On the eve of their meetings with President Reagan and other architects of the New Federalism, the Democratic governors had a Depression-style party Saturday. "I call it the 'new feudalism,' " said California Gov. Jerry Brown. "As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt, we are also celebrating the first anniversary of the raw deal."
When the applause died down, Kentucky governor and fried chicken millionaire John Y. Brown added, "I've never been to a Depression-style dinner. I know Jerry moved out of the mansion into a flat, so I am anxious to see how he eats. But the cheapest food I've ever eaten is chicken."
Their audience, a collection of a dozen governors, Capitol Hill administrators and Democratic National Committee officers, cheered through their crunches of red apples and potato chips. Speeches were the strongest adherence to the Depression theme. The band obliged with "It Had To Be You," and a few women guests wore crepe, chiffon and feathers but most dressed up their '80s fund-raiser uniform of suit and silk blouse with pearls.
The main attraction Saturday night at the National Democratic Club had been billed as a hodgepodge Depression meal of mulligatawny stew, which appeared as curried chicken. The evening's real success was raising $75,000 for the Democratic governors' conference and various reelection bids.
Around the room before Brown, Brown and Manatt (Charles, chair of the Democratic National Committee) spoke, the governors, here to attend the National Governors Association's winter meeting, discussed President Reagan's New Federalism programs.
Bruce King of New Mexico was gruff. "It's going to be very difficult to take care of our needy citizens. We have large blocks of Indian citizens who are needy, and with the shift we are not getting the resources. And I'm not so sure of the support of our conservative legislature. I'm afraid we need assistance where they the citizens don't have voting strength."
James Hunt of North Carolina was angry. "States will be the big losers. Our state will lose $200 million and have to raise taxes by $1 billion by 1991. I think the key social programs that were cut deeply last year should not be cut this year." While Jerry Brown's bid for the Senate was being discussed enthusiastically, Hunt was also being encouraged to challenge North Carolina's Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. When Patricia Ford-Rogner of the American Nurses Association mentioned that possibility, Hunt replied, "We have to get everything squared away because that will be the battle of the century. We don't want to lose that one."