Seeking new ideas

Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2000

The following editorial appeared in todays edition of the Chicago Tribune: Al Gore gets his chance tonight to rescue what has been a curiously flat Democratic National Convention. This was supposed to be a gathering to build confidence in the prospect of a Gore presidency; instead, it has drawn attention to a Democratic Party that is a bundle of contradictions.

Wednesday night, the Democrats heard from a vice-presidential nominee who has been stripped of his most appealing quality, his independent streak. Before his acceptance speech, Joseph Lieberman made the rounds of liberal constituency groups in Los Angeles, promising that his heretical views on education and Social Security will be safely locked away for the duration of a Gore-Lieberman administration. Democrats afraid of new ideas could breathe a sigh of relief.

Gore will accept the nomination for president tonight, yet his campaign in Los Angeles still seems to be trying to win the Democratic primaries. Gore turned the Tuesday convention activities over to the liberal wing of the party, which apparently still feels it has not pounded the centrist tendencies of Gore-Lieberman into submission. The left got its night, but oddly enough, Gore kept the Democrats finest orator, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, out of prime television time.

Plenty of paradoxes, few answers. Gore promises to offer the answers tonight, with lots of details.

This promise of details is supposed to be a slap at Republican George W. Bushs instinct to present his policy views in broad strokes. Details? What people want to hear from Gore is a sense of direction. Is he bold enough to take the risks Bill Clinton did to push the Democratic Party on a centrist path? There has been no convincing evidence of that in Los Angeles.

Bush, by contrast, made a strong argument that he is ready to assert control of his party, to take it in a direction that has faith in conservative principles but recognizes government cant ignore societys problems.

For all the gifted rhetoric of Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson, the most compelling words from either convention so far have been Bushs vow to rescue children from poor-performing schools and the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The vice president tonight no doubt will spend much of his time taking credit for prosperity. Yet, showy statistics dont always tell the whole story about the go-go 90s. There is lingering poverty and hunger, there is a yawning education gap in America that must be addressed in new ways.

Gore professes to be a new Democrat. After three days in Los Angeles, the Democratic Party has yet to offer one new idea, new theme, new notion, new direction.

Here is Gores chance. Lets hear it.

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