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y. Looking for Democrats in Chicago BY MICHAEL KING PHOTOS BY KIRK TUCK “If all we do is complain about the structure being against us, then we’re not worthy of this historical moment, when we have a majority of the people on our side, and no progressive movement to go collect it.” Jim Hightower FEATURES Where’s the Party? If conventions win elections, Bill Clinton is our next President. Saturday morning following his made-for-TV triumph at the United Center in Chicago, Campaign Clinton’s post-convention poll “bounce” had again given him a national lead of roughly twenty percent. That margin will not hold, of course, but it seems virtually impossible for the Republicanshaving nominated an Ancient Mariner at a convention even more shamelessly illusoryto make up the weekly 15 percent tax cut. From a simply electoral standpoint, the thoroughly upbeat mood of the convention’s program and its delegates seemed completely genuine. The Party’s candidate is winning, handily, and the organization’s most literal reason for existenceelecting Democrats to public officehas been raucously and effectively served. More troubling and far more important questions remained unanswered. Had the Democrats’ convention done anything at all to promote even the possibility of a more just, more egalitarian, more democratic society? Do liberals and progressives, in and outside the Party, have any reason at all to celebrate \(let alone prowhose primary rhetorical and political refrain throughout the week short: Where’s the Party? Speaking literally, the party was of, by, and for TV. Network prime time had been reduced to a single, late-evening hour, and the remainder of the event had consequently been transformed into an extended pre-game pep-rally, with some almost invisible jockeying for minutes and position. In the late afternoon, human platform planks walked to the podium for two-minute, ritualized recitations, rewarded with obligatory applause from their home delegations and oblivion from everybody else. Higher political profiles received later and longer time slots, until the day’s designated headliners were awarded the precious 9-to-10 o’clock hour. So, for television purposes at least, non-partisan anti-gun crusader Sara Brady and disabled movie-star Christopher Reeves outranked congressional leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt; and on Tuesday, when Jesse Jackson predictably overran his assigned time and disrupted the canned schedule, neo-liberal Indiana Governor Evan Bayh found his “keynote address” bumped nightward, behind the genteel reflections of neo-maternal Hillary Clinton, who needed the TV time to establish her latest neo-feminine makeover. Bayh, like A State Representative Glenn Maxey a p.a. announcer in the last two minutes of a Bulls-Timberwolves game, spoke to an audience streaming for the exits. Yet the delegates seemed reasonably content in their miniaturized roles of cheering fans and TV extras. Texas Party Chairman Bill White, who spent much of the week personally coaching the floor delegation, described the state’s Democrats as an “upbeat crew…united by a sense of purpose,” that singular purpose being the re-election of Clinton and Gore and the defeat of Dole, Gingrich and Kemp. White recited the campaign’s “mainstream” themes as they would be repeated in whole or part by nearly every delegate one spoke to: “education…safe streets…clean air and water…economic security.” The Republicans, said White, are appealing to “a sentimental pastwhen women knew their place, and African Americans were invisible,” while the Democrats are “looking to the future.” White is very confident about the national campaign, and was similarly upbeat about the Democrats’ chances in Texas, pointing in particular to the Congressional campaigns of vs. Ron the new role of party conventions. “They are good for communicating and motivating,” he said. “They’re no longer so good for training and organizing.” White’s optimism reverberated throughout the Texas delegation. State Representative Glenn Maxey described the convention, his sixth, as “the most cohesive, the most unified.” Maxey has his own differences with Clintonhe mentioned the welfare bill and the president’s inconsistent support of gay rightsbut for a “pragmatic SEPTEMBER 13, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5