Dean and Big Differences: The 'Make Love Not War' Cohort Is Now Older and, Well, Older. It Says, 'Make Threats, Not War.' or 'Make Trade Wars, Not the Other Kind

Article excerpt

Byline: George F. Will

If it was not already as plain as a pikestaff, last week's events made it so: In 2004 there will be no talk, as there was in 2000, of the presidential election's being about "the narcissism of small differences." The differences between the parties are now sufficiently stark that even Wesley Clark, the retired Army general who fancies himself a president, has suddenly discovered, in his 59th year, that he is a Democrat.

The next election will turn on big differences about two questions. What should be America's role in the world? And how should the Constitution be construed?

Last week another of the Senate Democrats' filibusters against the most important of President Bush's appellate-court nominees succeeded when Miguel Estrada withdrew from consideration. Republicans will be eager to trumpet the Democrats' seven successes in blocking, as they probably will have done by next November, confirmation of: a Roman Catholic and Hispanic immigrant (Estrada), an African-American woman (Justice Janice Rogers Brown of the California Supreme Court), a Southern woman (Priscilla Owen of the Texas Supreme Court), a Catholic woman (Carolyn Kuhl of California's Superior Court) and three white Southerners (Attorney General William Pryor of Alabama; Charles Pickering, a Mississippi judge, and Terrence Boyle, a North Carolina judge).

More and more voters understand that judges are generally more important than elected officials. That is one reason why more and more nonvoters think that choosing elected officials is not worth the bother. On matters ranging from abortion to capital punishment, from college admissions to gay marriage (concerning which Massachusetts and New Jersey courts may soon issue decisions), judges increasingly set the agenda of social argument and set the course of the culture.

This agenda drives the "blue state/red state" division on the map of the Gore and Bush states in 2000. American politics remains remarkably regional because it remains organized by cultural more than economic issues.

In his new book "A National Party No More," Sen. Zell Miller, the Georgia Democrat who is retiring, says that whereas FDR said, "I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," today's typical national Democratic leader says, "I see one third of a nation and it can go to hell."

That one third, the South, seized the interest of Bostonian John Kerry when a poll showed him trailing Howard Dean by 21 points in New Hampshire. The most important primary immediately after New Hampshire is in South Carolina, so thither John Kerry went to break the big news: He is running for president! …