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PROBABLY THE MOST costly mistake Michael Dukakis has made in his quest for the White House was to assume from the beginning that the Presidential campaign would be governed by standards of civil and rational discourse. Instead the thing turned into one great exercise in bamboozlement, with George Bush leading every step of the way. Who could have imagined that a race between Dukakis, an experienced governor, and Bush, a man who touts his long record of government service, would have as its first major issue a candidate’s allegiance to the flag? In the 1950s, in a culture obsessed with loyalty, yes. But this is 1988. We are supposed to have grown out of McCarthyism. Bush pushed the flag issue to the limit and then turned to guns and crime. Lee Atwater, Bush’s campaign director, is an old hand at exploiting the gun control issue: he used it against Bush in 1980 when Atwater was running Ronald Reagan’s primary campaign in South Carolina. At that point, Atwater felt compelled to inform voters of Bush’s votes in Congress for antihandgun laws. Surely Atwater got a laugh this year to see how long it took The Democrats to catch on and say, “Now just a minute here.” By the time they did, the damage had been done. Dukakis was seen, in places where guns are revered, as a Massachusetts liberal intent on confiscating personal weapon. Dukakis finally got the word out in his television ads that he supports gun ownership for hunters and sportsmen. No matter. What about the governor’s support for a furlough program that gave criminals a revolving door in and out of prison? Here was sure evidence that Dukakis was tenderhearted on crime. Reasonable examination of the furlough issue would take into consideration that a similar program was in place in California while Ronald Reagan was governor. Indeed, in our very own state, 5,000 felons have been let out on furlough since Republican Bill Clements became governor, as the Fort Worth StarTelegram reported October 16. But rational discussion is not the point, especially when it comes to crime. The point is to make Dukakis the target of whatever theme happens to be chosen by Bush’s Hate Week committee. A bait-the-liberal campaign is the easiest kind of campaign to run in America. Bush’s media wizard Roger Ailes used the same tactics with great success on behalf of Richard Nixon’s election and reelection. Lloyd Bentsen used the approach to knock Senator Ralph Yarborough out of the Democratic primary in 1970. Dukakis himself had been the target of a negative campaign after his first term as governor. He lost that race for reelection and is said to have learned a valuable lesson about politics: he would not again allow himself to be vulnerable to lowball attacks. But Dukakis and his strategists were caught off guard by the sheer stupidity of the Presidential race after the Republican convention. It was if they really expected that Dukakis could pronounce himself nonideological at the Democratic convention and then spend the rest of the campaign holding policy discussions. Before he knew it, Bush and Co. had exploited the wariness that many people around the country have about Massachusetts Democrats. Dukakis had been pegged. There is no shortage of disappointment in Democratic circles, around this state and around the country, about the way Dukakis has responded, or failed to respond, to the Republican smears. We have our own criticisms of the Dukakis campaign, first because its central strategy has been to court quasi-conservatives \(which means striking because in its emphasis on”competence” it has opted out of the battle over ideas. Dukakis’s campaign, in our view, has not yet done what a Democratic campaign needs to do; it has not defined itself as the cause for people who want to see the government on their side, and for people who are distressed that the rich have gotten richer while so many others are worse off, and for people who disapprove of the government bailing out the big banks when small businesses don’t seem to get any breaks, and for those who know something about this economy that Republicans never acknowledge: too much of the real economic power is in the hands of a narrow band of corporations and corporate bigshots. When Democrats speak to these concerns they have the chance to inspire enthusiasm. When they don’t, the campaign becomes a marketing war waged on TV and pitted directly against the average voter’s cynicism. Worst of all, the Democrats become victims of Republican charges that “the liberals” are somehow against the people they want to take their guns, make the streets unsafe, let the moral standards slide. “I am not a member of the ACLU,” Bush ,05.4ETE… server OCTOBER 28, 1988 VOLUME 80, No. 21 FEATURES Statewide Endorsements By the Editors 4 Bush and the New Right By James Ridgeway 12 By Debbie Nathan DEPARTMENTS 16 Editorial 3 Journal 14 Political Intelligence 15 Books and the Culture Hungry Voices, Desperate Lives By Louis Dubose The Irony of Palestine By Greg Moses Afterword Applied Reincarnation By Tom McClellan 18 19 23 declared recently. “I’m for the people.” Somehow, in the final weeks of the campaign, Dukakis must make sure that voters think long and hard about what another four years of Republicanism will mean. And he must win people over to the idea that a Democratic administration will make a real difference for the better in their lives. We believe that there are several compelling reasons to vote for a Democratic administration. For one thing, Dukakis’s election would open the way for a new era in progressive legislation in Congress. Certainly a huge number of Americans recognize the need for some sort of national health insurance plan. Under Bush, 40 million uninsured citizens would continue to cast about on the rough seas of free market health care, which is to say, unaffordable health care. Dukakis has committed himself to a national health care plan. Bush proposes that families who need child care be given a minor tax break. Under a Democratic administration, Congress could create a comprehensive child care plan that would truly help lowand middleincome families. An increase in the minimum wage would be encouraged by Dukakis and most likely vetoed by Bush. The national disgrace of three-quarters of a million people without homes would be EDITORIALS Dukakis for President THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3