The State of the Union: Perspectives on the Post-Election Political Terrain

A FRIEND OF MINE WHO HAPPENS TO WORK ON WALL Street tells me that back in early September, when Dukakis was taking his nose dive in popularity, a private political newsletter aimed at the Wall Street crowd wrote that the only thing which could save the Democratic campaign was for the Duke to run on a platform of class-based, economic populism. Furthermore, the newsletter said, if the Democrats ran such a campaign the captains of finance should start worrying because it would work. The author recognized that somewhere among those statistics about declining real wages and two-job families without child care a deep popular anger existed about our era of supposed prosperity, and it was just waiting to be exploited.

About three weeks before the election, in a fit of apparent desperation, Michael Dukakis finally condescended to address the American people eye to eye. He came out with--what else?--a message of tub-thumping economic populism. And--surprise, surprise--it worked. In just over a week, he cut Bush's lead in half.

I think that's about all we need to know about the 1988 campaign. The American people didn't want to vote for George Bush. They were forced into his arms by the elitist technocrat at the top of the Democratic ticket who, until it was too late, betrayed no understanding of, or interest in, the felt needs and aspirations of average Americans.

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