Former vice president Walter Mondale spoke before the California Democratic Conference last weekend, as did six other Democratic 1984 presidential hopefuls. The current Democratic leader in the polls, his speech was also reported as leading on the delegates' applause meter. The following is a transcript of what the West Coast Democrats found so exciting.
TODAY IS A TIME of tragedy and stalemate -- but also of potential. This state knows about the "Grapes of Wrath." John Steinbeck's great book was about what hard times did to California. I never thought that I would see the sting of the "Grapes of Wrath" again in our lives. But today there are hundreds of thousands of decent American families living in their cars, roaming aimlessly around this country seeking work and the dignity that comes with stability, and are unable to find it.
If we're worthy of a Democratic Party, if we're worthy of our ideals, we must come out of this convention absolutely committed to actions that will end this misery. It requires leadership worthy of trust. It begs for caring that tightens our community, and it calls for a government that is confident of its powers. But today we're stuck with a government that has gone for a nap.
The first thing we need for action is trust. Lincoln once said that with public trust everything is possible -- without it nothing is possible. A president's life without trust is intolerable. You can't govern a country that doesn't respect its government or lead a people who don't believe their leaders.
We know it is important to be skeptical of power. If we always believed our government, we'd still be in Vietnam. If we always believed our leaders, we'd still think Watergate was a second-rate burglary. The fact of it is that we must be skeptical of leadership, but must have leadership that earns trust so that we can return the presidency, as Roosevelt once said, to a position of preeminent moral leadership.
How does Ronald Reagan stand that test? He praises human rights and brings dictators to dinner. He talks of self-reliance and then appoints a Legal Services board that puts its snout in the public payroll. He speaks of supply side, and David Stockman tells us it's really trickle down. He speaks of sacrifice while his attorney general is getting rich off tax loopholes. No wonder Americans distrust their government.
I don't want to sound like a preacher, because I'm not, but I am going to preach just a little bit. The first thing we must do as Democrats is to restore the trust of the American people in their government. And it's not just that Ronald Reagan is abusing that trust. It goes deeper than that.
There is a reason why over half of the American people don't even bother to vote anymore. You have your reasons; I have mine. But I bet you there's one we both agree on this morning, and we'd better put it at the center of our agenda. That is the rising, growing, exploding power of special-interest money in American politics.
Last year, the Republicans spent $150 million dollars more than we did, but that's not my point. This problem affects both our parties. You know and I know that these rivers and oceans of special interest money are pressing and compromising our government -- shattering public trust and paralyzing the capacity of the American people to serve the public interest.
I say it's time, fellow Democrats, that we declare war on special-interest money in American politics. Let's put a cap on campaign spending. Let's plant controls on these PACs. Let's end the loopholes of so called independent committees. Let's establish a system of public funding for congressional campaigns. And in these next two years, let us say again that the government of the United States is not up for sale. It belongs to the American people, and we want it back.
The second thing we need is a community again. There's nothing more basic to the principles of America than that we are in this country and in this society together. We belong to one another. We hold common interests. We share common burdens. When times are tough, it isn't easy for us to sense that kinship -- to share our joy and spread our pain. But that is what a president is all about.
A president is our leader. He's supposed to make us a community and keep us a community. But above all, that is exactly what Reagan has not done. Instead of bringing us together as a family, he has divided us into two Americas.
If you're rich, they give you tax breaks. If you're poor, they give you cheese. If you're for Dense Pack, they call you patriotic. If you're for the freeze, they call you one of Moscow's dupes. If you're a fat cat, they make you an ambassador. If you're a woman, they blame you for unemployment. If you're a segregationist academy, they get government off your back. But if you're Hispanic or an Asian or a black or a homosexual, they'll get government off your side. If you're a wealthy executive, they'll cut your taxes enough so that you can buy a Lincoln. But if you're a teacher, they'll cut your taxes enough to buy a hubcap. And in 1982, they took the hubcap back. It won't work that way.
I was brought up in the small towns of southern Minnesota. My dad was a minister. My mom was a musician. And when they finished their life, they didn't have any money. But I don't think that diminished the importance or the meaning of their lives. They raised a family; they served their faith; they loved each other. They were good neighbors, and I learned a lot from them.
I learned it wasn't enough to respect people on the make; we also had to respect people who could not make it. I learned to think of myself and our neighborhood as a family and our country as a community. And that's the only way it will work. That's the way it was intended.
You know, sometimes we forget the obvious. I wish you'd read the preamble to the Constitution again. It's all about community. We the people, not just rich people or whites or blacks -- everybody. We gather together to establish a more perfect union -- not 50 countries, but one strong United States of America. We formed to establish justice -- not order, but justice. And finally, we gathered together to provide a common defense and to promote the general welfare. It does not say to provide a common defense or the general welfare. It says both. Trust. Community. And finally, confidence.
All my public career, I've been working on the problem of children. One of the things I learned is that when you test young children, the best predictor of whether they will thrive or not is what are called the fate-control questions. If you ask the child to solve a problem and that child doesn't try, gives up, thinks it's governed by the fates, that child is not going to make it unless something changes.
The same thing is true of our country. When we see a problem, if we think we are governed by some kind of ordained fate and the stars run us; if we don't try, if we give up, if we think we can't do it; we're not going to get it done.
