The Democratic Convention:
New Deal Requiem
Jude Wanniski
July 13, 1992

 

The conclave in Manhattan, we are told by the Party propagandists and The New York Times, is the Most Unified Democratic Party of Our Time. It is nothing of the sort. What we see is the 60-year-old New Deal tree that blossomed first under FDR, now rotted out and hollow at the core, ready to be toppled by one good shove from Ross Perot. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the party nominee, is the least-risk Robo-Candidate, manufactured by the Party's elves, to occupy a precise space on the political spectrum. It is as if the computers had determined that Robo-Candidate can win 37.573% of the vote in a three-way race by occupying a space slightly left of center, from 11.93 degrees to 126.74 degrees, with the wind from the Southeast. This scientific method also dictates that Clinton's running mate be an identical twin, or it will screw up the computer calculations. Hence: Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore.

The Party's elves have calculated that the Party can no longer be seen as being beholden to Special Interests. The New Deal core constituency of organized labor, the Jewish community, Hispanics, and above all, blacks, are required to sit in the back of the Democratic bus and behave, while these two "Moderate," Southern, baby-boom, country-club Democrats, drive the old bus to victory. Organized labor's reasonable request for striker-replacement legislation has gone into the Party's circular file as its way of showing that Clinton will stand up to Lane Kirkland and the AFL-CIO. The American Jewish community contemplates twin brothers who decided their positions on the Gulf War by coin flips. The Establishment media is dutifully awarding brownie points to Clinton for standing up to Jerry Brown, who is flaky, and to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is uppity. The Most Unified Democratic Party of Our Time does not require enthusiastic endorsements from the losing candidate with the most delegates other than Clinton (Brown) or the nation's most important black political leader (Jackson).

Jesse Jackson has of course endorsed the Clinton-Gore ticket after pointing out its inherently unbalanced weakness. If you watched Jesse on "Meet the Press" yesterday, you of course realized that in the privacy of the voting booth, he will pull the lever for Perot with great relish. He made it abundantly clear that he has great admiration for Perot, that he has worked with him several times on matters not related to partisan politics, and that he has spoken to him eight or ten times by telephone in the last several months. Perot addressed the NAACP convention in Nashville on Saturday, a heartfelt speech he wrote himself. It was a fine speech, without a trace of condescension, although Clinton supporters in the audience feigned outrage with his use of the term "your people" to describe "their people." The NAACP, after all, is explicitly organized to advance the interests of "Colored People," which is what the "CP" stands for in "NAACP." The Sunday New York Times, the Clinton house organ, splashed this alleged "condescension" all over Page One. The Times absolutely must try to persuade blacks that Perot is a bigoted fascist, or, as blacks flock to him, Clinton will have no chance of winning. Both Jesse Jackson and Ben Hooks, president of the NAACP, have ridiculed the idea that there was anything racist in Perot's remarks. Their statements were buried in today's Times.

New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was also on "Meet the Press" in a separate interview, embarrassing to watch, a self-caricature of the New Deal liberal pretending all is right with the world now that these two extraordinary political leaders, Bill and Al, are ready to take over. (I'll bet Cuomo will also vote for Perot, when he is within the cozy security of a voting booth. In the Catholic Church, it is not even a venial sin to fib about whom you voted for.) Cuomo accepted the assignment of making the nominating speech for Clinton for the same reason sea captains of old would go down with theirships, even if lifeboats were available. He may have been getting worried that Perot might ask him to be his running mate, the equivalent of a political lifeboat. In his worst moment of all, Cuomo took the cheapest of shots, denouncing Perot for having said "you people" at the NAACP convention. He went on to recommend that Clinton do the right thing and promise the American people he will raise their taxesl This is the political equivalent of opening the seacocks to hasten the sinking of the ship.

Clinton a month ago almost did something smart. When he was well down in the polls, scraping 20%, he tentatively agreed to include a broad-based capital gains tax cut in his economic package in order to win the enthusiastic support of Paul Tsongas, who won the New Hampshire primary on the issue and promptly imploded in Florida over Social Security. In the next few weeks, though, the Bush campaign's bashing of Perot drove both Bush and Perot down in the polls, Clinton floating to the top without having to make any concessions to Tsongas! Clinton's elves have instead decided to attack President Bush's advocacy of a capgains cut on the "fairness" issue. They really believe that if Michael Dukakis had started earlier and been more aggressive in attacking Bush on capgains in 1988, he could have won.

Remember: After the 1988 election, the Establishment media loosed a propaganda campaign to persuade the Beltway that George Bush really won on cultural issues ~ Willie Horton and the American flag. Even before the Inauguration, it became conventional wisdom that it was impossible for the President to keep his no-new-taxes promise and that Dukakis would have won if he attacked capital gains on fairness. The Bush team also succumbed to this propaganda, which is why the President will soft-pedal capital gains this year and have surrogates attack Clinton on his character and have Vice President Quayle do "family values."

Meanwhile, Ross Perot has named as his two New York co-chairman, the Rev. Calvin Butts of the First Abyssinian Church of Harlem and Alan "Ace" Greenberg, president of Bear Stearns & Co., prominent leaders of the black and Jewish communities. Rev. Butts has denounced Clinton for his "playing the race card" with Jesse Jackson, i.e., the Clinton insult of Jackson calculated to win white votes. Perot is taking dead aim at the core constituency of the old New Deal coalition. It's possible for him to once again bring together Jews and blacks because his economic agenda of entrepreneurial capitalism is expansive, not the zero-sum politics of race-based quotas that has severely strained relations between Jews and blacks. It is for this reason that Perot can be seen as courting the liberal constituencies without losing the support of bedrock, grass roots America. He can throw open his candidacy to homosexuals and lesbians as well, his grass roots constituency trusting that he is doing so not because of a political calculus, but because he believes it is right to do so. They are "people" too.

I've either watched or attended each of the Democratic National Conventions since 1952. Not this one. It will not be a happy event, most folks pretending they are enjoying themselves, but sensing this is a Requiem for the New Deal. I'm off to Spain for a week away from it all.