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The Lesson for Democrats

September 30, 1986

How could columnist David S. Broder get the exact opposite "lesson of 1984" (that the Democratic Party must move more centrist)? This is precisely why Walter Mondale lost. As Mark Green, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in New York, prophetically said in his 1982 book, "Winning Back America": "If Democrats should try to imitate much of Reagan Republicanism . . . the public will choose the genuine article over the pale imitation."

And yet Mondale was the first Democratic candidate since the New Deal not to have a jobs program. He obstinately fought against Gary Hart's no-first-strike peace plank.

We know where Broder stands politically--we can see by his slanted words: "Mark Green, whose stock in trade is bashing big business . . . "

Broder wants us to believe that Maryland's Democratic candidate for the Senate, Rep. Barbara A. Mikulski's feminism is contrary to centrist policy, and then you have the statement that while Rep. Bob Edgar of Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, opposes aid to the contras , his opponent took "a harder -line."

On Mikulski, since the Harris poll tells us that more than 60% of Americans favor the equal rights amendment, it is unclear how feminism could be a liability to either party. As for hard lines, why is contempt for your fellow man always considered "being tough" to Republicans?

Broder warns, "In all 15 races the Democrat will clearly be to the left of his or her Republican opponent." He's right--this is not only "being Democrats," it's also smart politics.

When he claims that leaders advocated a back-to-the-center strategy, which leaders is he referring to? As I glance at the polls nationwide (and see Democrats more than holding their own in congressional races) I can only assume that he is talking about the "Republican" leaders' idea of where the Democrats should move.

Broder's right about one thing, though. The party does have a conflict, but this involves the age-old tension between John Kennedy's vision and Hubert Humphrey's stalwart labor support, not whether the party should be liberal or not.

The true lesson of 1984 was that only Ronald Reagan could be Ronald Reagan and expect to win an election in America. This is a lesson that the Republicans (and not the Democrats) may find staring them in the face over the next two years.

M. KEVIN TUTOR

Hermosa Beach

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