Making the Case Against Ralph










  • August 21, 2000 -- Who'd a Thunk it?:
    The AFL-CIO is probably not the first party interest group the Democratic Leadership Council's Al From looks up when he wants tips on who should be next chairman of the
    DLC. But John Sweeney apparently isn't waiting to be asked. Roll Call
    this week reports the odd but intriguing news that Sweeney would love
    to
    see Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana head the group.


    On the face of it Bayh seems a particularly odd choice for Sweeney,
    since
    his reputation is that of the Newest of New Democrats. But the heart
    of
    the matter seems to be trade. And on this issue, at least, Bayh may
    not be
    quite the New Dem he seems. Though Bayh now says he'll vote for permanent normal trading relations (PNTR),
    he's
    been a hesitant supporter at best.


    "We'd like to see him get the chair," Sweeney told the Capitol Hill
    newspaper, "He's someone we can work with."


  • August 21, 2000 -- Along for the Ride:
    Convention hoopla is chockfull of pseudo-events and non-events. But
    here's
    one event that's neither. Recently joining the Gore campaign is former
    Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, who is well known for crafting
    political
    messages that mix economic populism with strong appeals to
    progressive,
    though traditionalist, family-centered values (See his article in the
    current issue of The American Prospect).


    It's yet another instance in which Gore is cycling back to some of the
    themes of Clinton circa 1992, even as he puts symbolic distance between
    himself and the president.


    Brief-Washington-Memo-History-Lesson: Greenberg was Clinton's original
    pollster, but was later dumped in favor or Mark Penn, who emphasized
    appeals to affluent suburbanites over working and middle class
    voters. Gore started his campaign with Penn as chief pollster, but
    fired
    him in his big campaign shake-out early last fall. Since then Harrison
    Hickman has managed polling duties for Gore 2000.


    Keep Greenberg in mind as Gore lays out his message over the next
    11
    weeks.

  • August 21, 2000 -- Making the Case Against Ralph:
    Washington is filled at the moment with liberals trying -- with various
    degrees of enthusiasm -- to snatch wayward lefties away from Ralph
    Nader
    and corral them back into the Democratic fold. Few have done so,
    though,
    with as much punch and wit as Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank.


    Frank has liberal credentials none can gainsay; he's one of the
    sharpest
    people in American politics; and he's struck upon Nader's unique
    vulnerability: his indifferent and dismissive attitude toward the
    Democratic social issue agenda. With these advantages in hand, Frank
    has
    been able to make the anti-Nader argument with no apologies, and with
    particular force.


    Nowhere did he do so better than in his speech to the Democratic
    Convention
    on Thursday night a few short hours before Al Gore spoke. In fact the
    speech, which has received relatively little attention, was such an
    eloquent statement of the stake liberals have in this election, that I
    am
    going to quote it in full. . .



    (Congressman Barney Frank, speaking to the Democratic National
    Convention,
    August 17th, 2000)


    …I'm here to talk about immorality, the immorality of racial bias in
    the criminal justice system; the immorality of 15-year-old kids being
    bullied because of their sexual orientation in high school; the immorality of
    poverty in this very rich nation. The question is, how do we combat
    immorality? And as a liberal, I am convinced that the way to combat
    immorality most effectively between now and November is to vote for Al
    Gore for president, to help us elect a Democratic House and to elect a
    Democratic Senate. (Cheers, applause.)


    Now, let me say something that may deviate a little from the norm in a political convention. Al Gore is not perfect. Neither is Joe Lieberman.
    Neither is Tom Daschle or Dick Gephardt or me. All we are is the best
    you're going to get on liberal issues between now and this election.
    (Cheers, applause.) The choices are Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, with
    strong
    records of support on the important issues of gay and lesbian rights
    and a
    woman's right to choose and gun control -- (cheers, applause) -- or a
    George Bush, who has, throughout his career, done everything possible
    to
    undo any possible progress on all three, or a Ralph Nader, who
    throughout
    his career has steadfastly ignored gay rights and ignored the right of
    a
    woman to choose and ignored gun regulation -- (boos) -- and today
    diminishes and trivializes those central issues to many of us by
    denying
    that there are important differences between Al Gore and George Bush.
    I'm not a big advocate of censorship, unlike a lot of my congressional
    colleagues. But God forbid that they should be in charge of telling
    America what to read or watch. But if I could do censorship, I'd make it
    illegal to use the words "pragmatism" and "idealism" as if they were opposites.
    The more committed you are to your ideals, the more you are morally
    obligated to be as effective as possible in carrying them out. (Cheers,
    applause.) Pragmatism in the service of idealism is our duty.
    As a committed liberal, as someone who wants to see an end to
    homophobia and racism and sexism, I believe I have two jobs, as do all of us here.
    On the one hand, we work every day to try and make this a better country,
    to improve the context in which we make our choices. No one better
    exemplifies that than Jesse Jackson. At the same time, on the day when the choice
    has to be made in a given situation, it is equally morally important to
    make the best possible choice. That means you are either going to help Al
    Gore become president and further our progress, or elect George Bush and let
    him undo it.


    To those who say let's wait for perfection, my answer is this: There
    are gay kids getting beaten up in high school; there are young women in
    anguish trying to make the decision about whether to carry a pregnancy to term
    -- a difficult decision -- and they need not be threatened by the law; there
    is unchecked gun violence. I can't wait for perfection. I feel it is my
    obligation to do what I can right away to make improvements in those
    situations, and that means Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, a Democratic
    House and a Democratic Senate. (Cheers, applause.)



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