The 2000 elections will decide the Democrats' future.
Every two years the leaders of both political parties address their key coalition members and solemnly pronounce the next election to be the most important in a generation. Unlike the preceding contests-mere skirmishes without long-term repercussions-"this election" is supposed to set the stage for the next decade, generation, century.
This time it might even be true. On November 7, 2000, all three branches of government-executive, legislative, and judiciary-will be at stake.
History suggests that the presidential election could help decide whether the GOP keeps its narrow six-vote majority in the House. With Reagan's first victory in 198o, 34 Republican representatives were swept into Congress. Sixteen more came in 1984 In 1996 Clinton picked up nine House seats for Democrats. (On the other hand, Jimmy Carter gained only one House seat in '76 and Clinton lost ten seats in '92.)
It's also likely that the next president will appoint three Supreme Court justices and set the governing majority of the Court for years to come.
For the first time in over a century, Americans are competing not just for party control of the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court, but for ideological control of those institutions. In 1952, Republicans won the presidency and both houses from the Democrats, yet the liberal drift in policy was hardly affected. After 196o, though the Democrats had regained the presidency and held both houses, the ideology of Washington didn't shift. As recently as 1992, Clinton's presidential victory and Democratic control of Congress were not enough to pass a BTU tax, a $i6 billion "stimulus" package, or socialized health care. Today there are very few "boll weevils" or "Blue Dog Democrats," and very few "Rockefeller Republicans." In the test vote on impeachment there were only five Democrats who voted "yes" and only five Republicans who voted "no."
If the 2000 election were a boxing match, it would cheer the promoters that the two contestants are very evenly matched and that this is the third in an ongoing series of grudge matches following the i994 GOP capture of the House and Senate.
The danger for Republicans is that the stakes are not the same for both parties. The Democrats are playing for their very survival. If the Republicans elect a president in 2ooo to go along with a slight increase in their congressional majorities, they can and will enact reforms that will break the pillars of the Democratic Party's national structure: labor unions, trial lawyers, and Big City machines.
A Republican Washington could enact a modest version of Paycheck Protection or implement the 1998 Supreme Court ruling that workers may be compelled to pay union dues only for the "maintenance and negotiation" of their own contracts. In the case of Communications Workers of America v. Beck, this was found to be i8 percent of total dues. If every worker's Beck rights were protected by an executive order, and if every worker took advantage of them, unions would lose 82 percent of their annual dues. That's $8 billion each year. If only lo percent of union members exercised their Beck rights it would cost the unions $Soo million a year. This is roughly the amount of money the Republican National Committee spends in a decade. And this does not require a jihad against organized labor-simply the reinstatement of Executive Order 128oo, issued by George Bush in the final days of his presidency and repealed in the dark of night by Clinton in January 1993.
Modest tort reform, much of which has been actively considered by committees in both chambers, would break the trial lawyers, second only to the unions as a source of funds for the left. The bipartisan auto-choice legislation introduced by Senators Mitch McConnell, Slade Gorton, Joseph Lieberman, Patrick Moynihan, and Reps. Dick Armey and Jim Moran would allow Americans to buy auto insurance covering all real costs of damage to car and person, while waiving the right to sue for "pain and suffering. …