PAUL DUKE: The voters have spoken, Haynes, and happy days are here again for the Democrats.
HAYNES JOHNSON, WASHINGTON POST: For the Democrats. But this really wasn’t about the Democrats this year, Paul, in a very strange way. You know, I’ve been traveling for nine months now – starting in Maine when it was 30 below zero, winding up just a few weeks ago on the Mexican border of Southern California. And the striking thing about this election from the beginning – everybody you met really did want a change in the beginning. They felt that there was something desperately wrong in the country, like something had been broken. It wasn’t just the economy in the usual sense – about the economic restructuring jobs being lost. That was there, but it was the feeling that America itself was in deep trouble.
I remember I met, of all the people I met along the way, a young teacher in Peoria, Illinois – had been laid off. An elementary school teacher. All she wanted to do all her life was be a teacher, and she said, “I’m a good teacher.” And she said, “I told my father, who is a conservative Republican, prominent industrialist – I said, ‘Dad, don’t talk to me about the American dream; that was for your group.’” And that’s the way people felt. Something was larger than politics. It had nothing to do with Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, Northern, Southern. They really did want a change.
The second element in the election was the fact that, when they started this year, they were so cynical about the process that they didn’t believe it might happen. And you saw – one of the first people I talked to in Maine – I brought some transcripts – was a prominent lawyer up there who had been very active in the Democratic Party, and he started talking about lies. “Everybody lies.” “They’re lying.” And he was active himself in the process. He said, “I’ve talked to the former governor of a nearby state last week and I was talking about the presidential candidates.” And then he said about lying, and he said, “You can’t win without lying.” Flat out. “You can’t win without lying.” A former governor of a state.
Now, that condition continued for some months, and then it began – you could see hope coming back in the system. Part of it was driven by Ross Perot, but people started looking at the candidates in a way they really haven’t. And you could see it actually taking place, until by the end people had made a choice. They really were willing to go with a Clinton. And it wasn’t a negative choice.
I met a Mexican-America young voter who was from San Antonino, 24 years old. Last time he had been a Young Bush, active in the campaign, worked hard, believed in the Republican values. The economy had gone – he saw wreckage all around him, and he had – he was convinced, he said, just before the election in terms of Clinton, “A lot of people say he’s the lesser of two evils that are running in the campaign, but I see him as a really good choice. I see him as one of the best choices of Democrats we’ve had in a long time.” And he goes on to talk about why he was going to make a difference.
DUKE: So, you see a real mandate for change from this election then?
JOHNSON: Yes. I do. Absolutely.
DUKE: Even though Bill Clinton got only 43 percent of the popular vote, he did have an electoral landslide, of course. But, still, the popular vote was under –
JACK NELSON, LOS ANGELES TIMES: And the conventional –
DUKE: 50 percent.
JOHNSON: Right. Absolutely.
NELSON: And the conventional wisdom is that there is no real enthusiasm for this guy, and you say that that’s
JOHNSON: Yeah, I don’t think that’s the case. I think that –
JOHNSON: -- the question about mandate is very important. Senator Dole, minority leader, said that there’s no mandate, there’s no majority, because he only got 43 percent. What – from the beginning then people do hope that there’s going to be a change that matters in their lives. And secondly, they are looking favorable at Clinton. I’m not saying – they don’t think he’s a miracle person, but they’re willing to invest a sense of trust that wasn’t there in the beginning.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Haynes, are people willing to make the sacrifices that a lot of voters apparently think, at least in the abstract, are necessary to ensure the economic health for the next generation that that one teacher talker about?
JOHNSON: That’s the absolute key, and Mr. Clinton is going to have a terrible problem if he can’t persuade people that they’ve got to make changes, and he hasn’t asked them to. Ross Perot, once again in this case, did talk about shared sacrifice, and Clinton really hadn’t done that. He says to the middle class, “I won’t raise your taxes,” and so forth. I think the people I met, Howard, along the way would be, would be willing to do that if they thought it was fair and across the board.