Published 19 September 1991 in The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), p. 5
Where are the Democrats for election '92?
by James M. Wallace
All summer, one leading Democrat after another has announced his non-candidacy for his party's presidential nomination. The unwillingness of these Democratic "leaders" to play sacrificial lamb to what is conceded to be, 14 months before the fact, a Bush landslide has created a void that is being filled by Democratic outsiders.
So far, only Paul Tsongas, Douglas Wilder, and Tom Harkin have officially declared themselves to be candidates, with Jerry Brown making threatening noises.
Tsongas, a former senator from Massachusetts, has been out of politics since he left the Senate seven years ago to fight a successful battle against cancer. Aside from being a forgotten unknown, he also has to answer the question of how the electorate will respond to another liberal Massachusetts Democrat of Greek descent after Dukakis.
Wilder, the current governor of Virginia, is known at least for being the first elected African-American governor. But Wilder is becoming increasingly unpopular with Virginians and has offended Catholics by questioning the loyalty of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with the suggestion that he has a greater allegiance to the Pope.
Faced with a Bush landslide, the Democrats, thinking they have nothing to lose, might use the "race gimmick" the same way they used the "gender gimmick" when they were confronted with the 1984 Reagan landslide.
Harkin, a liberal Iowa senator, seems to want to build a name for himself as a populist. He says that he's a real man of the people as opposed to George Bush, who he claims thinks he's a man of the people because he eats pork rinds. In addition to his inability to embrace significant issues, he also doesn't realize that populism is a red flag; never trust a politician who claims to be "a man of the people."
Brown, a former California governor, previous candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, and a man derisively nicknamed "Governor Moonbeam" due to his esoteric proclivities, has the benefit of being more well known if he should choose to run.
Brown vows that he would run a "campaign of insurgency" for the nomination. The Democratic "leadership" isn't exactly thrilled with the prospect of Brown's political reincarnation.
The failure of the Democrats to seriously challenge the Republicans for the White House is indicative of a fundamental crisis within the party. Since 1968, the only Democrat to be elected president has been Jimmy Carter, and his administration, marked by defeat and malaise, was a disaster.
If the presidential election is a referendum on basic policy, the American electorate no longer believes in the Democratic party, and the Democrats apparently haven't got a clue as to why.
The problem is a lack of leadership and the attendant failure to articulate a vision of what America should be.
In the midst of a national crisis, when it became necessary to wage war against Iraq, the majority of Americans, including those most at risk in the Saudi desert, had resigned themselves to the painful necessity of war. What was needed then was the courage and the leadership to make the hard decision to do what had to be done.
Where were the Democrats? The majority of Democrats showed themselves to be common political hacks by opposing the use of force along partisan lines. When their country needed them, they were busy playing politics.
We are within fourteen months of the 1992 election, and the Democrats have yet to get serious about selecting a presidential candidate.
They are apparently refusing to make an honest effort to challenge the Republicans on the basis of "if they can't win, why play." In doing so, they are failing in their responsibility to contribute to this country's political discourse, and thus, they are once again failing America.
Where are the Democrats?