If the election turns out the way I'm anticipating -- Republicans win the presidency and retain both Houses of Congress -- I think two factors will be at work, which will also interact after Nov. 7. So, let's look at the election for purposes of looking beyond it.
The first factor is conservatism. Given the essential foundation laid down by a handful of seminal conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr., Ronald Reagan almost single-handedly legitimized conservatism among the body politic. For the last eight years, Bill Clinton and Al Gore have done a great deal to de-legitimize it.
They have been so successful in demonizing Republicans that Al Gore miscalculated that he could run as a liberal without risk. His unabashed big-government platform provided an oversized bull's-eye for George Dubya's sights. Bush shrewdly shot directly into Gore's target by contrasting himself as one who trusts the people rather than government.
We haven't had such a distinct ideological dichotomy between the presidential candidates since Vice President Bush ran as a conservative against the unapologetically liberal Michael Dukakis. Remember how that turned out? You will also recall that neither President Bush nor Bob Dole ran as conservatives, and Bill Clinton certainly didn't run as a liberal against either one of them.
For Democrats to recapture the White House they had to edge toward the right. Enter Clinton-Gore's New Democrat facade. They tried to govern as Old Democrats -- Hillarycare, tax hikes, opposing Welfare, Medicare and Social Security Reform -- but always campaigned as New Democrats. They didn't dare expose their complete leftist colors, especially at election time, because they knew they were out of sync with the electorate.
The second factor is Clintonism. Nationwide, people are going to reject it -- resoundingly. In New York, I'm not so sure.
Unhappily for Democrats, Bill Clinton infected their entire party with his corruption. More significantly, the party allowed it to happen because it willingly embraced him. The contamination was complete. The party sold its soul, and is about to reap the consequences of its Faustian bargain.
The American people ultimately demand accountability from their elected officials. Indeed, the nation's survival as a constitutional republic depends on it. If America's political and legal institutions are prevented from exacting accountability, the electorate will assume the duty. The wages of unrepentant, unjustified political sin is political death.
The Republican Party was able to purge itself of the Nixon taint for one simple reason that has everything to do with human nature. They owned up to it -- a delegation of Republican senators encouraged Nixon to resign. Nixon had the residual integrity not to oppose his impeachment.
Clinton and congressional Democrats did just the opposite. Clinton has never genuinely apologized. For those who have deluded themselves into thinking he did, consider two things: First, he's denied any wrongdoing other than having "non-sexual" relations in the Oval Office and lying to the American people about it. He's denied the entire panoply of felonies he committed in trying to cover up his tryst. Second, if he were truly sorry, would he still be demanding an apology from his Republican prosecutors?
Congressional Democrats conspired with Clinton to deny the gravity of his infractions. They aided him in redefining words, redefining conduct, and redefining the Constitution to permit Clinton, and thus their party, to hold on to power.
Neither congressional Democrats nor the Clinton Justice Department discharged their constitutional obligation to help bring Clinton and Gore to justice. They have left that unfinished business to the voters who will complete it.
The consummation of "the bargain" will also have consequences beyond the election. In the final years of their Faustian temporal euphoria, Clinton, Gore and his congressional lieutenants have begun to lose their magic -- the public is no longer buying into their duplicity and fear-mongering. Even in his double-dealings with Congress, Clinton has finally run out of juice. So, I disagree with those who say Bush will have no takers when he extends his hand across the aisle to congressional Democrats.
Having lost the bully pulpit of the presidency, the Democrats are going to have to make their case on the merits instead of scare-tactics. The bargain's final payoff, then, is that Bush will start with a clean slate. Even with a recalcitrant minority he'll be able to achieve most of his agenda. That's justice.
Soon, God willing, it will be morning in America again.