|WHO ARE THE DEMOCRATS?|
August 15, 2000
A panel of four Democrats examines the makeup of the Democratic Party.
GWEN IFILL: Joining me now will be four Democrats: Richard
Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO; Don Siegelman, the Democratic
governor of Alabama; Marc Morial, the mayor of New Orleans; and joining
us shortly, we hope, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congresswoman from the
District of Columbia.
GOV. DON SIEGELMAN, (D) Alabama: Well, I think the party in both America and in Alabama is a party of hope, is a party of prosperity, is a party committed to our children, to education, to our seniors. And we're making a difference in the lives of people every day both in Alabama and across the country. And I think this election in fact is about the continuation of that progress.
GWEN IFILL: Is this still a liberal party; is it a conservative party? What is it?
GOV. DON SIEGELMAN: I think the party certainly has become more tolerant in some respects in areas like civil rights, human rights, but also the party has become more serious about family values, about issues that are of concern to families.: And just look at what Tipper Gore and Joseph Lieberman have been saying about, you know, sex, violence and bad language on television and movies and videos and those kinds of things. So that's where the party is.
GWEN IFILL: What about that, Rich Trumka, is that where the party is?
RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO: I really like where the party is moving towards on working families and working families issues. I think our issues are at the center of this debate, Social Security, a good pension, we're talking about a drug care program for the needy, for the elderly that really need drug prescription programs. We're talking about good schools for all kids, we're talking about breaking down barriers. We're breaking down another one by having Joe Lieberman as the vice presidential candidate here, so I'm really excited about the party. I think it has become more inclusive, it's become more effective and it's more focused on America's working families.
GWEN IFILL: As a mayor, you are a pragmatist, Marc Morial. So does that mean that this Democratic Party is speaking to your needs, or is it moving away as it attempts to find a center?
MAYOR MARC MORIAL, (D) New Orleans: The Democratic Party is a broad coalition, a broad coalition of many interests and many people. And that's what distinguishes us from the opposition party. I think that the Democratic Party in the last eight years, to steal a word Rich used, has become effective; effective in delivering on changes in public policy. And at the end of the day, it is very important to win. It is very important to be effective; not at all costs. But we have to do what we must do to be effective and to win. Right now we are facing an election cycle where the Republicans control two Houses of the Congress, the Democrats control the White House. It is crucial, it is crucial, I think, that to continue the direction that the country has taken in the last eight years, that we elect a Democrat and work very, very hard to take control of the Congress, hopefully at least one House of the Congress.
|Updated Roosevelt coalition|
GWEN IFILL: To be... welcome Eleanor Holmes Norton. To be effective and to win, what does that mean to you, the Democrats? What do they have to give up to be effective and to win?
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, Washington, DC: Well, I think what you have got in the Democratic Party today is a kind of updated version of the old Roosevelt coalition. We were in this party when we were silent partners. When the party was controlled by absolute racists, when every committee of the Congress was controlled by a Southern Democrat, who tried his best to see the bills that would keep blacks from getting their civil rights -- we were still in the party. Why were we in that party? We were in that party for economic reasons because we knew what the bottom line always was. We found our voice, as it were, after 1964 when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party kind of broke open the parties and said hey, no more silent partners. For a while there we lost elections because having found our voice, there were cacophonous voices. Bill Clinton and Al Gore deserve credit for bringing our party back together again so that liberals like me can feel comfortable in the party with the blue dogs who are the most conservative members of the House of Representatives.
GWEN IFILL: Let's take a liberal like you. There has been some debate today among liberals like you about the selection of Joe Lieberman as the vice presidential running mate, especially from concerns of members of the Congressional Black Caucus about his stand on affirmative action. Where is that? How does that...
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Let me just tell you -- that is not true.
GWEN IFILL: What is not true?
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: So, Let me set the record straight on that.
GWEN IFILL: Please.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Within hours after Joe Lieberman was named, he was on the phone with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on a conference call. The response to the conference call was, first members saying we're glad to have you on the ticket; you've done wonders for the ticket. The second thing was would you come into my district -- most of our districts are largely African American -- and campaign? Now, it fell to me to introduce Joe Lieberman today at the caucus of black Democrats because I've known him longer, because I was in school with him, and because I've worked with him closely in the Congress, sometimes on the other side of some of the issues, sometimes with him.
GWEN IFILL: Are you on the same side of this issue?
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Of affirmative action?
GWEN IFILL: Yes.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: I'm on the same side. But let me tell you, before I'd opened my mouth and before Joe Lieberman got to open his mouth, when I simply said and I give you Joe Lieberman, the delegates rose -- the African American delegates, and a quarter of us are people of color. And they started a chant before the man had opened his mouth saying, "We want Joe, we want Joe." Does that sound to you like the African Americans have a problem with Joe Lieberman? I didn't hear it there.
|Somebody who takes action|
RICHARD TRUMKA: There is one important factor on that specific issue. I think President Clinton touched on it yesterday whenever he said that Joe Lieberman was a freedom rider. That's not somebody who is faint or weak in their beliefs. I mean I think that's somebody who believes enough to take action - action when it's not popular. I think that's an important point.
