By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Beyond the ranks of the DLC, however, there are a number of political observers who wonder if Gore‘s neo-populism addresses too narrow an audience, if it really offers swing voters who’ve benefited from the boom any reason to vote for him at all. In fact, Gore has been very careful in his choice of targets for his populist ire. He listed only five in his speech: oil companies, drug companies, corporate polluters, tobacco companies and HMOs. Any list of America‘s Most Hated -- and that means hated by rich, middle-class and poor alike -- would include all five of these industries, with HMOs surely heading the list. Moreover, Gore can make clear the differences between W.’s approach to every one of these industries and his own. (In the case of oil, of course, the attack isn‘t on W.’s policies; it‘s on his -- and Dick Cheney’s -- resumes.)
The pundits who fear Gore is forsaking all those upscale swingers whom Clinton corralled, who think he‘s off-message by dwelling on the working-class blues, have neglected one salient fact. For Democrats, election 2000 differs in one fundamental aspect from ’92 and ‘96: Ralph Nader. There are at least a couple of million voters on the party’s left wing who are torn between Ralph and Al, and nothing will drive them into Nader‘s waiting arms like a Democratic ”Morning in America“ campaign. For Al Gore, then, the options have narrowed to Populism or Bust. Fifty-two years after Harry Truman’s pugnacious populism led to his victory over Republican Tom Dewey and Progressive Henry Wallace -- the 1948 version of the 7-10 split -- Al Gore can only hope that the same strategy will work for him.
Gore‘s speech itself has to be judged a clear success. To be sure, he went a full 50 minutes without even stumbling across a memorable phrase. He spoke so quickly that at times he seemed the populist-as-auctioneer. On the other hand, when Gore speaks slowly, he lapses into ”Mom-ese“ -- a tempo and a tone that suggests he’s explaining something to a 4-year-old. When audiences hear Gore speaking to them in Mom-ese, their reactions run the gamut from wanting to stone him to wanting to lynch him. With that in mind, it wasn‘t all that terrible that he zipped through his talk.
Whether because of -- or despite -- the zippy delivery, the speech accomplished all that the Gore camp had hoped for. Virtually every poll had him bumping up (in the case of the CNNUSA TodayGallup poll, by 17 points) into a narrow lead -- his first lead ever against W. The bump, moreover, came almost entirely among women: In the Gallup poll, Gore’s female support increased by a huge 31 percent, while his male support rose hardly at all. As crucial as the speech was to this increase, credit also has to go to Tipper‘s home-picture biopic with which she introduced the Big Guy, and the smooch that topped it. It was, in fact, the linchpin of the GHP: If Tipper thinks Al is this hot, he can’t entirely be the stiff he otherwise seems.
What with Hot Lips Al and Fighting Populist Al both jumping out of the convention-week cake, it should come as no surprise that Gore‘s polling rose not only among women, but working-class women most of all. Among voters from families with annual incomes between $20,000 and $50,000, in fact, Gore’s support jumped by 21 percent. The Teixeira-Rogers thesis, to which Stan Greenberg, Gore‘s new pollster, clearly subscribes, is already being borne out. Indeed, America’s Forgotten Majority may provide the theoretical rationale for the Gore campaign in much the same way that E.J. Dionne‘s Why Americans Hate Politics did for Clinton’s 1992 candidacy. (Guy Molyneux, vice president of Peter Hart polling, notes that W.‘s campaign, in its insistence that America mainly wants to put political conflict behind it, seems based on a badly truncated version of Dionne’s book. W., says Molyneux, ”is two election cycles late.“)
The Democratic Convention as a whole was considerably less of a success than Gore‘s speech, however. It ran through a multiplicity of themes and tones before Gore took to the podium. Oddly enough, in its overabundance of messages, it mirrored the protests outside Staples Center, which raised so many issues that they were all lost in the shuffle. Some of the convention presentations fell on one side or the other of the party’s fault line: Clinton tilting toward centrist New Democrats, Bill Bradley and Jesse Jackson tilting toward liberal Old. Until Gore himself took the mike, the convention seemed not so much misguided as directionless -- and in this, it caught the essence of his campaign in the five and one-half months between the end of primary season and his convention address.
Conventions always leave unanswered questions about the candidate, the party, the rival factions -- but enough of such ephemera. What I want to know is: What happened to all those ”Hadassah“ signs? They could be used for Jewish institutional purposes for decades to come.