The Democratic Party has traditionally rejected laissez-faire economic and social policy and believed that government should help ensure a sound economy.
The Democratic programs of the last five decades are accomplishing many of their goals. But they are such accepted parts of our system they no longer are reminders to elect Democrats. Voters today are looking for solutions to the new problems of persistent inflation and inefficient delivery of public services.
I believe that President Carter will be seen to have achieved significant domestic accomplishments. He enriched and adapted the Democratic Party's traditions to the new realities of the 1980s.
He got the nation to recognize the centrality of our energy crisis to our national security.
He saw a need to stimulate the bureaucracy and substantially reduce federal regulation. As a result, he regulated major sectors of the economy and achieved civil service reform.
He kept faith with the party's social traditions while facing the harsh new reality of stagflation.
The election of 1980 sent an unmistakable message. The taxpayers of America -- the great American middle class -- are frustrated at persistent high inflation and its corrosive impact and at heavy pockets of unemployment in basic industries that are losing their competitive edge. Many believe the Democratic Party lost touch with their concerns.
The Democratic Party must take these concerns seriously. In our legitimate passion to represent the dispossessed -- which I strongly share -- we must also concentrate on the concerns of the middle class who pay for the programs for the disadvantaged.
First, the party must achieve a greater degree of political and intellectual cohesion. It must reassert its role as a harmonizer and compromiser. It has been debilitated by the false glorification of independence from party labels, the primary system, television's impact, the exclusion of elected officials from the nominating process, the growing financial influence of political action committees and single issue groups.
The party's rules should be revised so every Democratic congressman, senator and governor is automatically a voting delegate to the convention and participates in all facets of the convention process.
The platform must not become the sum total of the maximum demands of every group. Greater congressional input will instill a greater sense of balance in the platform and a greater sense of congressional responsibility to implement it.
Caps should be enacted on the maximum conribution candidates for Congress can accept from political action committees, while limits should be eliminated for giving through the national committees.
The party must make a special effort to avoid becoming a regional party. We cannot cede the states west of the Mississippi to the opposition and expect to win national elections.
Second, the Democratic Party must give its primary focus to the development of policies that lead to non-inflationary, balanced growth. We must reject a no-growth philosophy.
We must recognize that sustained growth can not come without controlling inflation. High inflation breeds public fear of the future, high interest rates, an uncertain investment climate, depleted savings and, ultimately, high unemployment.
Now is the time we must rethink our policies. We must shift our emphasis from consumption-oriented stimulus policies, which, during past times of low inflation, kept unemployment low, to policies that encourage greater investment in productivity of both capital and labor.
Government should be a partner with the private sector in dealing with both inflation and unemployment. It can develop income policies to moderate inflationary wage and price behavior and use tax reductions to encourage such behavior.
Third, we must reduce government-created constraints in the free market while still protecting consumers from those who abuse the market and the helpless from the market's negative impacts. We need an active federal government to protect civil rights, secure social advances, develop creative economic policies. But we must demonstrate a willingness to remove the government from certain sectors of American life.
Democrats can remain true to their traditional concern for the disadvantaged and the consumer while still reducing the heavy hand of goverment from the marketplace.
In decontrolling crude oil, Democrats championed a windfall profits tax to recycle some of the revenues derived from decontrol for broader public use.
Just as we should seek a less intrusive federal role in economic regulation, we should continue to avoid government intrusion in the private lives of individuals.
Fourth, we must not retreat from our commitments to social and economic justice, but we must convince Americans their tax dollars are going for well-run programs that effectively deliver services to their beneficiaries.
We must avoid the erroneous thinking, on the one hand, that our problems have come because all of our programs have failed or, on the other, that we will succeed if we simply promise more new programs.
To regain a mandate for continued progress, we must:
stoutly defend against any onslaught those New Deal, Great Society and Carter programs that are working;
assure the nation that adequate resources exist for new programs; and
put equal energy into modifying those programs that are not effectively delivering services, just as Democrats should fight to preserve and expand programs that do work.
I believe our party will again command the support of a majority of Americans -- sooner than some doom-sayers may believe.