MAYOR MARC MORIAL: I think, Gwen, too tomorrow night, we're all going to get an opportunity to see Joe Lieberman for the first time as he makes his acceptance speech. And I think what... In the face of some of the discussion today, my position is, I want to hear him tomorrow night. What I've heard from people I respect like Eleanor Holmes Norton is that he has a good, strong solid record. But this party is open minded and we want to hear tomorrow night. We'll get a chance to hear where Joe Lieberman's heart is. I do believe and think it is in the right place. And I look forward to hearing from him tomorrow.
GWEN IFILL: Tonight, Governor Siegelman, we're going to hear from all the lions of the party's left-wing -- Jesse Jackson et al. Is this just giving them their say and then the party continues its move to the center -- or is there something else that the party as a whole is going to be taking from this wing of the party?
GOV. DON SIEGELMAN: I think the party as the mayor said, is a party of a broad group of people with different ideas. That's part of our strength, it's just like Al Gore selecting Joseph Lieberman who doesn't believe the same way on some issues. I think the strength of our party is in its diversity and in our willingness to be open to new ideas.
GWEN IFILL: Yet there is an endless talk among pollsters and analysts about Al Gore's need to shore up his base. What does that mean in Alabama?
GOV. DON SIEGELMAN: Well, I think in Alabama he's got a special need to shore up his base because it's a traditional southern state with conservative ideas. It's also a state that has voted Republican just about every election since Harry Truman. But Alabama is a state that can be won with the right kind of message and showing the difference. The difference to me really is that you've got a candidate with the experience and background to make us perhaps the best president we've ever had. On the other side, with all due respect to my colleague, George W. Bush, leadership is not a birthright. He's only been governor for a short period of time. Quite frankly, he just doesn't have the experience or the political maturity to be commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces.
|Shoring up the base|
|DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Gwen, Al Gore needs to shore
up his base. Needs to shore up his base in heavily Democratic districts
like the districts some of us represent. But it's not for the reason you
think. It's not because we don't think he is not good on our issues or
not liberal enough. Part of the reason is quite ironic, I think. We go
to the polls when we hurt. We got the best economy in the century. We
got better home ownership than we've ever seen -- more home ownership
among poor people, African Americans, child poverty has improved even
after welfare reform.
GWEN IFILL: You are saying folks are going to stay home?
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: No, we're saying people need to know the before and the after. We are going to energize our base all right because we got to tell them what will happen if in fact this ticket is not elected.
MAYOR MARC MORIAL: The President began that process last night by talking about the record of eight years. Some people have forgotten what things were like eight years ago. I know in my own city we had high unemployment, high crime, police corruption. We've turned the corner in a significant way because we've had a partner in Washington. And also, it is patently unfair for anyone to suggest that Al Gore's challenge is to outdo President Clinton. That is patently unfair. It's disingenuous. Al Gore's challenge is to demonstrate that he is a better person to be President of the United States than George W. Bush. Let's keep the comparison in tact and in check as we go into this election.
GWEN IFILL: Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have to mend a few bridges with labor, on trade as well as other issues. Is that well on the way?
RICHARD TRUMKA: Absolutely. I mean look, here's our job. Our job is to get the facts to our members and to show them the stark difference between Al Gore as president and George Bush Al Gore has been a friend of working people for 30 years. He comes out of a conservative state in the South, and yet he was there for working people, not the last six months, not the last year and a half or two years but for 30 years of public record. as president. When our members get those facts there is simply no decision for them to be made. That's our job, is to get the facts to them. When they know the facts, they will come out because they see such a stark difference. The America of Al Gore for working people and the America of George Bush are light years apart. Kids have a chance here. They're secondary over here. Education has a chance here. It's secondary over here. Social Security has a chance here. It's secondary over here.
GWEN IFILL: Governor, tonight we're going to be hearing from Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Ted Kennedy, and there is going to be a lot of nostalgia about the 1960 convention 40 years ago when John F. Kennedy was nominated. What is a Kennedy Democrat anymore really in this party?
GOV. DON SIEGELMAN: Well, I think a Kennedy Democrat is someone who can run government effectively. A Kennedy Democrat is no different than a Siegelman Democrat in a sense because we want to make a difference for families, for children with the focus on education, the economic development, quality job growth, giving families a chance to stay together. And those are things that we all believe in.
GWEN IFILL: Not a liberal Democrat necessarily.
GOV. DON SIEGELMAN: Not a liberal Democrat necessarily.
MAYOR MARC MORIAL: Bill Clinton has taught us that maybe some of those old-fashioned terms are outmoded and outdated. I mean we've created a different kind of party because we've matured, because we have fought the battles of the past. And you know, I hate to be, you know, cubby-holed in terms of being a liberal, a moderate or whatever it is. What we're trying to do is change America. And I think the political map has changed, as the 21st century has begun. This party represents that future.
GWEN IFILL: We'll see all that on display. We have to leave it there. We're out of time. Thank you all very much.