course, he is right: The primary purpose of the convention is to package and communicate a message of hope, growth, opportunity and tolerance to the American people — and that is what the Republicans are now doing, and very effectively to date.

But the process so far also holds the promise of a different kind of presidential campaign. First, polls, focus groups and especially new high-tech audience response “meters” tell spinmeisters which words and phrases work with an audience — and which turn them off. These meters are clearly showing that personal attacks and negative messages are getting very low ratings across the board and especially with independents, who will decide the election on Nov. 5. Result: Campaign handlers may decide it is in their interest to play down the personal attacks and play up the issue side of the contest.

On the issue side, the Dole-Kemp team is teeing up one of the most important, and distorted, issues in American politics: wealth creation. The left in American politics has always taken wealth creation for granted, as if it “just happens.” Yet we know from 500 years of Latin American history that inept and self-serving governments can prevent nations with enormous natural wealth and a strong work ethic from attaining their place in the sun. We know from this century’s experience with socialism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that intrusive governments can slow economic growth, undermine the broad sharing of economic rewards, corrupt fundamental cultural values and limit freedom.

Yet when issues of wealth creation are served up to the public — by proposals to reduce the capital gains tax or to reduce income taxes so that people can spend more of the wealth they create and give less to bureaucrats to spend for them — the left and the media always succeed in focusing the debate on a static picture of who gets what rather than the dynamic picture of unleashed innovation and entrepreneurship and a new economy where government and all hard-working people get more.

Unfortunately, we have an economic system (capitalism) that was named by its enemies and, despite its unmatched success in raising living standards worldwide, is still little understood by opinion leaders or the public.

But the record is clear: Cutting taxes produces more jobs for people, more wealth for communities and more revenues to government. That’s what happened in 1922, when Calvin Coolidge and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon cut the tax rate 20%. The same thing happened when President Kennedy cut taxes in the 1960s and when President Reagan cut taxes in the 1980s. It’s an old story: When the pie gets larger, smaller bites give you more. Perhaps this campaign’s economic policy debate will give Americans another chance to learn that lesson.

Get the Bonus Years column right to your inbox

We take your inbox seriously. No ads. No appeals. No spam. We provide — and seek from you — original and curated items that make life in the Bonus Years easier to understand and easier to navigate.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Other posts from the Annapolis Institute:

More from Phil: