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2002 Elections May Signal National Conservative Trend

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The 2002 mid-term elections may signal the beginning of a national conservative trend that could influence the makeup of Congress for the better part of a generation, according to sources at a November gathering of conservative leaders in South Florida. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the gathering featured panelists including national figures in media, government, politics, business, and the entertainment industry. Among other things, the group analyzed the significance of the shift in U.S. Senate control from liberal to conservative, and the further solidification of conservative control in the House of Representatives.

According to one Republican Party leader, the November elections show that the public is beginning to move away from the razor-thin 50%-50% division of the 2000 presidential election, and to move incrementally toward conservatism, a trend that is expected to continue. The panelists attributed this movement to a combination of presidential leadership, relevance of message, and negative reaction to the left’s apparent devotion to reflexive criticism and divisiveness as an end unto itself, even when clearly inappropriate.

“President Bush focused on issues of real importance to the general public, with substance, and in an extremely businesslike manner,” said one panelist, a Republican leader. Said another, a television news commentator: “Few liberals understand how 9-11 changed America; dramatic events cause dramatic political change. The big issue in the U.S. is security. People want to feel protected, and liberals were perceived as interfering with the President’s strong and decisive leadership in this area.”

Another panelist, the leader of a tax reform organization, analyzed the elections from a sociological point of view. “Given the state of the economy, this election should have been tougher for conservatives than it was,” he said. “But there are 6 demographic trends among likely voters that indicate a general movement toward conservatism and explain the elections’ outcome: a growing investor class, a growing class of conservative youth, declining union membership, increased gun ownership and concealed carry permitting, increased home schooling, and a decrease in the number of government workers.”

In parts of New Jersey, the 2002 elections held out signs of the start of conservative trending as well. The strong victory of Congressman Scott Garrett over Anne Summers in the 5th Congressional District race–particularly in traditionally liberal Bergen County–shook up the liberal establishment throughout the state. If that trend continues, Mr. Lautenberg and many others like him may indeed have something to fear come election days of the future.

—Scott L. Bach