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Field of dreamers: Dems vie for the White House.

The field of contenders for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination is so diverse, if it were not for their own confessions, one would hardly know what party they belonged to. Attempting to tap into widespread voter discontent, the Democrats have unleashed a potpourri of political platforms that contains everything from the flowery fragrance of populism to the strong smell of conservatism. With the Iowa caucus just weeks away, it will be interesting to see which one of the contenders comes up smelling like a rose.

At press time, six major Democrats had formerly announced plans to run for the White House. At least two others were waiting in the wings. According to David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political Studies: "The decision to run was based primarily on President Bush's popularity and how much the prospective candidates thought the nomination was worth."

Indeed, by last September, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination had become a more worthwhile endeavor. President Bush's veto of an unemployment benefits extension, his weak position on civil rights legislation and his "mishandling" of a stagnant economy perched on the edge of a "double dip," have provided the right climate for several Democratic candidates to test the political waters. Bush, once seen as an unbeatable incumbant, had provided the weaponry for the Democrats to mount a challenge.

Former Massachusetts Senator Paul E. Tsongas, considered a moderate, challenged President Bush early on. Since declaring his candidacy last April, he has emphasized the need for a new U.S. industrial policy to strenghten the productivity of businesses at home and their ability to compete abroad. Black voters will look to see if Tsongas's policy will also strengthen black businesses.

Iowa Senator Thomas Harkin and Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey entered the race in October hoping to capitalize on the economic and legislative deficiencies of the president. Harkin positions himself as a flaming liberal, who relishes confrontations with Republicans. Kerrey uses optimistic language to pry into the emotional depths of voters. However, he will have to convince them that he has the policies that will turn things around.

Arkansas Governor William Clinton seems to have strong appeal among southern white males. Since entering the race in October, he has attempted to strenghten his candidacy by embracing Republican themes such as "workfare" and education reform in an effort to appeal to the middle class. However, his softened versions of these themes may still be too far to the right to attract large numbers of black votes.

Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder is attempting to blend fiscal responsibility with compassion. Although he remains strongly committed to civil rights, the nation's first-elected black governor has distanced himself from some liberal policies in an attempt to broaden his voter base. "Wilder is posturing himself as a conservative in the hope of attracting white voters," says Bositis. However, he says Wilder's thinking is flawed because, "Clinton is expected to get most of those votes...There are some real liberals in the race, so why would liberal white Democrats vote for a conservative?"

Ron Walters, chairman of the Howard University political science department says that Wilder faces an even bigger problem in trying to cultivate the black vote. "Wilder is going to have a difficult time, because the [Jesse] Jackson constituency is his natural base, but his issues are too conservative for most blacks, and for progressive whites."

Former California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. is a long-shot candidate. He casts himself as a party outsider, and hopes voter outrage will sweep him to victory.

New York Governor Mario Cuomo is still considered to be the Democrat best equipped to challenge the Republican Party's grip on the White House. At press time, Mario Cuomo has not said whether he would run or not. If Cuomoenters the race, their oratory skills and national notoriety would most likely end the candidacies of some contenders. Meanwhile, in November, Jesse Jackson announced that he would not run in 1992.

A New York Times/CBS News poll taken in October revealed that voters favored Cuomo and Jackson over the other declared candidates. Both Cuomo and Jackson received a 29% favorable rating as compared to 18% for Brown; 11% for Wilder; 10% for Kerrey; 9% for Clinton; 9% for Harkin; and 7% for Tsongas. With such a diverse field of candidates, there is certainly room for voter opinions to change. However, the biggest question is: Is there a winner among this field of dreamers?
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Scott, Matthew S.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:744
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