The triumphalist hype of today’s conservative columnists

Virtually every story written by a conservative about the election has featured, in its first or second paragraph, the information that this is the first election since 1988 in which the victor received more than 50 percent of the popular vote. This is presented as though it were a big deal, showing what a massive, historic victory Bush has won.

In fact, it’s an empty statement. In 1992 and 1996 there was a third-party candidate, Perot, who won 19 percent of the vote and nine percent of the vote, respectively. This made it impossible for Clinton, the victor in both those races, to carry a majority. In 2000, Nader took a small but substantial hunk of votes from Gore, about three percent as I remember, which deprived Gore of the popular majority, and of the election, though Gore won a popular plurality. So Bush’s popular majority doesn’t reflect any extraordinary achievement on his part. It simply reflects the fact that there was no third-party candidate this year who was popular enough to deprive the winner of a popular majority.

Let’s also remember, in the midst of the celebrations of Bush’s “enormous,” “historic,” “solid” victory, that if about 75,000 votes had changed sides in Ohio, Kerry would now be the president-elect.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 04, 2004 04:27 PM | Send


Mr. Auster, that is an excellent point which I made yesterday to a triumphalist Republican friend. Their hubris knows no bounds at the moment. However, the suffering of liberals at the present time makes it all excusable.

Posted by: Bob Griffin on November 4, 2004 5:04 PM

Another canard being floated is “President Bush received more votes than any other president in history.” In absolute terms that’s very true. However, on that basis it’s equally true that “More voters voted against Bush than any other president in history.”

On the bright side, though, it should be noted that Senate and the House did receive something of a conservative mandate, although that had more to with a rationalization of geography than anything; ie, red states sending red senators to Washington, as we saw in South Dakota, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Posted by: Derek Copold on November 4, 2004 5:21 PM

This factoid is less pro-Republican than it is anti-Democrat. There have been only six elections since the Civil War in which the Democrat has gotten more votes than his combined opponents: 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1964 and (by a whisker) 1976. Note that in every case the Republican oppositon fell apart.

The elder party has a serious long-term problem with the presidency. If this is the best the GOP can do with an inherent advantage, they are truly pathetic.

Posted by: Reg Cæsar on November 4, 2004 5:25 PM

Democrat spin notwithstanding, I don’t think Ross Perot took any votes away from Bill Clinton.

I voted for Perot in 1992, as did many conservatives I knew. When I told liberal acquaintances that I had done so, they looked horrified and asked how I could vote for such a rightwing extremist as Perot. I have no idea why they considered Perot rightwing, but they did. Curious.

Posted by: Richard Poe on November 4, 2004 5:41 PM

Conservatives (establishment & dissident) would do well to recall the short lived triumphalism that followed Gingrich’s ‘94 GOP congressional takeover. What an anticlimatic period ‘95-present has been in terms of legislative progress. No balanced budget amendment, no scrapping of the Department of Education, no federalisation of Prop.187, no term limits, etc. Indeed, Gringrich and his ilk seem to have morphed into big government managerial neocons. I suppose they did achieve some degree of welfare reform, but that was about it. We’ll know within 6 months if Bush truly has a backbone and any legitimately conservative agenda. One true test will be whether he can put Arlen Specter in his place and nominate a conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Posted by: Chris M. on November 4, 2004 5:43 PM

Mr. Auster, I don’t think you’ve sanatized these talking points if one looks at the entire picture that started in at least 2000. There has been a steady and potentially potent assention of power trend towards the right. The madness and hysteria of the left both home and abroad necessarily leaves one to the conclusion that President Bush is putting something together for Republicans and conservatives that could have longterm benefits. Why you choose to be on the outside is unknown. From my vantage point and having read many of the opinions you have put forth concerning conservative thought and liberal rot, I would say that it seems President Bush is pushing back that liberal madness like no one else I’ve ever been concious of. Granted, I’m just a 30 year-old father of two that thinks it ridiculous to abandon the Republican Party. Gay marriage, abortion, prayer, shool vouchers, Supreme Court nominees, tax reform, Social Security reform and taking a fight to the enemy are all issues I see as manifestly positive for conservatives.

