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——-A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer From the end of the Civil War until the end of the Roosevelt era the Democratic Party ignored race relations legislatively. Harry Truman’s stand for civil rights in 1948 led to the Dixiecrat revolt and the beginning of the modern Republican Party in the South. Since then, Lyndon Johnson is the only Democrat to have won a majority of the nation’s white vote. Jimmy Carter, a native Southerner, did not win a majority of even the Southern white vote in 1976. Walter Mondale got only one out of every four white votes in the South and little better than one in three nationwide. White flight from the party is not mainly race related but neither is it happenstance that it coincided with Democratic identification with black aspirations. In the South, where I grew up, and elsewhere, whites have finally accepted the idea of full equality. But the party seemed to change the definition of equality from guarantees of equal opportunity to guarantees of success. We must continue to support affirmative action ensursing that places will be made available for qualified members of minorities who have historically been discriminated against while at the same time we make clear our opposition to quotas, which insist on rigid results whatever the circumstances. Regardless of the political price, our commitment to what is morally right cannot be compromised. Yet the activist core of our party must realize that if the party accedes to demands that run against the grain of public opinion such as our legislative commitment in 1977 to use massive federal outlays to reduce unemployment to 4 percent their constituencies may wind up with no loaf at all rather than even a half. Capturing the party will be an empty prize if it can’t win an election. What we need more than new programs is a reestablishment of basic values. Ultimately, the message of the conservative right is a sterile and selfish one of an atomized society with everyone fighting for himself. The middle class will respond to a broader vision of a society that recognizes that real progress comes when we all move forward together, that national strength derives from a shared sense of sacrifices and commitments for the general good, that no society is fully secure until opportunity and security are broadly extended to everyone. We can capture Robert Kennedy’s spirit that made white workers recognize that black ascendancy was not a threat to them but rather a completion of their own American dream. We must first recognize that the past 10 years have been difficult economic times for the middle class. Their after-tax incomes actually fell in real terms from 1970 to 1981, due to flat real incomes and a rising tax burden. Three major recessions since 1973, two major bouts of double-digit inflation, soaring interest rates and a changing economy postponed retirement plans, excluded many from home ownership, threw breadwinners out of work, dashed hopes for upward mobility, made college educations astronomically expensive, and required housewives to enter the workplace to make ends meet. To these financial burdens were added social concerns as middle-income children were tempted by drugs, cults, promiscuity, and alternate lifestyles. Far from voicing similar concerns, we were seen as flirting with decriminalization of marijuana in the 1970s and of promoting gay rights in the 1980s. When middle-class Americans see us addressing their problems, and as their real incomes improve, they will be more willing to address the problems of those lower on the economic ladder. Instead they saw us accuse them of spiritual malaise, support new spending programs for others with their tax dollars and suggest that alternate lifestyles were equally acceptable to traditional ones. In 1984, rather than support a continuation of tax cuts for the middle class, but not the wealthy, we proposed tax increases for them. Rather than suggest a one-year acrossthe-board spending freeze in which everyone would be asked to sacrifice, we proposed billions of dollars of new domestic spending in the face of $200 billion deficits. We must convince the middle class, and ourselves, that we are a party that can adapt to change. We, not the Republicans, have come to represent the status quo, forgetting FDR’s admonition that “the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.” Instead, we defended with equal zeal programs that worked and those that did not. We played into the hands of those philosophically opposed to any social role for government and simultaneously undercut middle-class support by failing to modify or scrap programs that didn’t work and, equally, by failing to rejoice in the accomplishments of the great number that did. Democratic programs helped provide college educations for our GIs and later for many other Americans, electricity for rural America, TVA to develop an entire region, dams to provide water for the arid West, and Job Corps for the hard-core unemployed. Food stamps virtually eliminated hunger. All worked. Between 1960 and 1979, Democratic programs helped reduce the number of people in poverty by over 12 million, from 22 to 12 percent of the population. Yet polls showed most people believe the party’s anti-poverty programs had little or even a negative impact on the poor, in part because we failed to take credit for our accomplishments for fear doing so would deter new spending to expand them. Since we are the party that believes in government, it is time we defined a modern role for it that enables the middle class to believe we will be wise trustees of their tax dollars. We must demonstrate we will make government better before we make it bigger. Our principle should be first to seek private sector solutions to national problems, as with the economic deregulation of various industries begun by President Carter. Next, if free market solutions alone are insufficient, we can craft government incentives, such as tax credits for job training or research and development, to encourage the private sector to perform activities in the national interest. Only if these alternatives are unsatisfactory should we seek purely public solutions. We must assure rigorous review of programs to separate what works from what doesn’t; we must increasingly condition federal aid on contributions from their beneficiaries whether industries seeking trade relief or states seeking deferal projects and we must move from income support programs to job training programs. And we can define a new role for government in the fiercely competitive world marketplace not to erect protectionist barriers but to help our businesses compete abroad, to encourage labor-management cooperation, to improve industrial competitiveness and to retrain workers displaced by international competition. We should also broaden access to some programs, generating more equity and more middle class support. For example, job training and employment programs should be open to anyone unemployed for long periods of time, regardless of income. We must convince the middle class that a Democratic president will defend the vital interests of the U.S. around the globe through all necessary means political, economic, and military. Finally, it is time for Democratic elected officials to realize that their fortunes are linked to that of the national party. It is an exercise in self-delusion if they think the hemorrhage in middle-class support for our presidential candidates will not lead to further bleeding at their political level. They must take back control of their party and its platform, which only they can implement, for it is only they who have stood before the broad electorate for approval. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21