Vice President Walter Mondale and Rep. Jack Kemp were recently asked by Meg Greenfield, editorial page editor, to talk about the way things are likely to turn out for the Reagan administration. In particular, they were asked to speculate on the next inauguration.
A: Well, first of all, I think that President Reagan and Vice President Bush will have been reelected. And I think that because I think the policies they have prescribed for restoring the U.S. economy and stabilizing the budget and bringing down interest rates and inflation and restoring levels of economics growth and job opportunities will have been successful. Now this is what the American people want most at this moment: the chance for a widely shared prosperity.
Conversely, if we do not bring about that road to full employment without inflation, I think the very voters who swept us in in 1980 will sweep us back out -- in 1982 and 1984.
Q: How will we know whether you're getting there? What are the signs of success along the way?
A: The 1982 election will give us a good indicator of how the Republican Party is doing. If we are on the right road given Reagan's agenda for this widely shared prosperity, if the economic indicators in terms of interest rates and inflation are coming down and employment opportunities are rising and it reaches up swiftly to the Northeast and to urban areas and to blacks, it seems to me the same realignment that happened in 1934 could very well lead to Republican dominance for the next decade.
Q: You must be assuming widespread support from those who at least since the '30s have been Democratic constituents. How does Ronald Reagan, for example, get black support?
A: Well, I think clearly by identifying the Republican Party once again as a party of civil rights. There's no doubt in my mind that our party has to make sure that those doors that have been opened by the law are not closed by the economy in the '80s. So in effect, the civil rights strategy for the Republican Party in the '80s is to protect those legal gains that have been made by minorities, but then shift the emphasis in the civil rights strategy toward an expanding pie. That means reaching out to the cities in terms of establishing high levels of economic growth and opportunity and social justice in the inner cities.
Reagan's line in his acceptance speech to the Republican Party of Detroit, in which he said we must all move ahead, that we can't afford to leave anybody behind, as exactly right. Real leadership is predicated upon a concern for not just the whole, but the least into that whole -- the stray, the indigent, the handicapped, poor and oppressed. I would like to see my party not be a party of just the middle class, but a party of consensus.
I don't want to sound like an economic determinist, but I'm convinced that the needs of all of the American people, if not the needs of the rest of the world, are inextricably linked to economic opportunity and social mobility and what we used to call the American Dream. It is not unique to America; it's something that people want everywhere.
Q: What could get in the way of this success? How committed do you think a Reagan government will be to the particular economic ideas that you speak for and think are crucial in this effort?
A: As soon as you asked me what I thought could get in the way, the word that cause to my mind was "timidity." Trepidation. Defeatism. The status quo. President-elect Reagan said many times that status quo was Latin for the mess we're in. And I've always liked that.
Once you take power, the forces that say, "Don't change, don't do anything, don't follow out your agenda," seem to take over. But the one thing I think those of us who want to move quickly and dramatically and boldly have going for us is Ronald Reagan himself. I believe he is committed -- intellectually, emotionally, politically and in every other way -- to that type of decisiveness that MacArthur talked about when he said that in order to establish authority, precipitate action immediately. I think there's going to be immediate action along the lines that the Republican platform and Ronald Reagan talked about all the way through the campaign.
Q: There's a certain amount of reistance and hesitation now within the Reagan group concerning these ideas, a sense that maybe they'd better wait a while, reconsider, back off.
"A: Yes. Exactly what happened to Margaret Thatcher. All the promises were made, the election was won, the stock market in the U.K. had gone up dramatically -- almost 25 percent in real terms. And all of a sudden they got in power and they said: "Oh, the problems are so overwhelming maybe we'd better put off a second, third and fourth year of our tax reform and maybe we might not reduce the budget deficit quite as much, and maybe we shouldn't denationalize this industry as quickly as we thought." And all of a sudden their consensus had literally been lost.
In the morning paper, the article by the Carter' economic advisers gave the impression that inflation is intractable and endemic to democracy; that these problems are overwhelming. Reagan won his election on the basis that he would say: "No, those problems have been caused by government policies; they can be changed."
Q:What about prospective obstacles from abroad to Reagan's success?
A: Again, I don't want to overstate my economic thesis. And I'm not suggesting that the Iran/Iraq problem would be cured by the United States' conducting sound monetary policy. But I think our strengthening our own economy would once again allow the United States to conduct a sounder foreign policy. We would have more credibility. People would have more faith in our word: the more progress we could show for the United States as well as some of our allies and friends and democracies in the West and throughout the Third World, the more illiberal the Soviet model would look.
Incidentally, though, I think the United States has as much control over the price of oil as does Sheik Yamani. Our land-use policies, our domestic price controls, our steady devaluation of the U.S. dollar have done as much to cause and aggravate our energy problem as anything the Saudis have done.
Q: What about the element in the Republican Party or the Reagan majority that is zealous, very conservative, evangelical? How will they view that broad social appeal you have laid out?
A: well, I think they too share a desire to see this happen. But I really think the social fabric of the nation is based upon good will and when the pie is shrinking, when you perceive that your gain must come at my expense or that my gain is coming at your expense, then this whole special-interest environment builds up. Blacks have to be more separate in order to organize themselves to protect themselves against what they perceive to be a threat to their survival. And labor unions must be more interested in their union membership in order to protect themselves against what they fear to be a shrinking of their piece of pie. Business speaks only for business. The cities of the Northeast are pitted against the Sun Belt and New York thinks it must advance by mugging another part of the country.
I think much of the good will in our society is based upon the belief that we can all advance together. Ultimately, the debates over busing and abortion and birth control, will take place in an environment in which people don't have this perception that it's white versus black, rich versus poor, labor versus capital, and the Northeast versus the Sun Belt.
Q: Do you think the Democrats will have to move further to the right to challenge you next time? What would they have to do to catch you?
A: If we can't achieve a more widely shared prosperity, if we can't bring living standards among blacks and Hispanics and the poor and women and the Northeast up to acceptable standards in terms of bringing about these hopes, then I think he next move in this country will be toward more government intervention. If there's no growth possible in the private sector, then I think they will vote for growth of the state.
The Democratic Party, God bless them, understand redistribution of wealth. They don't understand expanding the wealth or, you know, they don't understand growth per se. So our party should be a party of growth; let them be the party of redistribution.
But if we don't bring about that growth, if we don't bring about the expansion of the economy in jobs and output and production and productivity and savings rates and investment rates and prosperity, then the people out there will vote in the party that promises to redistribute wealth.
Q: Assuming for purposes of argument that the new president doesn't choose to run again, what kind of succession politics do you see?
A: I really foresee him running in '84.
Q: You do?
A: I really do. I think clearly he will be the candidate in '84. What is the question? Who would it be if not Reagan?
Q: Yes. Would Jack Kemp be available?
A: Jack Kemp smiles. I'm not going to get into that. I'll say one thing: it won't be worth very much in '84 if we haven't done what we said we'd do. That's the first thing. And I think Reagan will have done those things. So I think he and George Bush are in for eight years.
Q: What about 1988?
A: I'll tell you then.