I don’t see the point in trying to point out facts that are techically true in order to sow doubt in the party that is the conservative’s best and strongest ally?

Posted by: thordaddy on November 4, 2004 6:07 PM

Time to MAMBO, thordaddy!

Nobody has done more to advance the progress of liberalism in America lately than the unwitting thinks-he-is-a-conservative liberal George W. Bush.

Posted by: Matt on November 4, 2004 7:04 PM

Bush 41 & Bush 43 have damaged the Republican Party in ways it may never recover from; and there is no Goldwater this time to stand in the way of GWB and his agenda.

Posted by: j.hagan on November 4, 2004 7:48 PM


Please explain MAMBO. And 55 million Kerry voters and another 58 million Bush voters would disagree. Why should I believe you?


You sound of the same political ideology as Matt. I was always under the impression that true conservatism wasn’t an ideology?

Posted by: thordaddy on November 4, 2004 9:22 PM

Thordaddy, the “Hegelian Mambo” is a term some of us VFR regulars use to describe the constant leftward drift of the society in general and the Republicans in particular. I think Matt actually coined the phrase.

I’ll give you one small example. A few days before the election, President Bush made a remark that he supported “civil unions” for homosexual couples. While not actually an endorsement of Gay marriage, such a position advocates many of the same legal advantages as marriage, and can best be viewed as “Gay Marriage Lite.” Ten years ago, it would have been inconceivable that any Republican politician would have publicly stated his support for such a position. Now, in 2004, we have the Republicans’ leader taking this view. How would anyone not view this as a drift to the left?

Posted by: Carl on November 4, 2004 9:51 PM

thordaddy: Follow the link. Read the articles and comments. All of them, including the article (and thread) Mr. Auster links to from the middle of the first comment thread. Respond to them in context if you want to.

As to why you should believe me versus believing stuff a bunch of other people say, well, you really shouldn’t think of things that way at all. The truth doesn’t depend upon who thinks (or how many whos think) what.

Posted by: Matt on November 4, 2004 9:52 PM

Carl wrote:
‘…the “Hegelian Mambo” is a term some of us VFR regulars use to describe the constant leftward drift of the society in general and the Republicans in particular.’

The articles and comment threads go into how this happens in detail, with specific examples, which make it clear why it is a mistake (at least in some of our opinions) for traditionalist conservatives to take a “big tent” approach of alliance with today’s mainstream “conservatives”.

And what matters, of course, is not how many people recognize this and believe it. What matters is whether or not it is true.

Posted by: Matt on November 4, 2004 9:58 PM

Thordaddy: it may, or may not surprise you to know that I work for my State Republican Party. On the other hand, I also know my Party, and my Nation, is in deep trouble. I still work within the Republican framework on a state level because I see many positives from this activity…..but I’m not kidding myself, GWB, and the Republican Party in general, are not conservative. The Hegelian Mambo is real, I see it every day in the Republican Party; and it is causing great harm to the conservative movement.

Posted by: j.hagan on November 4, 2004 10:30 PM

If we want to know whether Perot took any votes away from Clinton, we would do better to look at extensive survey data from that time rather than relate a few anecdotes. I recall that Perot voters were divided up among those who would have voted for Clinton, those who would have voted for Bush (in 1992), and those who would not have voted at all if Perot had not been in the race. There were at least as many votes taken away from Clinton as from Bush in 1992. Ever since, both sides have complained that Perot took more votes from their candidate, but they cannot both be right, I suppose.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on November 4, 2004 10:39 PM

BTW Thordaddy: I could live with the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan, and the kind of judges he put on the court in general. Reagan had a good, solid, conservative grounding to back his philosophy. GWB, and his Daddy are a whole other kettle of fish. This Civil Union quip by GWB this week was no accident.

Posted by: j.hagan on November 4, 2004 10:51 PM

Thordaddy, the fact that Matt and his Hegelian Mambo are back is something you will appreciate. So read his link and laugh along.

Please stay tuned here. Remember we are here to provide factual information and support to conservatives and traditionalists not to cheerlead, to mislead, or to berate, although it can get a little hot. Don’t take the bait; it is not personal.

It is a place of learning, an intellectual Website that interests and allows subintellectuals such as myself. If someone speaks a falsehood, the only reason it will not be challenged here is sheer ignorance. What a Godsend to thwart the dominant media.

