Looking Out for the 'Little Guy'

FINGERHUT, RICHARD J. KRICKUS AND VICTOR

Perspectives LOOKING OUT FOR THE 'LITTLE GUY' BY RICHARD J. KRICKUS AND VICTOR FINGERHUT AS LATE AS the eve of President Nixon's August 15 "new economic policy" speech, the Democrats had no...

...In a Gallup survey taken two months earlier, a cross-section of voters were asked whether they expected "a year of full employment or rising unemployment...
...The evidence for this view was certainly impressive...
...Why, then, have the Democrats failed to exploit this massive chink in the Administration's armor...
...Younger workers, including college graduates who cannot find jobs related to their training, possess a level of expectations which ill prepares them for even modest economic setbacks...
...troops in Vietnam...
...Postelection surveys show the media men to have been wrong...
...In 1968 they convinced many influential Democrats that law and order was just a code for racism, when most Americans, black and white, were profoundly concerned about street crime per se...
...Middle America's misgivings about the economy...
...Had he concentrated on bread-and-butter issues sooner, Humphrey would be in the White House today...
...They should reach out to engineers, space scientists, factory workers, senior citizens, housewives...
...So while Nixon's popularity ratings declined to about 50 per cent this summer, he nevertheless fared better than every Democratic challenger except Edmund Muskie...
...Perceiving America through privileged blinders, elitists in the party and their brethren in the society at large seemingly cannot understand what job insecurity or the cancellation of overtime means to a working man...
...Hubert Humphrey, in the waning weeks of the 1968 race, discovered that when he zeroed in on economics, the people responded?this at a time, it should be noted, of a booming economy...
...And in a Gallup poll published last month, he led all his prospective opponents by five to six points...
...In 1970 the much vaunted "Southern strategy" fizzled: Populist Democratic candidates ran roughshod over opponents who simply attempted to exploit racial discord...
...their discontent will more quickly be transformed into political protest...
...The President has known all along that the economy was his Achilles heel...
...Voters who switched their attention to economic issues snatched Harry Truman from the jaws of defeat in 1948...
...Thus it is not surprising that prior to August 15 the President devoted a disproportionate amount of his time and public appearances to global affairs, on occasion going to the point of limiting press conferences to "matters of foreign policy...
...For a minority party President plagued by an unpopular war, recession, inflation, and unemployment, that is not a bad showing...
...They should form task forces to visit the areas where unemployment is persistently high and confer with the jobless who have been forced to swallow the bitter fruit of Nixonomics...
...Democrats who aspire to the Presidency hire writers, researchers and other key staffers who, by virtue of their education, social status or professional credentials, are estranged from most Democratic voters...
...The Pentagon Papers' spotlighting of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations' progressively deeper involvement in Southeast Asia has reinforced doubts about the Democrats' ability to handle foreign affairs, doubts inspired by the party's association with four wars in this century...
...They spent scarce funds on tv and radio spots proclaiming Humphrey's support of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, ignoring the argument from labor people and voting analysts that while the national media were hot on this issue, the electorate was either confused or uninformed and far more concerned about inflation...
...short, the Democrats must listen to what their constituents are saying...
...In berating the opposition, Spiro Agnew sought to assuage Mr...
...For the Democrats must go beyond saying the right things and begin to demonstrate in their actions that they are sensitive to the problems of the working American...
...Arguing against making rising unemployment and galloping inflation the focus of the Democratic attack, an articulate and influential segment of the party insisted Nixon was most vulnerable on the Vietnam war...
...The leaders in the reform wing of the party are often graduates of Harvard and Yale Law, partners in liberal legal firms, foundation executives, and university professors...
...But the President has only won a tactical victory...
...Their ob-tuseness on this question jeopardized acceptance of other, legitimate issues they championed...
...They must take the initiative in Congress and offer legislation that provides tax relief for the ordinary American, produces an immediate and direct answer to unemployment, and takes the anti-inflationary burden off the back of the working man...
...Polls that had registered an upsurge of support for Nixon following the Cambodian incursion of May 1970 revealed an opposite trend last spring, when approximately 73 per cent of the respondents in a national survey wished the United States to vacate Southeast Asia by the end of this year...
...Though the normal Republican edge in this area has declined from its massive margin of late 1968, the electorate has not fundamentally changed its mind...
...A significantly larger number of Americans are registered as Democrats precisely because they believe that the Democratic party looks out for the "little guy," particularly on bread-and-butter issues...
...In the North, a similar fate befell gop efforts to woo the "silent majority" by associating the Democrats with the privileged college radicals, effete intellectuals and liberal media manipulators who were ridiculing the values most Americans cherish...
...Should inflation and unemployment dip in the near future and the economic picture brighten next year, Nixonomics would still rank as the Democrats' prime issue...
...Perspectives LOOKING OUT FOR THE 'LITTLE GUY' BY RICHARD J. KRICKUS AND VICTOR FINGERHUT AS LATE AS the eve of President Nixon's August 15 "new economic policy" speech, the Democrats had no coherent idea about which issue to stress in 1972...
...A Lou Harris poll, released prior to the President's nep announcement, found that 60 per cent believed they were in a recession...
...Nixon's new policy has revived widespread talk about the "little guy" versus "big business...
...The anxiety caused by the Administration's past economic policies will linger long after its immediate cause disappears...
...Significantly, doves and hawks alike wanted out, as did a growing number who had been silent because they felt "the President is best qualified to conduct foreign policy...
...The polls suggest that few people believe any of the Democratic Presidential contenders could better arrange an exit...
...Had their monetarist game plans succeeded at all, the Republicans would surely have continued to play down the economic issue...
...The credibility gap that tainted Lyndon Johnson's tenure was beginning to compromise the Nixon Administration, too...
