Analysts delivering the election post-mortems this week are puzzling about why the two old standby issues of our time, peace and prosperity, did not play a role in this election. Prosperity is slipping through our fingers and peace is about to be sacrificed to preserve the price of regular unleaded. But voters did not seem to weigh those issues heavily when they voted.
That may be because neither issue is yet ripe. At this rate though, they will progress beyond ripe to rotten by 1992.
Then the post-mortems on the 1990 election will become the pre-mortems for George Bush.
Under Bush's stewardship, his party has slipped further into the minority in Congress and critical redistricting decisions have been handed to more Democratic governors. With Bush's popularity slipping, it is no wonder that a few GOP candidates responded to his offer to campaign for them by saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Blame some of Bush's poor performance on bad tutors. He made a pre-election, macho, verbal assault on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who is not a Democrat and who was not on any ballot on Nov. 6. Bush then threw his political weight behind the U.S. hostages in Iraq and Kuwait, but they weren't running for anything either.
When the president finally got around to campaigning for his fellow Republicans on domestic issues, what could he say? "Sorry about those taxes?" "Sorry about that recession?" "Are you better off now than you were two years ago?"
The voters were equally at a loss to make sense out of this election. Should they have voted out the rascals who raised their taxes, or the rascals who profited from the savings and loan debacle, or the rascals who wait hand and foot on special interests? In the end, the voters proved once again that all politics are local.
They took out their frustrations on the rascals at home -- the incumbent governors.
That's bad news for Bush. Not only were many of those rascals Republicans, but the much advertised purge of Congress did not materialize. Now the president must figure out whether the urge to purge passed harmlessly, or whether it is still in its infancy and will peak in 1992 when Bush is the rascal at the top of the ballot and Dan Quayle is his right-hand man.
By 1992, Bush had better find a constituency because he doesn't have one now. Say what you will about Ronald Reagan, he had an army of "Reaganites" -- people who would fall on their swords rather than desert him. The term "Bushite" is not even in the American political vocabulary, and nobody can accuse Bush of being coated with Teflon.
Bush's deficit-reduction strategy was nearly sabotaged by an outlaw from his party, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who barely won reelection in his district. In Bush's home state of Texas, the voters elected a Democrat as governor, Ann Richards, whose biggest claim to fame is her acerbic putdown of Bush -- born with a "silver foot in his mouth."
Reagan surrounded himself with people who believed in him. Bush has surrounded himself with people who work for him and believe in their careers.