Posted by: Paul Henri on November 4, 2004 10:52 PM

It doesn’t matter whether a Perot-less 1992 race would have produced a Clinton win or a Bush Elder win. The point is that without a third party candidate, either Clinton _or_ Bush would have had a popular majority.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 5, 2004 1:24 AM

Mr. Coleman writes, “If we want to know whether Perot took any votes away from Clinton, we would do better to look at extensive survey data from that time rather than relate a few anecdotes.”

Okay, let’s. You first. What have you got?

Posted by: Richard Poe on November 5, 2004 10:33 AM

Mr. Coleman, I forgot to add. Before you cite any polling data, please check first to make sure that the pollsters you cite are not among those who were exposed in this election cycle as paid shills for the Democrats.

I realize that narrows the list of pollsters considerably. Indeed, once we’ve eliminated the frauds, I’m not sure who’s left. Maybe the folks at Mason-Dixon. Maybe.

But you’re the one who insists on using “extensive survey data.” So if we’re going to talk “survey data,” let’s do it right.

Posted by: Richard Poe on November 5, 2004 11:07 AM

The question of Perot’s effect can actually be split into at least four interesting questions: (1) Would Clinton have won 50% or more of the popular vote in 1992 without Perot in the race; (2) Same question for 1996; (3) Would Bush have won in 1992 without Perot in the race; and (4) Ditto for Dole in 1996.

The first two questions relate to the point made in this thread by Mr. Auster; namely, it is absurd for Republicans to crow that Bush in 2004 won the first popular vote majority since 1988, because this is entirely an artifact of the changing third-party strengths in the intervening elections. In 1996, for example, Clinton garnered 49% of the vote while Perot had 8%. The precise vote totals:

47,400,125 Clinton 49.23% Democrat
39,198,755 Dole 40.72% Republican
8,085,402 Perot 8.40% Reform
685,297 Nader 0.71% Green
485,798 Browne 0.50% Libertarian
420,024 Other 0.44%

These can be obtained from using the pull-down menus.

Now, if just over 18% of Perot’s voters in 1996 would have not voted at all in the absence of Perot, then Clinton’s existing vote total would have gone over 50%, because of the smaller number of total votes cast, even if ALL remaining Perot voters switched to Dole. If, instead, ALL Perot voters had voted for Dole and none had abstained, Clinton would have won the election but would have remained at 49.23%, obviously. It takes pretty close to that fantastic change of events to keep Clinton below 50% in 1996.

Thus, even if we granted that Clinton would have been below 50% in 1992 without Perot, a reasonable conclusion is that Clinton would have had no worse of a popular vote performance in his two elections as Bush had in his two, i.e. one just under 50% and one just over 50%. This supports what Mr. Auster said, even with rather pessimistic projections for Clinton.

The 1992 numbers are:

44,909,806 Clinton 43.01%
39,104,550 Bush 37.45%
19,743,821 Perot 18.91%
290,087 Marrou 0.28%
375,659 Other 0.36%

The larger Perot numbers give everyone more room to hypothesize. Searching the web, I can only find references to who the Perot voters were by columnists. The general consensus seems to be that about a third of the 1992 Perot voters would have stayed home without Perot in the race (and the 1992 totals easily exceed the 1988 and 1996 vote totals, lending credence to this), while the other two-thirds would have been split slightly in Bush’s favor. How slightly? I don’t see any web access to raw data. With a little calculator work, we can see that if 6 million Perot voters stayed home and the other 13.7 million voted, Bush could have carried those voters by a whopping 8.3 million to 4.4 million (almost 2-1) and Clinton would have exceeded 50%. Bush could have garnered just barely more than a 2-1 ratio and Clinton would have won with slightly less than 50%.

If anyone has survey data of strictly Perot voters, I would be interested to see them. But the central point is still that Bush’s “amazing” feat of gathering more than 50% of the popular vote for the first time since 1988 is based on the absence of a Perot-like popular third-party figure.

