Richard Goodwin: Where Are the Democrats?
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DAVID GERGEN, U.S. News & World Report: Thanks, Jim. Dick, the Democrats are here celebrating. You’ve written a piece, “Has Anybody Seen the Democratic Party?”. You say this is a party — bent in its principles and lost its soul.
RICHARD GOODWIN, Former Kennedy/Johnson Aide: Well, I don’t tell you that the party has but its leadership has, you know, the President and the administration. And this is a party that’s adrift. I mean, they’re very enthusiastic for Clinton. I certainly want to support Bill Clinton. But it reminds me of the 80-year-old man who was asked how he felt on his 80th birthday. He said, “I feel just fine, especially when I consider the alternative.” And this is the–the alternative is the Republican right.
DAVID GERGEN: Now tell me where the Democratic Party, its leadership is going to drift, in your judgment and when?
RICHARD GOODWIN: Well, I think it began obviously in the late 70′s. I think that the Democratic Party has traditionally been the party that supported the middle class and working Americans against the depredations of the wealthy. They forgot that. They became more and more themselves into the pay more and more, into the grip of business and wealth, and the result is that we began and have continued right through this last four years the greatest redistribution of wealth upward in America since before the Great Depression and which actually led to the Great Depression. And the Democratic Party instead of taking up that cause, they give lip service to the cause of the middle class, but their policies all have now favored the wealthy.
DAVID GERGEN: Well, the–there’s much talk here in this hall tonight about the Clinton administration during its period in office, 10 million jobs have been created, but you think that’s not the real issue, the real issue is how much they pay and what kind of jobs they are?
RICHARD GOODWIN: Well, you know, I mean, if you make the minimum wage and try to raise a family on that, you’re not going to have much luck. I think what’s happened is that we have–the country’s grown about 60 percent since the 70′s. Uh, the income of the lower 80 percent is either stagnated or declined, their standard of living is stagnant and declining. They can’t send kids to school. Their schools are deteriorating, and the money from this growth is going to the top 20 percent or even a smaller number. Now, something’s wrong with that.
DAVID GERGEN: Dick, I have the impression in talking to some of the Democrats that they are very much aware of what they think is the wage and wealth gap. But they don’t like to talk about it because they don’t know what to do about it.
RICHARD GOODWIN: Because I don’t–I think obviously it’s not an easy thing to do but it’s not in our nature, you know, it’s not in the Old Testament or the New Testament that the rich have to give up most of the money. But I–
DAVID GERGEN: They see it as the natural outcome of the modern world economy.
RICHARD GOODWIN: No. It’s an outcome of both of policies and changes in the structure of the system which is–I mean, obviously Buchanan was on to something about foreign trade. We have money and jobs go oversees, and you notice the response Jackson got when he raised that issue. We’ve had higher interest rates which damage middle class without inflation. We’ve–have to obviously totally restructure the laws regarding unions because the collapse of unions have made it possible for employers to follow at will, downsize, lower wages. So I think through the whole system there are defects that can and could be addressed but won’t be addressed at this convention obviously. I mean, the great issue of economic justice, which is central to the American dream and promise, is not being picked up here or by the Republicans of course.
DAVID GERGEN: Yeah. I do sense a worker backlash growing. You can see it in the AFL-CIO leadership today, but do you sense, as many other Democrats who believe as you do, that they’re–they’re a little disappointed at what they see now in the Clinton administration in terms of its offense, as Jesse Jackson would have put it, and do you think that they’re going to push for a new agenda, a different agenda?
RICHARD GOODWIN: Oh, I think so. I think that they’re very–most of my–they don’t call themselves liberal anymore–progressive friends, uh, they–there’s a lot of disappointment, and the disappointment extends all the way up to the White House. But the feeling is that we have to defeat, uh, Gore–or Dole and Gingrich and Armey and Trent Lott and all the others, and then maybe something will happen, but nobody knows that anything will happen. I mean, just–liberals are the most given to wishful thinking of any group in the political process, as you know.
DAVID GERGEN: The last great campaign, in your judgment, was Bobby Kennedy’s campaign in 1968?
RICHARD GOODWIN: Well, it was the last great campaign. The interesting thing is a lot of the themes of that campaign, which I worked on, were–have been picked up by the Republicans, not by the Democrats, as sort of being brain dead in the 70′s and 80′s. He campaigned on decentralization of power, uh, to the states from the federal government and to the smallest unit consistent with the scale of the problem, but built in with protections for minorities and the poor. And he said the welfare program was terrible, should be replaced with a jobs program, but a real program.
DAVID GERGEN: That’s what they’ve moved away from. Dick, thank you very much. I’m going to be very curious to hear what Doris has to say about your comments as the evening progresses. Thank you.
RICHARD GOODWIN: Well, the day after the election, we’re going to start our movement.
DAVID GERGEN: All right.