Abstract:

Tom Campbell of the Republican Majority Coalition wants to emphasize economic conservatism and de-emphasize morality in social and political issues because of his own liberal agenda. If he wants to be a true fiscal conservative, then he would disavow programs that increase spending.

Full Text:

Tom Campbell’s ode to broad-mindedness on social issues reminds me of an observation by Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council: By “tolerance,” many modern liberals mean the armtwisting of those they consider “intolerant”: “Their goal is |diversity’: Everyone gets to be a liberal!”

Consider Tom Campbell’s agenda. Like most liberals, he is an avid booster of funding for abortion-on-demand for Medicaid recipients. In other words, he’s pro-choice – except for tax-payers, whom he would muscle into the Planned Parenthood crusade, regardless of their qualms or their “maximum individual liberty.” (Sure, he used to oppose tax subsidies for abortion – “I don’t want to get into any funding for killing” – but he has grown since then.)

A proposed homosexual-rights measure he co-sponsored also employs coercion against the culturally out-of-step. It would put the squeeze on mom-and-pop landlords, among other targets. Say a family is renting rooms in its house and refuses, out of personal conviction, to consider gay couples. Under Campbell’s law the landlords could be hauled into court. Did somebody say something about “the primacy of individual conscience”?

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As for the unborn child’s rights, she has none. As a congressman, Mr. Campbell put his name on the Freedom of Choice Act, which goes well beyond Roe, apparently barring even modest protections – waiting periods, parental consent, spousal notification – and permitting abortion even after viability.

And, before he goes quoting Ronald Reagan to support abandoning the GOP’s commitment to protecting the unborn, Mr. Campbell ought to read “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation,” Reagan!s 1983 essay that calls on Americans to “reaffirm the sanctity of human life, even the smallest and the youngest and the most defenseless.” That stance helped the GOP, in three presidential elections, cement an electoral alliance more dynamic than anything Tom Campbell’s “majority coalition” promises, perhaps in part because it honored ethics over expediency.

Fiscal Conservative?

What about Campbell’s purported conservatism on money matters? He has embraced the California school-voucher initiative (it goes before the voters this November), and he is talking up reform of the Endangered Species Act; he has always claimed to be a Milton Friedman acolyte, a prophet of free markets and lean government. But be wary. For the most part, the record doesn’t match the rhetoric. Campbell does indeed have high marks from the National Taxpayers Union, but the NTU has a blind spot when it comes to indirect taxation. During his time in the House, Campbell, with an ACU rating of just 50, was busier than any other California Republican promoting back-door burdens on the economy, from the quota-heavy Civil Rights Act of 1991 to the job-killing Americans with Disabilities Act and Clean Air Act to Pat Schroeder’s paternalistic family-leave mandate.

And although he voted against the 1990 tax hike, Mr. Campbell doesn’t mention that he repeatedly urged President Bush to abandon his “read my lips” vow, in the name of deficit reduction.

A Campbell sampler:

In April 1988, he argued that levies should be raised on alcohol, tobacco, and gasoline.” Also: “Taxing consumption. That is such an apparent solution.”

In February 1989, the San Mateo Times reported him saying, “I am prepared to deal with the deficit with taxes as well as with spending cuts.”

In June 1990, he suggested raising the income-tax rate for the highest brackets to boost Treasury receipts by $9 billion.

In July 1990, according to the Peninsula Times Tribune of Northern California, Campbell said, “I think [a tax increase] is overwhelmingly good for the economy.”

In May 1991: “Gasoline ought to be priced higher in this country.”

And the capital-gains tax? Running for the GOP Senate nomination last year, he told some Republican audiences he wanted this levy reduced on both existing and future assets. But a year earlier the San Diego Union reported him as saying he agreed with the Democrats’ criticism that cutting taxes on existing assets would be “a windfall for the rich.”

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Of course, Tom Campbell is by no means the only cheerleader for the big-government Republicanism that helped make George Bush a one-termer. And he also has considerable company in his effort to unhinge the party from its ethical moorings on social issues.

But if he shouldn’t be denied a place in the Big Tent, it would be quite another thing to grant him what he really wants – a spot in the ringmaster’s circle, where he would help determine the party’s shape as it enters the twenty-first century.

Mr. Campbell is favored to win an upcoming special election for a seat in the California State Senate. In that job, will he finally start backing up his free-market homilies with free-market votes? If I’m a skeptic, it is because up to now, his “New Conservatism” has amounted to little more than Rockefeller Republicanism updated, pointing down the same path the liberals have always loved – the one lined with primroses.

Mr. Johnson, a frequent NR contributor, is an editorial writer for the Orange County Register.

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