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liberal” like himself, Maxey said, the choice was very clear. “We’re working for a progressive-leaning president and a progressive-leaning Congress. There are 100 openly gay civil servants in this administration. Clinton supported the Ryan White Act, and he removed impediments against gay civil service. He’ll make three appointments to the Supreme Court. If it hadn’t been for Clinton, the welfare bill would have been tied to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.” In supporting a candidate, concluded Maxey, “We can’t be too liberal or too doctrinaire. There are times you have to fish or cut bait. This is one of those times.” One heard similar remarks from many delegates, and while they sometimes sounded directly lifted from Party pep-talks”husbands-and-wives-have-differences-but-that-doesn’ t-mean-theyget-a-divorce”just as often they appeared to be the thoughtful reflection of Democratic activists who, although not entirely satis “YOU CAN’T BUILD WHERE fled with their President, still be THERE’S NO FOUNDATION. lieve him to be the only available WHERE IN POLITICS CAN I political defense against the radi HAVE SO MANY FRIENDS cal right. “This is about the WHO LOOK LIKE ME?” Supreme Court,” said Billie Carr of Houston. “We can’t give three more appointments to Dole.” Austinite Wilhelmina Delco echoed Carr’s comments, asking’ bluntly, “What are the alternatives? At least in this Party we have access. You can’t build where there’s no foundation.” Delco, an African American, gestured around the crowded floor and asked, “Where in politics can I have so many friends who look like me?” Throughout the week, at the podium and on the floor of the cavernous United Center, the organizational refrain echoed again and again. Why do we support Clinton and Gore? Because they’re not Dole, Kemp, and Gingrich. The pall cast over progressive Democrats just before the convention by Clinton’s signing of the Republican welfare bill had almost miraculously become, by its close, one of the central reasons for Clinton’s re-electionfor if not Clinton and his fellow Democrats, who was going to rectify Clinton’s mistake? That was the argument made most forcibly by the Party’s highest-profile liberals, Mario Cuomo and Jesse Jackson, on Tuesday night, as they energetically fulfilled their appointed role of drumbeating progressives back into line. Cuomo credited Clinton’s budget-slashing and anti-crime spending with saving the Party from the “albatross” of its own profligate image, and reassured the audience that Clinton would fix the welfare billfor the President had told him so. Jackson’s extraordinary speech, much of it apparently improvised, had a desperate, shattered eloquence, as though he were trying to convince himself of the oppressive but necessary force of his own logic: much of the nation was in a terrible and deteriorating state; Bill Clinton had not done a great deal to improve matters; but given a free hand in White House and Congress, the Republicans would certainly make things much worse. “What is the alternative?” he asked, a question directed less at the cheering multitude than at skeptical progressives elsewhere, once again soured at the prospect of supporting the lesser of two evils. “In the absence of our enthusiasm,” Jackson answered, “there will be….Dole and Gingrich and Trent Lott and Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. We deserve better than A Wilhelmina Delco that.” It was perhaps a necessary prescription, but even the doctor was having a hard time swallowing. As he went on, Jackson stumbled and pushed past his own hesitations, curtly dismissing those on the left who might have the gall to turn their back on Clinton’s Party, perhaps in the belief that we deserve “better than that,” too. “In your cynicism, don’t you walk away from this vote,” Jackson exhorted. “If you don’t vote, you’re irrelevant to the process. If you do not have integrity, you are a coward….” The next morning, the newspapers duly reported that in contrast to the censored Republicans, Cuomo and Jackson had forthrightly aired their differences with the President over welfare reform. But inside the hall, the real thrust of the speechesagainst those progressives who might have honest reason to question Bill Clinton’s relevance, integrity or couragewas apparent. “I was impressed by [Jackson’s] call for unity,” said delegate Erma Jefferson of Austin, “and that he didn’t tell people to wait for his signal, as he has in the past. It shows how much he has matured….We must have unity.” What progressive Democrats might expect under a second Clinton administration in return for that unity seemed steadily diminished as the week went on. Liberal dele gates emphasized that Clinton had not written the welfare bill, and only his election could improve it. But the mainstream podium 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 13, 1996