As an aside, I have not run across any credible claims that Bush would have won in 1992 in my searches. The claim is asserted in blogs, personal web pages, etc., but I have never seen any sign of someone crunching the numbers and talking about percent who stayed home, percent who would have voted for each major candidate, etc., and actually making a case. If anyone has a single reference to a credible claim of this sort, I would like to see it.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on November 5, 2004 2:20 PM

Leftward drift? Is that some kind of news? So the homosexual agenda has been very successful over the years. The abortion industry is in troubling times. Doesn’t this reality give President Bush serious conservative credentials? Afterall, I think it’s clear that you can’t be a conservative and pro-choice. Roe vs. Wade has never been on shakier grounds legally, morally and scientifically and President Bush has a lot to do with that.

I think the expectation of a right-wing president that mirrors VFR is wholly ridiculous at this juncture and just because a president trumpets “affirmative access,” “civil unions” or “anmesty” for illegals doesn’t mean he isn’t doing anything other than playing politics. We don’t need to play politics here and can be far more simplistic and straightforward in our wording.

My “dissident” view of VFR stems from two contradictory themes. The first theme is a certain pessimism and feel of defeat from “true” conservatism. The second theme is the idea that we can get what we want now i.e. instant gratification. If we only had the right president, we could see all these things happen. The detachment between these themes is what I can’t reconcile. The first theme just isn’t sellable to a 30 year-old guy like me with many years ahead and valuing the disposition that the glass is half-full and not half-empty like so many on the left believe. The second theme too much resembles much of what I see in the left; the unreasonable expectations and instant gratification.

Posted by: thordaddy on November 5, 2004 4:05 PM

One point worth noting about the Republican Party is that for more than half a century it has been unable to produce an effective leader from within its own ranks. The only two able and effective Republican Presidents were Eisenhower and Reagan — both Democrats until well into their adult lives.

Posted by: Alan Levine on November 5, 2004 4:27 PM

I noticed that thordaddy didn’t address anything specific that was said by any particular person. He just has an impression that there are dual “themes” of pessimism and desire for instant gratification, and these “themes” don’t resonate with him because of his age. The former impression I can perhaps understand, although to reduce VFR to “pessimism” is as ridiculously reductionistic as reducing the Republican party to “optimism”. The latter makes no sense at all, since if anything the VFR community tends to take the long view to a fault.

Posted by: Matt on November 5, 2004 5:02 PM

Where, Thordaddy, did anyone here state that all would be well if we just had a sufficiently conservative president?

I will grant that to an extent Bush has been good on the pro-life issue. He reversed the Clinton Executive Orders, he signed the PBA act. But then he goes and deliberately intervenes in the PA primary for the notorious pro-abort Alen Specter against the solidly pro-life Pat Toomey. Toomey has leading Specter before Bush jumped in and strong-armed the Republican Party to side with him. How does Specter, slated to take charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee, repay Bush’s help? He blatantly warns that Bush had better not appoint any pro-life judges. This is considerably more serious than the ‘political feint’ you seem to think it is. It is a near-total betrayal. Unless Bush pushes Congress - hard - to deny Specter the seat and relegate him to the transportation committee, or some similar place that will minimize his toxic influence, I can no longer regard him as pro-life.

The bottom line: Abortions are currently as easy to obtain in the US, for any reason whatsoever, without parental consent, up through the day of birth, as they were on the day Bush took office. Has the abortion industry been prosecuted for selling body parts? Has it been regulated in any way? You act as if there has been incremental progress when there has been none.

“Affirmative access” - an Orwellian phrase if ever there was one. Again, you seem to think that Bush’s betrayal in Grutter v. Michigan was some sort of minor political gesture to buy up a few black votes. (He gained a whole 2 percent - wow!) As a result of this decision, racial preferences are now permanently enshrined as Constitutional law. The 14th amendment’s guarantee of equal protection is a dead letter for whites. This is profoundly more serious than some cheap political trick. It’s a total sellout to the leftist agenda of racial socialism. Only a leftist, who actually believes in multicultural drivel, could hail this as “justice” and respond by parroting Marxist boilerplate like “Diversity is our strength!” Some of us are now - literally - more equal than others under the law thanks to the “conservatism” of Bush.

How is it that a conservative indulges in such betrayals? I think it would be fair to say that the best most of us could ask for are leaders who would not advance the cause of leftism - something the alleged conservative George W. Bush has excelled at.

