Sandy Levin, a veteran Democratic congressman from a heavily unionized district in suburban Detroit, has a problem. Crowded into his Capitol Hill office are a couple dozen union representatives who have come to talk to him about China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). It's a testy, uncomfortable moment; the union reps are not happy.
Not so long ago, Democrats just loved the idea of third-party candidates who came along and shaved points off the margins of major party nominees. The offices at the Democratic National Committee echoed with schadenfreude last fall when Pat Buchanan jumped ship for the Reform Party. But now, with Ralph Nader making a strong showing in early polls and threatening to take progressive votes away from Al Gore, third-party candidacies suddenly seem a lot less appealing to the Democrats.
November 2nd, 2000 -- Long Knives for the Naderites
If you think that liberals and lefties in Washington, DC are agonizing about Ralph Nader's candidacy, you're mistaken. In recent days the mood has turned almost entirely to thoughts of payback -- though it's not entirely clear what form of retribution the party's liberal wing can exact on Nader and his lieutenants.
For some time, left-liberal types flirted with the Naderites or refrained from attacking them frontally. But now that's all changed. Partly, this stems from the fact that the prospect of his tipping the election to George W. Bush -- in the electoral if not the popular vote -- now seems very real. But there's another reason as well.
As with most political battles, the set-to over Social Security reform has produced competing dramatic narratives. For the Democratic faithful, there's Al Gore fighting the good fight against the right's effort to privatize Social Security, the crown jewel of the New Deal. For Republicans there's George W. Bush, courageously tackling the Social Security crisis while Gore panders. But another story line has captured the imagination of the national political press. It goes something like this: Bush proposes his Social Security initiative; Gore attacks it as a risky scheme.