Western Bias
Jude Wanniski
July 20, 1999


Memo To: Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Western bias

Interesting column you had in the Sunday Post on the influence of the western states in providing us with most of our Presidents in recent years. If you push a bit harder, it will make even more sense, I think. One of the interesting things about our form of democracy is that our presidents self-select themselves, usually based on whether they think their background, experience and wisdom is what their fellow citizens want at a particular time -- to do a particular job. We can't all think like New Yorkers or Virginians or Californians. Only those who have lived in a place for a significant amount of time can know the territory and the people. It could be that the western states have been more open to upward mobility in recent decades, which is what may cause westerners to better represent the overall desires of the national electorate in that regard. In the years to come, we will have more Presidents who lived half their lives east and half west, or north and south. Ronald Reagan came from the midwest but experienced California for a long period. George Bush came from Connecticut to Texas and so did his son. Maybe the son has more Texan than the father, which may have some effect on the outcome of the election.

Think of it another way: Republicans are the Daddy Party and Democrats the Mommy Party. Daddy represents the individual, Mommy the collective. In each party there is a Mommy and a Daddy "wing." In each institution there is a yin and yang. This helps explain why presidents (and congressional leaders) come from one state or the other. Texas is a Daddy state, where individualism counts for a lot, the collective for little. Massachusetts is a Mommy state.

On the surface, George W. is a "compassionate conservative" in the Mommy wing of the Daddy Party. Under the surface, he is a "bomber," who will fight wars "ferociously." Jack Kemp and Dan Quayle are genuinely in the Mommy wing of the Daddy Party. Both campaigned in their congressional races in black churches and union halls. Reagan was a convert from the Mommy Party to the Daddy Party and really governed as a perfect equilibrium between the individual and the collective. In 1996, I thought Phil Gramm could not win the nomination because he left the Democratic Party to join the wing-nut faction of the GOP. John McCain also is in the Daddy wing of the Daddy Party, which is why voters nationally will have a tough time electing him.

It may help Quayle by his moving to Arizona, but not because of electoral votes. You can take the boy out of Indiana, but you can't take Indiana out of the boy. Arizona is a state of individuals, a place that produces Goldwaters and McCains. In so far as Arizona has rubbed off on Quayle, he has a better chance than McCain.

As a Democrat who switched parties in 1978, I thought in these terms. I was the fellow who originally wrote the line, "We have to get the country moving again, but we can't leave anyone behind." My new wing-nut friends denounced this phrase as being socialistic. I pointed out that it was Christian, the good shepherd. Reagan used the line in his 1980 acceptance speech in Detroit. Now, everyone uses it. It represents a balance at the top of the party between individual & family.

Bob Dole did not lose because he is from Kansas, by the way. He was just too much Mommy, worried about risk-taking, a pessimist who came of age in the Great Depression and forever feared indebtedness. Reagan came of age in the Roaring Twenties and was thereafter a great optimist. Dole thought like a loser, Reagan like a winner, where anything is possible. More than anything else, the national electorate wants an optimist in the White House -- whether from Georgia or from California. Know what I mean?