Roundtable on the Election's Message

Roundtable on the Election's Message

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - November 6, 2008


MIKE DUNCAN, RNC CHAIRMAN: People voted for Barack Obama. It was something of a shakeup, something of a change. But their core beliefs are still center-right.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: We don't think this is a particularly conservative country. We think this is a country that is pretty much right down the middle and very, very moderate.


HUME: Well, so which is it, and what was the message from the voters? Center-right, center-left or center-moderate, or whatever Howard Dean was saying. He is always hard for me to decipher.

But there is this from the exit polling from the last two rounds. These are the margins by which these two candidates carried the moderate vote, the votes of people who were self-described moderates. Obama won that over John McCain by 21 percent. John Kerry won it over George W. Bush by only nine percent. So perhaps that says something.

Charles, your thought about what the overall message of this election is?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that number tells us about the resentment and resistance to Bush and Republicans as a party and as president. It doesn't answer the ideological question of what do you think about the role of government?

And the polls actually had that question, and there was an increase in the number of people who believed the government ought to be doing more. It went up by five points to actually a majority, 51 percent.

Now, that, I think, is the defining question which divides liberals and conservatives. Should you have an activist, protectionist government protecting the people, or do you want a government that is at a distance, that gives freedom, and allows risk? That's a way to generalize what the debate between the left and right is.

So in this election you got a significant increase. But the issue is this is happening at one point in time six weeks after a financial collapse in which the great banks, the investment houses, the auto companies and insurance, everyone sought shelter in the government. If they do, why not the individual?

So it is all explainable as a result of this crisis. It doesn't answer whether that answer of government ought to do more is going to remain a belief in two years or three or five.

HUME: Was the question, as you are citing it, asked in connection with more government services, higher taxes, or less government, lower taxes?

KRAUTHAMMER: No. It was simply should the government do more.

HUME: I got it, OK.

LIASSON: More as in benefit, more for me.

Look, I think Howard Dean was very clear, and I thought it was interesting. He didn't say that this election proves that the country is more liberal, more Democratic. He said it's more moderate.

And I think that is one of the many signs that you're getting out of the newly-empowered Democrats, that they are not going to rush to the left as many on the left would like them to do.

And I think that how they interpret this election, whether they think it's a mandate for them or merely a chance to make the case to the American people and prove they can govern, will make a huge difference.

But I think that, you know, moderates did go to Obama. I think Charles is absolutely right--in a time like this, the government is seen as an entity that can help people, and that's what you saw.

And also, look, just even in voter ID. The number of moderates is growing, the number of liberals shrinking over time, not just in this election.

BARNES: And the number of Democrats has grown and the number of Republicans has shrunk some since 2004. I think there is no question about that. The country's a center-right country, but more centrist than right. More than in 2004, for instance.

And Republicans are going to have to adjust to that. They're also going to have to adjust to the notion about government.

And I wonder sometimes about small government conservatives who harbor the idea, one, that Ronald Reagan was one of them, which he really wasn't except rhetorically, and that, two, that we can really significantly reduce the size of government.

That's where I think the smarter conservatives are for reforming of all these government programs like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and so on, where individuals will have more control and government will have much less, but the programs are still there.

HUME: Right.

But I have a thought about this in terms of liberal versus conservative. We will know that the country has turned to center left or left when "liberals" start calling themselves liberals again instead of calling themselves "progressives" or whatever else they like to call themselves.

And they haven't said that for years. You know that a movement is in trouble when it has to change its name to make it sound more palatable to the public.

KRAUTHAMMER: But if you sell the idea of government as protector of last resort, and people buy it, the name won't matter. You become a liberal country.

And that's what, if Obama is successful, he may do it. But if you want to generalize off of this week's election, it's a mistake.

It will depend on how long our recession is. If it is a decade as in Japan and nothing happened, it won't have any effect. If it is a decade and FDR was seen as having helped, is how he was perceived, it will change the country and cause a realignment.

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FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


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