By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
This is not all there is to Gore, fortunately. Few political leaders have done so much to highlight the obscene ease with which employers can obstruct their workers' right to form unions, or have pledged so vociferously to strengthen those workers' rights. (Had Gephardt challenged the veep, Gore was counting upon his pro-unionization stance to keep labor from flocking to his rival.) His commitment to the rights of minorities and women, including the right to reproductive choice, is all you could ask of a mainstream social liberal. His concern for the environment is long-standing and demonstrable, though far from the epic tale of green heroics that his campaign likes to relate.
But his differences with Bradley are both clear and instructive. In the end, Bradley has come, however surprisingly, to stand for the idea that government can still create universal programs that counter the inequities, and iniquities, of a market economy. Gore, for his part, has made a timeless virtue of the budgetary discipline of the past seven years, taking a tactic devised to fend off Republican supply-side silliness and applying it to Democratic demand-side decency.
And there's one further, signal difference. Gore seems to be running the more successful campaign.
IV. THE STATE OF PLAY
IN TRANSFORMING HIMSELF FROM A Process Democrat to a Program Democrat, Bill Bradley was setting himself up to go where no Democrat had gone before. The core constituency for Process Democrats is upper-middle-class professionals. From Gene McCarthy to Paul Tsongas, Process Dems have always polled best among the most educated, highest-income Democrats, and Bradley's been no exception: Every national, Iowa, or New Hampshire poll has showed his strongest support coming from those sectors. (And from males, a bit of Bradley exceptionalism due almost entirely to his career in basketball.) In Monday's Iowa caucuses, exit polls showed In Monday's Iowa caucuses, entrance polls showed that Bradley prevailed only among voters who made over $75,000 a year. Bradley's actively cultivating this base in New Hampshire: On Tuesday, he began running ads there featuring Niki Tsongas, Paul Tsongas' widow, complaining about the lies in Al Gore's ads -- a theme dear to the Process Dems' hearts.
By converting himself midstream into an advocate of major new entitlements, Bradley positioned himself, potentially, to expand his base to include more of the core Democratic constituencies -- working-class voters and nonwhites in particular. Today, midway between Iowa and New Hampshire, that wager seems not to have paid off. The conversion doesn't seem to have hurt Bradley among high-income voters, but neither does it seem to have helped him appreciably with the Democrats' traditional base.
Then again, Bradley's prospects to pick up that base were always slim. Among core Democratic voters -- African-Americans above all, but also union-household members and Latinos -- support for the Clinton administration remains high, and Gore has always been the natural choice for these groups. Or, as California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante put it during one Michael Jackson radio show on which we were both guests, "Unless they're given a reason, they'll default to Gore."
But "giving them a reason" meant that Bradley had to create a campaign of sufficient emotional intensity to win himself a second and third look from voters whose minds were nearly made up for Gore at the outset. And here, the very cool that has stood him in good stead with a cer- tain class of voter has left other voters very cold. Alone among the candidates, Bradley has clung to his belief in a private sphere, keeping such matters as his religious faith and personal tastes largely to himself. In the hurly-burly of debate, he has countered some of Gore's wilder charges and forays not with indignant rebuttals but with ironic dismissals -- as when he responded to Gore proffering his hand to swear off all further advertising by saying, "Al, that's good. I like the hand." More generally, while Bradley's is the more compassionate message, he presents it with a consistent reserve, glumly refusing to counter Gore's charges, even as Gore, once he retooled himself for the Bradley challenge, has seemed almost chemically pumped up for the past six months.
In the contest for the party base, then, Bradley has had the superior arguments while Gore's retained the emotional affinities, the decades-old ties and the institutional allegiances. From Bradley's perspective, that doesn't make for much of a balance sheet: He can claim the support of the party's non-institutional social democrats -- Reich, Kuttner, academics Cornel West (an old Bradley buddy) and William Julius Wilson, whose combined political clout is roughly zilch -- while Gore has the support of the party's institutional social democrats, that is, the AFL-CIO, whose political clout is immense. Here, Bradley's zealous belief in free trade has been a killer: Even now, such trade-oriented unions as the Auto Workers and the Teamsters can't bring themselves to endorse Gore, who supported NAFTA, fast-track and the like. Had Bradley been able to provide these unions with the faintest excuse to support him, they would have given him considerable help in Iowa and other states. But Bradley -- who has raised more money from both Wall Street and Silicon Valley than any other presidential candidate of either party -- had no interest whatever in changing his spots. This Monday in Iowa, he paid the price for that as union voters flocked to the caucuses to support Gore.
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