The Establishment Is Winning
Jude Wanniski
November 1, 1996

 

Buried in one of its editorials on the presidential campaign the other day, The Wall Street Journal complained that the Establishment had obviously decided it preferred a second term for Bill Clinton. So thatís that. If you had not noticed, the Journalís editorial page, which had been in the vanguard of the Reagan Revolution, gave up on the Dole/Kemp ticket several weeks ago. It has said scarcely a word on behalf of either Senator Dole or Jack Kemp, who not too many years ago was the darling of the Journalís editpage. In its tepid quasi-endorsement for Dole today (ďHe is not Ronald Reagan, but...Ē), the Journal does not mention Kemp at all, nor does his name appear anywhere on a page full of stories about the campaign. The page itself has become pure Establishment, although Editor Robert L. Bartley never will admit that to himself. In another two months, he will have been 25 years at the helm of the editpage, which is an awfully long time to maintain a revolutionary edge. The conservative wing of the Establishment, which dictates his themes, now permits him to devote himself exclusively to exposing the Presidentís moral and ethical unfitness for office. If the Journal succeeds in helping drive Mr. Clinton from office sometime after November 5, it will have settled the score with the liberal wing of the Establishment, which drove Richard Nixon from office in 1974, with The Washington Post and The New York Times doing the honors. We would be left with Albert Gore as President, to whom the status quo is heaven itself.

Let us not be coy about what is going on here. The Establishment had a small taste of revolution in the Reagan years and did not like it at all. The economy grew at a breathtaking pace, not in the static terms of the National Income Accounts, in which one unit of GNP is as good as the next, but in capital formation. The old corporations run by silver-spoon grandsons of entrepreneurs suddenly found themselves losing wealth and market share to upstarts who, more often than not, began life in the public schools. Many of them were financed with the junk bonds of Michael Milken, himself a product of an ordinary family that never made the society pages. More than half the capital raised in the 1980s for black entrepreneurs was due to Milken. With the help of the Big Guys, Milken was put out of business by the man who is now Mayor of New York City, who got that job as a reward for the job he did on Milken. The Establishment is not eager for the kind of economic growth implied by the Dole/Kemp agenda. Economic growth of 2Ĺ% is quite enough to keep Goldman, Sachs and its clients happy. They then need not worry about upward pressure on wages that cut into profit margins. Nor do they have to worry nearly as much that their best employes will quit to start their own enterprises, absconding with their intellectual capital. We are not simply talking about Rust Belt dinosaurs. The prime example is Microsoft, where Bill Gates, at the top of the heap, is already a grumpy old man, openly regretting the shares he gave his early employes, which means they can now leave with the wealth they possess. When you get to the top of the heap, the status quo is ipso facto as good as it gets.

The status quo is also comfy for the military-industrial players in the Establishment, who still enjoy the world as they came to know it in the long Cold War, and now look for new monsters, as Colin Powell puts it. Bob Dole and Jack Kemp actually believe in changing the world to peacetime conditions. They really do want a fluid society, where ethnic and colored upstarts can make their way to the top, bumping aside the silver spoons. Dole would like to see a simple tax system that rewards entrepreneurial capital, which would turn the world upside down. He would enjoy the idea of a Treasury Secretary who would wrest away control of the IMFís floating crap game from the big banks. He might put the dreaded Colin Powell at the State Department, where he would be open to reconciliation with foreign heads of state who are serious in their petitions. What will become of us if there are no more monsters to taunt, in order to talk the taxpayers into bigger defense budgets? The Four Horsemen of this Apocalypse are the Journalís Bartley, Bill Safire of The New York Times, George Will of The Washington Post and Bill Kristol of the Beltway Standard. These are the purest voice of the conservative establishment, the Kultur Kops.

If the Establishment is winning, where is the Anti-Establishment? We find it alive in Ross Perot, in Minister Louis Farrakhan, and in Jack Kemp. The most devoted of these, of course, is Farrakhan, who represents the bottom of the bottom of the pile: young black men. To my mind, the most significant events of the campaign were: (1) Perotís quiet offer of the Reform Party nomination to Kemp last spring, which indirectly led to Doleís offer to Kemp, after it appeared Kemp was toying with a Perot offer to be his running mate; and (2) Farrakhanís renunciation of anti-Semitism and his direct appeal to Jewish leaders to begin a process of reconciliation between blacks and Jews -- after Kempís praise of the message of the Million Man March in a Boston Globe interview and his challenge to Farrakhan. By his courageous initiative, Kemp has achieved what no other political leader has been able to do, successfully getting at least a rope across the racial divide. Farrakhan is now suggesting his followers vote for Perot (instead of Clinton) and is openly discussing broadening the reach of the Nation of Islam to include a white constituency. Kemp yesterday pledged on CNBC to spend the weekend appealing to the million black men who marched to Washington a year ago, asking them to vote for Dole/Kemp.

Do you realize none of the above has been reported by the Establishment media? Iíve practically begged editors to report this news, with no success anywhere. The Journal not only refused my pleas to report on Kempís success in getting Farrakhan to renounce anti-Semitism in all its forms, but also has continued to run op-ed pieces labeling Farrakhan as an anti-Semitic bigot. The only stories that have appeared were in New York Cityís tabloid press, where the Daily News and the New York Post both denounced Farrakhan for his offer of reconciliation and praised Jewish leaders for refusing to sit down with him. Had the Journal trumpeted Kempís success, it would have been impossible for the rest of the news media to ignore it, and Farrakhan would now be able to endorse the Dole/Kemp ticket -- pulverizing the status quo. I also begged editors to report on Doleís willingness to index the capital gains tax by executive order, a Kemp initiative that also would shock the status quo with a $2 trillion tax cut for Main Street. Only the NYTimes came through. The Journal had only one small mention in an editorial that brushed it off as an idea that would cause a revenue loss! In a speech earlier this week in Richmond, commentator Robert Novak asked 500 businessmen how many had heard of this pledge, and only three hands went up.

Bob Dole, bless his heart, will spend the last 96 hours of the campaign non-stop, trying to show how much he is willing to do for his country. In the Times this morning, he is quoted as saying he will take all the blame for his defeat, if thatís what it is. He would not deserve all the blame. It is his party that has let him down, especially its intellectual leaders, who pushed his campaign team into every losing stratagem it followed, pushing him away from every opportunity that opened for him. They do not want him to win because they fear he and Kemp would upset the old order. They continue to drive a wedge between the two men by persuading Dole that Kemp has somehow been disloyal, playing for himself and the year 2000 instead of the ticket. Ugly stuff. Think of Dole as Othello, Kemp as his political wife, Desdemona. The political Establishment is a powerful machine. It usually wins and is winning again.