Since 1932, the Democratic Party has transformed the agenda of American politics -- by rescuing capitalism from its near collapse, by making the industrial system more humane for the American worker, by introducing banking reforms to protect the savings of millions of Americans, by integrating black Americans and other minorities into the mainstream of American life and, in foreign policy by working toward an open, free and secure international order. The Democrats have provided the American people with transfusions of purpose when the country was tested -- in the Great Depression, in World War II, in meeting the postwar challenge of communism and in the struggle for civil rights. The Democrats have stood for the hope of America.
In 1980, time ran out on the Democratic Party. The promises kept to two generations of Americans faded when the promise of the future was no longer defined. The defeat was clear, but it's very magnitude and its shock contain the seeds of opportunity.
The Democratic Party has been suffering from slow erosion -- an erosion without a rallying point to prevent it. The shock of the 1980 election should give the Democrats impetus to look beyond their party's past. Free of power, the Democrats can free themselves from what they were becoming -- the party of government rather than the party that would govern. In short, the Democrats are positioned more tha ever before to start anew, to attract back their traditional supporters, to rebuild the party and redefine their vision of America for the rest of this century.
Organizationally, the Democratic Party must begin with patient grass-roots work in every precinct, identifiying and giving energy to an entire new generation of leaders. The Democrats must strengthen their base and then expand back into the half of America that does not vote, or even register. That may be the real road to long-term political leadership, for if only about one-fourth of the nation's eligible voters actually voted for Ronald Reagan, there exists an enormous untapped pool of possible support and latent political leadership to which the Democrats can turn. The Republicans have come back from the Goldwater defeat and Watergate. If the Democrats fail now, it will not be for lack of opportunity.
The most immediate task is to choose a new chairman to rebuild the party, to create a structure independent of any ideological wing of the party and independent of any candidate with designs on 1984. Willingness to work for the party now should be the litmus test for anyone who would presume to receive the presidential nomination four years hence. If we seek at this point a leader for 1984, we will be diverted from the hard task of constructing the foundation without which the nomination will be of no value.
Loyalty and unity must be precepts for the new Democratic Party of the 1980s. In the last decade, single-interest politics has been a growing cancer on the purpose and strength of the party as well as the nation. Party discipline is a fundamental requirement if Democrats are to be more than a collection of special-interest constituencies working at cross-purposes. The hard fact today is that Democratic officeholders must stand together or they will crawl alone.
But organization, loyalty and unity cannot complete the formulation. If Democrats are to give energy to America's untapped pool of political support and leadership, if they are not to let their opponents define what they stand for and, in so doing, lose their own meaning, then the Democratic Party must rebuild it's philosophical base as well. Democrats, even in the wake of the 1980 shock, are stirring intellectually once more. But these attempts to redefine the direction for America will be ineffective unless we can unify them into a coherent, articulated philosophy and program for national leadership.
The developments must be reversed. By the 1980 election, the Republican Party had become the location of energetic political thought and had come to represent the optimism of America. The Democrats do not need Republican solutions, but they do need to address what troubles America, and address it with confidence.
The party should look ahead at the next two decades, address the central problems that will face America and then organize to deal with each of them: promoting economic productivity and rejuvenation, providing social and economic security for all Americans without creating a government out of control, balancing the requirements of arms and the control of arms, devising a comprehensive strategy to deal with the Soviet Union, charting a course in the Third World, harnessing our inventiveness and the strength to sacrifice in order to address energy and resource scarcities.
These issues speak to our country's future. They require enlisting the intellectual capital of America that for years has drifted away from the Democratic Party. They involve trade-offs of goals; all will conflict in some way with the Democratic past. But each can find a common ground for unity. For example, environmental concerns coincide with national security if we look ahead at the alarming depletion of America's crop land through erosion and unplanned growth.
Above all, the Democratic Party will earn the right to lead America again if its program restores in our people a sense of control over their lives. The feeling of inability to affect one's destiny is pervasive in America today. The Republicans have ridden to power upon it; let the Democrats be the party to find its solution.
American and Democrat have always meant for me promise and hope. This is the uniqueness of our country and that will be the future of our party. The business of America and the Democratic Party is unfinished. The energies of both need only direction for the coming years to be -- to paraphrase Winston Churchill -- not the beginning of the end, but only the end of the beginning.