Page 26


Making A Difference SINCE WORLD WAR II we have had some progressive leaders in the Texas legislature who were singular in their time D. B. Hardeman and Charley Hughes of Sherman, Zeke Zbranek of Liberty, Maury Maverick Jr. of San Antonio, Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio, Robert C. Eckhardt of Houston, Babe Schwartz of Galveston, Sissy Farenthold of Houston. Senator Lloyd Doggett of Austin stands in this noble company. Everyone who knows the legislature and Texas politics knows this. Doggett is intelligent, competent, and practical, he is a principled progressive, he is what he says he is, a pragmatic idealist. Around the Capitol you can pretty well gauge people by how they regard Doggett because he sets the standard and everybody consciously or unconsciously knows it. We have not had such a profound consensus of this kind about a progressive leader in the statehouse since Bob Eckhardt Now that Lloyd Doggett is running for the United States Senate from Texas, the burden of proof lies, not on him he has proved himself for ten years in the Texas. Senate but on the diminishing number of progressives who for one reason or another still do not support him. Surely Bob Krueger’s candidacy is not a good reason for national, liberal Democrats failing to support Doggett. Check the Congressional Record and you will find Krueger voting to reduce funding for summer youth employment; Pell education grants, and maternal and child nutrition and school lunch programs. Whoever has received the impression that only two members of the House from Texas, Barbara Jordan and Krueger, spoke for the Voting Rights Act in the House debate might wish 1.o know that Chick Kazen, Kika de la Garza, and Richard White of Texas did so, too. Krueger simply cannot conceal his basically conservative voting record by dressing up a few liberal votes that he cast. And certainly no loyalist Democrat should be caught dead voting for Boll Weevil Kent Hance, who shamelessly showboated for Reaganomics and now begs Democrats to make him their Senate nominee in the same year when beating Reagan must be the first priority. Nominate Hance? the Democrats might as well nominate Phil Gramm, and call off the election. I have known and watched Doggett, sometimes covering him, for more than a decade, and I have never seen him waver on a matter of consumers’ or human rights. He has passed more than a hundred bills into law, as he says the junior executives. who run the legislature simply gave in to the man’s quality and persistence but his public service has been even more effective in killing or modifying bad bills that might otherwise have become law. Let your mind run back to the historic flight of the Killer Bees and you can 6 JANUARY 27, 1984 see that in the Texas legislature the principal work for the people has had to be defensive. I watched Doggett especially closely during the 1981 session. He works hard and long, he is firm on principle, he is tactically agile, he adapts some of the conservative slogans to the populist causes where they apply, he commands the attention and respect of his adversaries, and he has good judgment under pressure. Watching him work on the floor of the Texas Senate, you see that he is a born leader who you can get it.” Doggett provokes certain kinds of opposition. Cynics detest him as cynics always detest effective idealists. Lobbyists for special interests detest him because they know he works late into the night to find the sinkers in their bills and will make them red-faced the next morning. He is a bit dry and bookish, and people who like glad-handers find that irksome. Certain opportunists who are most interested in their own power or wealth oppose Doggett because to their sort, nothing is more dangerous than a progressive officeholder who really believes what he says. Some progressives are still opposing Doggett either because they do not know about his shining record or because they pledged themselves to support Krueger some time back, before Doggett got into the race. That of course is not Doggett’s problem all he can and should do is shrug and go forward. But it is a problem for the progressive community, which should be supporting Doggett with the same kind of solidarity that Lech Walesa arouses in the movement of that name. One election does not a movement make or break, nor can a movement intrude on its members’ privacy of conscience, but Doggett has earned the support of progressives. In his campaign so far Doggett has not lifted himself sufficiently above state-level politics. Naturally he wants to emphasize his terrific record in the Texas Senate; naturally he wants the voters to know that Krueger’s record in Congress is scarred and mottled with illiberal and retrograde votes. All that is fair enough, and Doggett has been gaining fast. But to go on over the top, I believe, he must start mentioning his domestic and international policies as in, “Oh, yes and here’s what I’ll do in Washington.” That program of his \(reversing the nuclear arms race, ending Reagan’s military adventurism, more jobs programs, real tax reform, a sunset law requiring periodic review of corporate tax privileges, first, not an afterthought. Our reason for wanting Lloyd : Doggett to be our United States Senator is not our distaste for Krueger’s elusive and mushy conservatism, not our abhorrence of bollweevilism, it is, in Doggett’s own words, “the matter of making a difference . . . we’re trying to do something that will make a difference in the course of policy, both domestic and international.” One more aside. Abetted by inexplicable plugs in the columns of James Reston, U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen having bombed out in his earlier campaign for President is now running for the nomination for Vice-President. Doggett has taken up the theme that this would be fine. It would not be fine, it would be a national defeat for progressivism in the Democratic Party \(Bentsen, like Hance, like Gramm, supported Reaganomics in 1981, remember? And will someone name one good reason, just one, why Texans should forget that with Bentsen running the national Democrats’ Senate campaign committee, his displeasure would be serious in the fall. So Texas progressives called on for somewhat too much sophistication now have to fight for Doggett while opposing what he is saying about Bentsen for Vice-President.