Posted by: Carl on November 5, 2004 5:26 PM

Thordaddy seems to be under the impression that events and conditions in this Nation are going to be stable, or better, in the future. Most people who post at VFR believe that due to the rapid, and historic demographic changes that America is undergoing that our future is going to be troubling at best…..and at worst, deadly. When Thordaddy retires in about 40 years he will be a minority in the United States; and his children’s children will no nothing but this experience. As Carl has stated above; whites no longer enjoy equal protection under the law thanks to GWB…..I do not wish this future on Thordaddy, his kids, or their kids, or my own family…..that’s why we fight…for our future, and the future of our childern’s childern. If you do not understand this…what more can I say ? I suggest you read Mr. Auster’s articles on demographics here at VFR; and the possible future we face as a Nation if we keep going down the path we find ourselves on now.

Posted by: j.hagan on November 5, 2004 7:37 PM

Some of Thor’s points about VFR are simply off-base. I can’t imagine, for example, where he got the notion that I or any of our participants believe that if we had the “right” president, all America’s ills would be instantly solved. I must urge Thor to read more of what’s at this site, checking out the featured articles linked on the main page, then maybe browsing around in the archives page, and so gaining an understanding of VFR’s basic perspective, before he continues his criticisms and questions. Given his misconceptions about what is being said here, it seems to me that much of this current discussion is a waste of time.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 5, 2004 8:44 PM

Getting back to the original subject of this entry, there’s another piece of silly hype about the election that is repeated by every conservative columnist, that Bush gained more popular votes in this election than any candidate in history. Well, duh! The population is bigger than ever, and there was a very large turnout this year, so naturally the winner, even a winner who only got 51 percent of the vote, has more votes than any other candidate in history. By the same token, it’s also true (I presume) that the _losing_ candidate this year has a higher popular vote than any _winning_ candidate in American history, other than Bush himself. But somehow the conservative columnists don’t notice that little fact.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 5, 2004 8:51 PM

Bush ran behind the 1984 Reagan in California and Illinois, and behind Reagan AND Mondale in New York, in absolute number of votes. Hell, the improved Bush of 2004 ran behind the weaker 1980 Reagan in these states. And California grew like Topsy!

Reagan won 13— thirteen!— states twice that Bush lost twice. Who made them “blue”? I’m not sure about California anymore, but patriots still outnumber idiots in New York and Illinois. If only they had someone to vote for.

Posted by: Reg Cæsar on November 6, 2004 4:29 AM

Here’s an irrelevant factoid for the conservative triumphalists: John Kerry won more votes than George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe COMBINED! Wow!

Posted by: Clark Coleman on November 6, 2004 11:07 AM

Mr. Coleman writes: “Searching the web, I can only find references to who the Perot voters were by columnists. The general consensus seems to be that about a third of the 1992 Perot voters would have stayed home without Perot in the race (and the 1992 totals easily exceed the 1988 and 1996 vote totals, lending credence to this), while the other two-thirds would have been split slightly in Bush’s favor.”

Dear Mr. Coleman:

I am inclined to agree with your earlier contention that a scientific appraisal of Perot’s effect on Clinton’s electoral victories should not rely on anecdotal evidence. For that reason, we should avoid citing columnists, whose opinions are not only subjective but, in the aggregate, grossly biased in favor of the Democrats.

Your assertion that Clinton likely would have taken the popular vote in 1996, with or without Perot, is better founded. How this would have played out in the Electoral College is, of course, another question, but perhaps a less important one.

Posted by: Richard Poe on November 7, 2004 9:33 AM

I agree with Mr. Poe’s summation. There has been some speculation that I have read about electoral college effects of Perot, particularly in 1992. However, it seems to be very hard to pin down anything scientifically and escape the realm of speculation. There were a lot more Perot votes in 1992 than in 1996, and Clinton was a lot farther from 50% in 1992 than in 1996, so it is particularly true that several scenarios can be reasonably hypothesized for 1992 in both the popular vote and the electoral college. With Clinton at 49.23% of the popular vote in 1996, his popular majority without Perot seems the most certain of the four questions I addressed.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on November 7, 2004 2:12 PM
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