...For Vietnam aside, even Nixon's staunchest opponents have given him good marks for his cautious but confident performance in the Middle East, his role in bringing about the recent four-power Berlin agreement, his recognizing the reality of Red China, and the progress we seem to be making at the salt talks...
...If the Democrats remember the source of their support, there could be a new man in the White House in '72...
...must underscore the difference between his party and theirs by honing in on populist issuesóregressive taxes, exorbitant medical costs, consumer fraud, the abuse of corporate power, escalating insurance premiums, the inability of working people to secure loans at reasonable rates while the Administration subsidizes giant conglomerates, and so on...
...Responding to Nixon's August 15 speech and his decision to maintain controls past November 13, columnists are declaring that his bold economic reforms have reduced the utility of the economy for his political opponents...
...preferential treatment of the corporate establishment, and other concerns which have for almost 40 years sustained the Democratic majority coalition...
...More important, the current economic dislocation lends credence to the traditional image of Republicans being partial to the corporate establishment at the expense of the worker, farmer and small entrepreneur...
...Indeed, especially in the light of the President's challenge, Senators Muskie, Bayh, McGovern, Jackson, et al...
...They should conduct hearings in black inner-city neighborhoods, where unemployment among youngsters 18-25 is in some cases as high as 48 per cent...
...In contrast to foreign policy, surveys show that most voters prefer the Democratic party's management of the economy...
...Among Democrats, 80 per cent anticipated greater joblessness and only 11 per cent thought full employment was in the offing...
...They will not be satisfied with merely making ends meet, nor will they passively accept economic deprivation like their parents once did...
...Perhaps the least appreciated implication of the President's economic turnabout is that it has severely undercut his party's attempts to redefine the historical cleavage lines of American politics...
...and Mrs...
...Opposition critics labeled this a ruse to add luster to his Vietnamization program, yet there is reason to believe he meant exactiy what he said...
...For millions of middle-aged voters who have not forgotten the Depression, Richard Nixon has rekindled unpleasant memories...
...One might conclude that just when it appeared antiwar Democrats like Senator McGovern had begun to recognize the importance of the economic issue, the Republicans wrested it out of their hands...
...The President, meanwhile, said he would welcome the opportunity to be judged on the war...
...On the other hand, millions of war-weary Americans are impressed by the President's arithmetic: The Democrats were responsible for plaoing over 500,000 U.S...
...After Laos, a majority thought the action would not shorten the war and that "the Administration is not telling us all it knows about Vietnam...
...They are the student, civil-rights and peace activists, a talented, articulate minority which bankrolls campaigns and provides eager workers during the primaries...
...It is difficult for them to get excited about the rising price of food, housing and medical care...
...even zealous gop supporters in the business community fear there is substance to this bias...
...But more important, 76 per cent of the Independents surveyed predicted rising unemployment, while only 15 per cent did not...
...The performance of Humphrey's media advisers in 1968 is most revealing...
...Democrats who parried his attacks merely played into his hands, for in debating a fabricated issue they were ignoring the real one...
...And that image underlies the persisting Democratic majority in the country...
...a year before there were only eight...
...Last March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a third of the nation's 150 major employment areas were on the "substandard" list...
...Though they may be sophisticated in terms of macroeconomics, they are not terribly moved by the mundane economic concerns of the average voter...
...Even after the 1970 elections, politically savvy people like Allard Lowenstein would grant that the economy was an important issue, but continue to advise the Democrats to blast j. Edgar Hoover and nail the Administration on the war or its handling of the May Day demonstrations...
...Members of this elite need not, however, be directly active in Democratic affairs to influence party policy and candidates, for they wield considerable influence from outside through the media, academia, the literary world, and the entertainment industry...
...In the summer some political pundits cited changes in various economic indicesórising personal income, housing starts, etc.?as proof of this view...
...Last spring, for example, Paul Samuelson, the Nobel Prize-winning mit economist, told the National Democratic Women's Club in Washington that despite the evident failures in the Administration's inflation-unemployment balancing act, 1972 would be marked by economic expansion and the economy would thus not be much of a factor in the Presidential election...
...In countless polls the gop has been judged better able than the Democrats to administer international relations, especially in regard to keeping the peace...
...Keeping it submerged for another yearóbeneath law and order, the middle America/radical-liberal conflict and foreign policyówould have guaranteed them a new lease on the White House...
...The answer is in fact so simple that one risks being accused of "Agnewism" for preferring it...
...A frequently quoted Opinion Research poll, in which 77 per cent of the American people favor nep and 63 per cent feel more confident about the future, presumably supports this conclusion...
...No serious Democratic Presidential hopeful can ignore them or the issues they deem crucial, whether their counsel is wise and relevant or not...
...This may explain why young registrants favor the Democratic party by a margin of over two to one...
...After nearly three years on the defensive, the Democrats now have the opportunity to make Nixon play on their home field...
...The Administration's conscious and concerted attempt to keep its forte in the public eye has even been institutionalized in an Annual Foreign Policy Address...
...They should inspect nursing homes, which are a national scandal, and industries where a high percentage of workers were killed last year because management neglected to take proper safety precautions...
...it would be premature to concede him the war...
...Those voters who are most distressed with Nixon's conduct of the war are unlikely to vote for him in any event...
...he has reduced that figure by half and continues to "bring the boys home" at a rate of 12,000 per month...
...As a start, they would do well to study Ralph Nader's approach and take note of the people's astonishing response to his assault on the "big boys...
...Many equate "Republican economics" with recession...
...The record indicates that foreign policy has long been a Republican preserve...

Vol. 54 • October 1971 • No. 19


 
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