George Will

     The Democratic Party's love -- the word is too weak for the phenomenon -- for lawyers is expressed in countless courtesies, from blocking tort reform to the multiplication of laws and regulations that make it impossible to navigate life without a lawyer in tow. Not surprisingly, as of mid-September lawyers were this year's leading political contributors, with 73 percent of their $132.4 million going to Democrats. In contrast, oil and gas interests, which Democrats demonize and Kerry reflexively deplored Wednesday evening, give 81 percent of their contributions to Republicans, but as of mid-September their total to both parties was only $16.7 million.

     This election is the last before the boomers begin retiring in 2008. It will elect either a reactionary liberal, whose plan for coping with the demographic deluge consists of complaining about any changes in the welfare state's entitlement menu, or an activist conservative who Wednesday night tartly told his opponent that ``a plan is not a litany of complaints.''

     The centerpiece of Bush's second term agenda is his ``ownership society'' tapestry of tax incentives for individuals to exercise increased responsibility for their personal security and opportunity. The contrasting conservative and liberal emphases on freedom and equality are clear: Tax-favored accounts for retirement, medical and education choices promote the attitudes and aptitudes of autonomous individuals exercising the freedom to choose. Liberalism's unchanging agenda involves increased dependency on government in the name of equality. Thus James W. Ceaser and Daniel DiSalvo of the University of Virginia, writing in The Public Interest, say:

      ``A Bush victory will eclipse in its immediate impact the incumbent re-elections of Bill Clinton in 1996 or even of Ronald Reagan in 1984, when the campaign messages were broad and vague. Reagan's `morning in America' and Clinton's 'a bridge to the twenty-first century' stood for little.''

     When Bush left Austin 45 months ago, planning tax cuts, educational standards and faith-based initiatives, he had no inkling that foreign affairs would dominate his first term as much as they did Woodrow Wilson's second. Wilson's happier first term produced landmark achievements, such as the income tax and the Federal Reserve system. A second Bush term, involving tax as well as welfare reform, might be as creative domestically as was Wilson's first term.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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