Now, we begin.
The Presidential campaign now mercifully drawing to a close seems more like a dull and draining bout with the flu than an inspiriting clash of issues and ideas. For a contest fraught with such historic importance, it might have been different. At the very least, Walter Mondale should have been moved to define a coherent, progressive program for foreign affairs, national defense, social equity and economic development. Ronald Reagan should have been prodded harder to disclose his vision of an imperial, authoritarian, militaristic, divided America. Instead, the candidates filled the debate halls with rehearsed remarks, empty phrases and poor jokes.
Even if the wildest fantasies of the Mondale-ferraro campaign come true and the history of 1948 repeats itself, the conservative counterrevolution Reagan helped shaped and now leads will not suddenly disappear. The political sensibility of the country has shifted so radically in the past several years that a mere change of parties in the White House would not automatically reverse the ideological tide. Mondale enthusiasts should remember that the present political direction was prefigured by the sharp turn toward cold-war-making and social retrenchment taken by the Carter-Mondale administration midway in its term. Nothing Mondale has said or done since suggests he is ready for an about-face, though his criticism of Reagan's failure to negotiate on arms control with the Russians was a welcome quarter-turn.
But ringing Reagan triumph would surely make matters worse. As Andrew Kopkind outlines in the cover article of this issue, Reaganism is more than a package of Republican policies wrapped in patriotic rhetoric; it is an ideology, and its time has come. For that reason and because of Mondale's more enlightened domestic policies, we urge Nation readers and the larger liberal community to vote against Reaganism next Tuesday: not only for the top of the ticket but for progressive candidates in the thousands of state and local contests. Getting out the vote is a way of organizing an opposition. After that, there will be different strategies to explore: building local liberal coalitions for off-year elections, forging protest and solidarity groups when the likely foreign adventures are launched, working within private institutions (unions, colleges, industries) to oppose the ravages of Reaganism. The radio and television advertisements say that the hard work of democracy is over and that the last act--voting--is easy. In fact, the hard work is about to begin.