What Voters Should Be Asking Tomorrow

By Bartlett, Bruce | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 4, 1996 | Go to article overview

What Voters Should Be Asking Tomorrow


Bartlett, Bruce, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


It was Ronald Reagan who first asked Americans to vote based on whether they are better off today than four years ago. Given the awful economic record of the Carter administration, it was easy for a majority of voters in 1980 to say no, leading to Mr. Reagan's victory and Jimmy's Carter's defeat. Today, Bill Clinton is asking voters the same question and a majority of Americans apparently believe they are indeed better off than four years ago. Accordingly, they seem poised to reward Mr. Clinton with re-election.

But with all due respect, Mr. Reagan was wrong. Elections are not about the past, they are about the future. The correct question voters should be asking themselves is whether they will be better off four years from now depending on which candidate is elected. To be sure, past performance may be a valid indicator of future performance. But to vote solely based on whether one is better off or worse off than four years earlier is to waste one's vote. What voters should be trying to decide is whether Bob Dole's or Bill Clinton's policies, leadership ability, character and temperament better qualify him to improve the quality of their lives in the next four years.

As all sports fans know, one can have the greatest possible respect and appreciation for a veteran athlete's past performance. But what really matters is whether that athlete can help your team win today or in the future. The right decision, therefore, must be to replace those with great pasts but questionable futures. Ultimately, winning games is what matters.

Thus one can concede that on balance Mr. Clinton has done a better job managing the economy than George Bush did without necessarily wanting to give him another four years. For one thing, the most important reason for Mr. Clinton's success has been the steady hand of Republican Alan Greenspan at the helm of the Federal Reserve. …

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