the same pundits who had applauded at the time of San Diegornwere increasinglv muted by Oetober. More than one Beltwayrnsavant of the right assured me at that time that Dole would certainhrnlose, but it wasn’t important an\a’. What was rcalK’rnimportant was to keep the I louse and Senate, increase the Republicanrnmajority in 1998, and rcalh’ go for the presidentialrnjugular in 2000. By November, the court conservatives had forgottenrnall about their enthusiasm for Dole and Kemp in thernsummer, though even after the defeat of the ticket the Kemprndiehards were still plotting how their hero could ascend to thernWhite House the next time.rnAs far as 1 can tell, virtually no one—pundit, policy-wonk,rnactivist, or fat cat—has asked himself how this could happen,rnfiow could it happen that a political part’ that won a majoritvrnof House and Senate seats two vears eadier, challenging arnPresident whose popularity ratings were at one point lower thanrnthose of Harry Truman at his nadir, whose administration andrnpersonal household were enveloped in financial and sexualrnscandals, whose close friends and associates had been forced tornresign, charged with fcloiry offenses, subjected to grand jury interrogation,rnand led away in chains to prison—how could thernpolitical party lose the presidential election? Dole’s personalityrnand age were the most convenient explanations, and they seemrnto have proided the excuse the Beltwav right needs to avoidrnan’ serious reexamination of their ideologv, policies, or campaignrnstrategics, but the truth is that personalit’ and age simplyrndon’t cut it. Mr. Dole’s personalitv and age were the same inrnthe fall of 1996 as thev had been in the spring, when the Republicansrnchose him as their nominee, and if personality andrnage w ere going to undermine the Dole campaign, the party andrnits barons should have thought of them before they greeted hisrneandidac so enthusiastically in the summer.rnThe truth is that in picking Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, thernRepublican Party deserted what has been its real mainstreamrnsince the eariy 1970’s, when Richard Nixon showed the Republicansrnhow to win national elections. It is not that Nixon—letrnalone Gerald Ford, George Bush, or even Ronald Reagan—remainedrnloval to the promises of their campaign strategies, butrnthat all of them followed much the same strategy and won thernWhite House with it. n a word, the won the Wlrite I lousernbecause they sought to mobilize the Middle American vote;rnBob Dole and Jack Kemp lost the White House in 1996 (andrnGeorge Bush lost in 1992) because the}’ ignored the MiddlernAmerican vote or failed to grasp how to appeal to it. The evidencernfor this lies in the exit: polls of voters from eery nationalrnelection from 1972 to last year.rnThe category of “Middle American” is not simply a politicalrncatchword but a reasonably rigorous political and sociologicalrncategory, at least as rigorous as any such categor- ever is. MiddlernAmericans consist of middle-income, largelv white, working-rnand middle-class voters. They tend to be distributed inrnsuburbs and rural areas, to be churchgoers, and in the Northeastrnto be of European ethnic and Roman Catholic background.rnVariouslv described by Nixon as the “Silent Majoritv” or thern”New American Majority,” they also conform to what BenrnWattenberg and Richard Scammon called in 1970 the “RealrnMajorit}.” What was then known as the “social issue”—mainlyrncrime and the cultural radicalism of “permissiveness” manifestedrnin films and television, the media and education—and isrnnow known as the “culture war” are among their principal concernsrnas voters. So are affirmative action, which directly threatensrntheir opportunities for upward economic and social mobility;rnimmigration, which also jeopardizes their jobs as well as thernsafety and integrit’ of their communities; and, in particular, therneconomic erosion of their middle-class status and liing standardsrnsince the 1970’s, an erosion directK’ attributable to thernglobalization of the American economy and the prevalence ofrnfree trade policies. Middle American voters were the backbonernof the Wallace moemcnt and of the early New Right, beforernBeltway direct-mail czars discovered how to manipulate thernmore radically conservative Middle American impulses. Butrnthe Middle American voter is not a conservative in the sense ofrnBarry Goldwater, and while Goldwater’s quaint evocation of arnclassical liberal rugged individualism in 1964 onh alienated andrnthreatened working-class Middle Americans in Northeasternrnsuburbs and ethnic neighborhoods, Wallace’s conrmitment tornpreserve Middle American economic securit’ through what arerntoday sneeringK called “middle-class entitlements” (Social Security,rnMedicare, unemployment, health, and old-age benefits)rnwon him their support. For Middle Americans, economic securityrnissues trump cultural and social issues; as long as candidatesrndo not threaten the former and champion the latter, theyrncan win Middle American allegiances, but if a candidate is perceivedrnas threatening economic security, no amount of thunderrnabout crime, smut, abortion, and queers will save hinr.rnhi the case of both Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, there was neverrnmuch of a chance that they would or could win MiddlernAmericans. Dole’s acceptance speech at the convention triedrnto pla’ with what he took to be Middle American themes, butrnhe failed to muster the anger and the sense of injustice that animatesrnthose whose votes are actuallv drien bv them.rnThroughout the campaign. Dole failed to express or developrnany vision of an America that would be returned to MiddlernAmerican hegemony. His proposals for tax cuts, b which taxesrnwould be reduced by 15 percent but middle-class entitlementsrnwould remain intact and defense spending be vastly increased,rnwere simply never believable except to the Beltwayrnpolicy-wonks who convinced only themselves. His World WarrnII record and his promises of a renewed war on drugs fell flatrnand exposed the hollowness of his grasp of what realK’ nrattersrnto Middle Americans caught in a war over their own children,rntheir jobs, their communities, and their futures. It is true thatrntoward the end of the campaign both candidates concentratedrnon California and beat the drum on illegal (but not legal) immigrationrnand affirmative action, with Kemp actually reversingrnhis earlier opposition to Proposition 209 and now owing hisrnopposition to affirmative action. It was simply too little too late,rnand no one motivated by these issues could take what the candidatesrnsaid seriously. Nor did either of them understand howrnto use the social and cultural issues; thev were visibly embarrassedrnby them and a’oidcd them as much as possible.rnIndeed, Kemp, at last unleashed before a national spotlight,rnsoon began making declarations that sounded as though thernhad been scripted by the sworn enemies of Middle America;rnand gien flie influence of Empower America, the neoconservativernBeltwax think tank where Kemp, Stee Forbes, and WilliamrnBennett stashed themselves between 1992 and 1996, onrnthe Dole-Kemp campaign, they probably were. Campaigningrnin East Los Angeles and I larlcm, Kemp hailed not only his favoriternheroes, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, butrnalso Nelson Mandela, and threw in a good word for LouisrnFarrakhan as well. As for the “Southern strategy” by whichrnRepublican presidential candidates from Nixon to ReaganrnAPRIL 1997/15rnrnrn