I had the pleasure late in 1991 of interviewing F. Clifton White for the Roper Center's magazine, The Public Perspective. Clif White began his long and distinguished career in Republican politics in his native New York, serving as GOP chairman in Tompkins County. He is perhaps best known as leader of the Draft Goldwater Movement of the early 1960s. He was Barry Goldwater's 1964 convention chairman, and then director of Citizens for Goldwater--Miller. In 1968 he was Ronald Reagan's convention chairman. White has seen firsthand an extraordinary series of changes in the form and style of national politics.
Of all these changes, the one that distresses Clif White the most is the growing distance between our political managers and the lives of ordinary citizens. Campaigns are now run by armies of media experts, pollsters, consultants, and assorted other technicians who haven't interacted with voters "up close." For the most part, the new generation of political managers have never served as precinct, town, or county chairmen. Instead of seeing voters in their homes, offices, and community centers, they "see" them only through opinion surveys, focus groups, and audience assessment studies. "It would be fun," White told me, "to take a survey of the members of the American Association of Political Consultants and find out how many of them have ever lived and worked in a precinct, or have ever been county chairmen. What we have today are political consultants who . . . identify people on the basis of numbers, not individuality or personality." Noting his years when he lived in Ithaca and served as Republican county chairman there, Clif said he never conducted what we today call an opinion survey; but that, nonetheless, he had a far better feel for what his constituents were thinking than what a blizzard of polls could have provided him "because