Sometimes we have had leaders that have preached our impotence, and sometimes we've had leaders that have aroused our powers. Every time a president has led and led for a good cause, we have followed, and we have solved our problems. Hoover said we couldn't solve the Depression. Roosevelt said we could, and we did. My late mentor, Hubert Humphrey, had to spend 10 years of his life persuading first a doubting Democratic Party and then a doubting nation that we could establish justice and end racial discrimination in this land. And because he led, because he knew it could be done, because his leadership inspired us, we did in fact walk into the bright sunshine of human rights.
That is the kind of leadership we need in this country again today. But that's not what's happening. Our president isn't leading; he's just tagging along. Today, we have 12 million unemployed, and his advice is that they vote with their feet. Businesses are failing, and he tells them to adopt another worker. As our arms-control policy unravels, he blames the press. This isn't going to work. Our nation only moves ahead with leadership, and that's what we need today.
Right now, if I were president, I would chop these deficits down by scaling the defense budget to reality. I would slam the lid on hospital costs and inflation. I would repeal or delay the indexation of taxes, and I would reduce scheduled tax cuts for the wealthy.
Right now, today, I would meet with the Federal Reserve Board and insist that they agree with me on an accord that would permit this economy to undertake long-term sustained economic growth.
Right now, today, I would convene an international economic summit conference, and I would urge all the major economies of the world, including our own, to begin a policy of economic growth that would permit expanded trade, the reemployment of millions of workers, and relief for the vulnerable economies, of the world. Right now, today, as president, I would press our nation to compete again. I would bolster entrepreneurs and small businesses; toughen our trade policy; pull labor and management together to restructure basic industries.
And right now, today, I would, as president, pursue the cause which I have served all my life -- which is becoming more and more obviously the basic need or our country. And that is to bet on trained manpower as the single most important security that our nation has in the future. I would build our schools by increasing their resources; by insisting on excellence; and by honoring our teachers who are on the front line of the whole educational system.
Right now, today as president, I would cancel the Clinch River Breeder Reactor and would take the $5 billion that we saved, and I would invest it in the great centers of research in our country -- our great universities and our colleges -- and give them the computers, the laboratories, the graduates, the things that they need to move this nation out front and keep America number one in basic science.
Right now, today, I would repropose the Equal Rights Amendment, and I would pledge that I will get that thing ratified -- in the Constitution where it's supposed to be.
Right now, today, I would fire James Watt and Ann Gorsuch. I'd call Mo Udall and take his choice and put him in charge of that (Interior) department.
Right now, right now, today, I would call for Martin Luther King's birthday to be a national holiday on which Americans would concentrate on the issues of justice in America.
Right now, today, the 100th anniversary of our civil service, I would try as president to stop the ridiculing and deriding of the services of millions of decent Americans who are public servants and honor them for their work and their service to all of us.
Right now, today, I would return America, unashamedly, to the cause of human rights, and I would speak up for the oppressed. I would speak up for Scharansky and Sakharov and Walensa and the other people of this world who need our help and our hope.
Right now, today, I would declare the control of nuclear weapons the most solemn of all responsibilities. Right now, today, I would send SALT II to the Senate and demand its ratification. I would resume talks to reach an agreement on a comprehensive test ban. I would announce that we would not tamper with the ABM treaty, and I would reimpose control over the distribution of weapons-grade nuclear material to stop the proliferation of weapons.
Right now, I'd get on that hot line -- and I know right where that hot line is and how to punch those buttons, 'cause I've been there -- and I'd say this: "Dear Mr. Andropov, please meet me in Geneva this afternoon, and let's sit down and do some work to bring some easing of tensions."
Sure, the Soviet leaders are cynical and oppressive. We have toden know the nature of our adversaries. But we also know that the very survival of mankind requires that we do everything we can to reach out in a strong way to reduce tensions with the Soviet Union. And while I was talking with him, I would speak up for Mr. Scharansky while his life was still with us. I would speak up for emigration, and I would say, "Mr. Andropov, can't we, in the name of all humanity, sit down right now and negotiate a verifiable mutual freeze on nuclear weapons?"
This Democratic Party has responsibilities that are outsized. You Californians come from the biggest state in the union. What you decide to do, how you decide to do it, whether you do it all, will have a lot to say about where this nation goes.
In Mr. Reagan's declaration of his candidacy, he took a part of John Winthrop's famous sermon to the Puritans on the Arabella nearly 300 years ago. You will recall when John Winthrop entered what is now Boston harbor -- after nearly two months at sea with the Puritans who were fleeing discrimination against their faith in Europe -- he gave what is perhaps the most famous sermon in American history. He told these Puritans, none of whom knew what their life would be, what he expected of them and what they might expect. And when he finished his sermon, he said let us make what we're about to establish -- a city on the hill.
Mr. Reagan intoned that magnificent vision in his acceptance address, but he omitted part of the sermon. He omitted John Winthrop's instructions as to how they could make it a city on the hill. And not only did he miss it in his speech -- that vital element has been missing from his presidency.
I want to close my brief remarks by reviewing those words that John Winthrop said. "We must strengthen, defend, preserve and comfort each other. We must love one another. We must bear one another's burdens. We must not look only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethern. We must rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together." And he closed his sermon by saying, "We must be knit together by a bond of love."
So, we have been before -- so we must be again.