Chickens, Ducks and Parrots
Jude Wanniski
November 6, 2002


Memo To: Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Election Results

In The Way the World Works, I presented the "Chicken, Duck, Parrot" political model of the electorate. Elections are like the party game where you try to guess what it is one player is thinking about. If the player is thinking “chicken,” and wags around until the time is up and someone guesses “duck” and another “parrot,” the “duck” guess wins. Duck is closer to chicken than “parrot.” In this year’s election, as well as that in 2000, the right answer is “chicken,” but when the polls closed yesterday neither Democrats nor Republicans got close enough to “chicken” to really claim a mandate for change. They seemed to be different colored parrots, with the GOP parrot favored just enough to give Republicans a unified government, but with no clear direction for change. More than anything, it is a vote of confidence in President Bush, elected two years ago without the popular vote, but only enough to experiment with policy change at the margin.

A reporter called me at home yesterday, before I went to vote (Republican for Senate, Libertarian for House, both of whom lost). He asked what I thought if the Democrats won or the Republicans won. I told him that it did not appear that either party would win, in the sense of having a mandate to do one thing or another. Newt Gingrich did that in 1994, with his 10-point Contract With America, and the Republicans were rewarded with majorities in both House and Senate. There is only a tilt when one party or the other figures out what the voters really want, and in 1994 the voters clearly wanted change away from President Clinton’s tax hikes and Hillarycare and toward the kinds of growth and reform ideas embodied in the Contract.

As usual, the voters always want Peace and Prosperity and neither party this fall offered a solution that will clearly get to one or the other. Individual voters will make up their minds on one issue or another issue or simply vote their party affiliation, but until a man or woman comes out of the general population without first taking a poll, gridlock is the only defense the voters have. They did that in 2000 when they gave George W. Bush the Electoral College by a couple of votes, but denied him a clear mandate of any kind by giving Vice President Al Gore the popular vote.

The ONLY way to Prosperity from where we are is through monetary reform that restores the gold standard. But gold has been so demonized to partisans that only the voters would recognize it is the right answer – that neither tax cuts nor interest-rate cuts can solve this particular national malady, which is of course a world malady. A floating dollar is a sick dollar, which provides the global population with a sick unit of account that invites more and more poverty the further you go down the global socio-economic pyramid. If Ronald Reagan were still with us at the peak of his powers, he might see it, as the one thing he wanted to do throughout his eight years was to fix the dollar to gold again. His advisors talked him out of it, although his Treasury Secretary in 1987 made a stab at it. It really requires a presidential candidate asking the electorate for a mandate, and that can’t be done in an off-year election.

The ONLY way to peace is Diplomacy, as the failure of diplomacy is war. There are of course times when war is unavoidable. There is still the possibility of war in Iraq, but President Bush was so deft last month in moving to a diplomatic solution engaging the United Nations that he really could not be punished by the voters for opting for war before diplomacy had failed. Two of the Senate races still undecided, in Minnesota and South Dakota, seem to be tilting Republican by a handful of votes. The diplomacy/force issue was engaged in both, with the Democrats slightly more dovish. But the tightness of those races reflects the knife-edge on Senate support on the Iraq issue.

We certainly have military power in abundance, and the people around the President and most in his party have seemed prepared to use it with a minimum of diplomacy or none at all. The President himself opted for a serious round of diplomacy last month by making important concessions to the Senate Democrats on use of the United Nations. The stock market hit bottom before he did so and gained a thousand points as diplomacy has progressed to the point where Saddam Hussein is now practically promising to throw a party for the weapons inspectors when they arrive. This goes to show that diplomacy backed by the threat of force – iron fist in velvet glove – can be effective.

President Bush certainly deserves credit for getting even this narrow vote of confidence in his governance to date, although he has to also concede the Democrats seemed determined to play parrot in these elections. They will now have two years to figure out just what it is the voters were flapping about and come up with an alternative bird, at least a duck.