Magazine article The American Prospect

How Would Gore Govern?

Magazine article The American Prospect

How Would Gore Govern?

Article excerpt

What a pleasant surprise that A1 Gore, having tried just about everything else, stumbled on the idea of running as a progressive. Maybe this shift was inevitable. Despite the appeal of centrism to elites, voters just do not elect Democrats to kiss up to business or dismantle government. They can get that, full strength, from Republicans. Voters elect Democrats to be champions of ordinary people.

The success of Gore's shift is a double vindication for the likes of us. This magazine has long argued that Democrats don't get elected by repairing to the center on pocketbook issues. And we've repeatedly documented that most Americans are not sharing in the current boom. Even if average incomes are slightly up, economic security is down. You wouldn't notice this by talking to the donors and lobbyists who dominate American political life. But it's hard to miss if you talk to actual voters.

Seemingly, the Democratic convention was a victory party for the Democratic Leadership Council. But then came Gore's acceptance speech. It sounded as if the candidate had studied back issues of the Prospect. The work of a lonely band of left-liberal strategists and critics who have graced these pages--Stanley Greenberg, Ruy Teixeira, Theda Skocpol, William Julius Wilson--suddenly became the virtual blueprint of the campaign.

Of course, Bill Clinton in 1992 ran as the champion of working families--and governed as a centrist. The same New Democrat crowd will still dominate Gore's inner circle. Even if the Democrats take the House, it is unlikely that they will form a progressive governing majority.

So who will hold Gore accountable to his newfound populism? A revived labor movement will help. But the rest of the electorate is mostly disengaged. In the jockeying for influence year in and year out, the real interest groups with staying power are business groups. …

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