Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The day after the U.S. Supreme Court and a Florida judge dealt Gore a near mortal blow in his fast fading presidential bid, he dispatched his Democratic running mate, Joseph Lieberman to Capitol Hill to rally the troops. Publicly the 209 Democratic lawmakers Lieberman met with cheered Gore for vowing to keep fighting, but privately many were resigned to a Bush triumph. A few even dared whisper that a Gore loss might not be a total catastrophe. They ridicule Bush as a weak, inept and horribly compromised would-be president. They're convinced that a Bush presidency will be littered with piles of malapropisms, domestic and foreign policy bumbles, a plunging economy, tormented by hostile Democrats in a deeply divided Congress, and will face the fury of millions of voters who passionately believe that he, and the Republicans, stole the White House. With 20 Republicans and only 13 Democrats in Congress up for election in 2002, they are giddy at the prospect that the Republicans will lose seats in the House, as has every victorious president's party in mid-term elections since the Civil War, with the exception of 1934 and 1998. But the Democrat's euphoric calculations about Bush could easily crash against these obstacles.
During the next two years Congressional district lines will be redrawn in many states based on the 2000 Census. Many of the state legislatures that will divvy up the new districts are dominated by Republicans. They will take a long and hard look at how best to redraw those districts to cripple the Democrat's influence and voting strength.
Even without the drug-out Gore-Bush legal mess that soured many voters, and the allegations of black voter fraud nationally, millions of eligible voters have long since thrown up their hands in disgust and rage at a system they regard as corrupt and suffocated by special interest groups. They continue to stay away from the polls in droves. The overwhelming majority of those turned-off potential voters are minorities, lower income workers, and immigrants. They are the natural constituency for the Democrats. Also, while many Democrats engaged in a shameful orgy of bashing and scapegoating Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader for Gore's loss, if he hadn't run many Naderites would not have voted for any Democrat, least of all a Democrat like Gore, anyway. They regarded him, just as Bush, as a corporate shill and deal-making party hack.
Nearly half of Latino voters in Florida and Texas, and one-third of Asian voters in California voted for Bush. Though blacks dutifully voted by more than 90 percent for Gore, they did it not because they were enamored of him, but because they were scared stiff that Bush will appoint more judges like Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and batter civil rights and civil liberties protections. Polls show that many blacks, particularly young blacks, are edging more to the political right on economic and social issues. They support school vouchers, increased support for minority business, more aid for historically black colleges, and tax cuts. These are all pet Republican issues. If the Republicans ever wise-up and make any kind of sustained outreach to blacks they could pry loose the iron-grip that Democrats have on their vote. If Bush appoints Colin Powell as Secretary of State and Condeleeza Rice as National Security Advisor as rumored, it would be a first for blacks and women and could pay mounds of dividends for the GOP among both groups.
The economy has slowed down, but the Federal Reserve's micro-managing of interest rates, a robust foreign trade surplus, the continued expansion of the retail and service industries, a massive trillion dollar surplus, widening the NAFTA partnership with Mexico, and the growth and spread of dot.com technology could prevent, or at least stave off for the time being, the predicted economic slide. If so, Bush, like Clinton, would get the credit.
Bush will inherit a terribly divided Congress, be saddled by the suspicion that he is an interloper in the Oval Office, and be under the hawk-like watch of minorities, labor, and Democrats of all stripes. This will force him to scrape off the harder edges of his ultra-conservative social agenda to avoid inflaming them.
'No Strong Democrat Contender.
Democrats will need to find someone with the allure, name recognition, and money to knock-off sitting president, Bush. With the possible exception of Hillary Rodham Clinton, they have no one that presently fits that bill. And that certainly includes Gore. Democrats fervently believe and some even hope that dire things will happen to derail a Bush presidency. That may prove to be just wishful thinking.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the President of the National Alliance for Positive Action. email:firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.natalliance.org
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