I have been reading the book of politics for 35 years. For all of those 35 years (and a few before that, I suspect) "special interests" have been banks, railroads and oil companies, DuPonts, Rockefellers, etc.
They dominated government through the use of economic power and they were identified with the Republican Party--the party of shared advantage.
Balanced against the special interests were the traditional constituencies of the Democratic Party--the party of shared disadvantage. Thirty-five years ago it was working people and farmers, intellectuals and minorities. Today there are fewer farmers and more men and women working in the cities; blacks who couldn't or didn't vote 35 years ago; people with enough economic security to be worried about the safety of their planet--known as "environmentalists;" and, perhaps most important, women.
Now, suddenly, someone has turned a page of the book of politics when I wasn't looking. Political columnists and former campaign managers tell me that working people, blacks and women are not constituencies of the Democratic Party but special interests, and that concern for them makes a Democratic candidate a captive of special interests.
As black is white and up is down, surely this is the newspeak Orwell warned would come in 1984. It is hogwash. No intellectual razzle-dazzle by Europeanized political columnists and former presidential aides turned academic can alter the fact that the Democratic Party is the party of people and the Republican Party is the party of special interests. The poor, the disenfranchised, those the system uses, are "special" to Democrats. But to suggest their political leverage is on a par with the keepers of America's wealth and privilege is a mockery.
According to this new theory, the Democratic candidate for president must purge himself of any association with the interests of the constituency groups which make up the Democratic Party.
The Democratic candidate must be for merit pay because some teachers' organizations are against it.
The Democratic candidate who promises relief for the millions of Americans slipping into poverty every year that Ronald Reagan remains president is accused of having no new ideas.
The Democratic presidential candidate must prove fitness to govern by divorcing himself from affirmative action and other civil rights tools.
0 the Democratic candidate must tell union members that he supports a state right-to-work law or a subminimum wage for teen-agers in the name of "prosperity."
The Democratic nominee must come out for a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion, against the Equal Rights Amendment, against day care, and for destabilizing nuclear policies to prove his ability to govern free of women's "special interest."
Having satisfied the political analysts and abandoned virtually all traditional Democratic constituency groups, the Democratic presidential aspirant's final proof of independence would be a declaration before the Council of Jewish Presidents that, if elected, he would recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization.
If the only way that a Democratic candidate for president can deal with the education issue, with women's rights, the needs of working people and environmental protection is to come out against the positions of the organizations that represent these points of view, then we might as well reelect Ronald Reagan. Maybe that's where this idea came from in the first place.
No thanks. I'm not voting for a Democrat who abandons the people who make up the Democratic Party. Too many people who have shared disadvantage--who have traditionally shared the hopes and aspirations of all Americans--made that mistake in 1980.
And I wouldn't be too concerned about our nominee's ability to lead. We are a party that has always led from the people-- has drawn its strength from those constituencies. I'm sure we will continue to do so.