Conservatives 3, Clinton 1


PURSING ITS LIPS austerely, the electorate saw its duty and did it pitilessly. Feeling inclined to extend the Clinton presidency, it did so in a deflating manner, making him a lame duck on a short leash held by a Congress that probably will be controlled by Republicans for the rest of his tenure. His post-election smile could be construed as an inverted grimace.

Voters gave Bill Clinton what history says is a recipe for disappointment -- a second term. And they allowed Republicans to retain control of the engine of government in this era of restored congressional supremacy.

Still, Mr. Clinton sought and got a mandate. So, adolescents wanting driver's licenses should wear their school uniforms when they deposit urine samples at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The gallantry of Bob Dole's final dash was inspiriting, and effective. His popular vote percentage was 3.4 points better than Bush's in 1992 and it refutes the facile conclusion that the race was always unwinnable. A smarter campaign could have won. Still, conservatives can take comfort from this: Considering who replaces whom, the Senate will be more conservative than it was, perhaps even more conservative than the House.

For many conservatives, the four most important goals this year were -- moving from least to most important -- winning the presidency, passing the California Civil Rights Initiative (which bans racial preferences), holding the Senate and, especially, the House. The conservatives' reasoning: The presidency has been marginalized and this president has been miniaturized; the CCRI involved a nation-breaking issue that was decided by one-eighth of the nation's electorate; control is more important in the House than the Senate because a minority of senators can immobilize the Senate.

For conservatives, attaining three out of four goals, and the top three, made Tuesday another milestone on a continuing ascendancy.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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