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Democrats' Agendas

July 21, 1996

* Re "Liberals Surrender Without a Peep," Commentary, July 9:

Ross Baker criticized the "Families First" agenda of congressional Democrats for "mildness, even blandness," but erred in his fundamental assumption that congressional Democrats are "over- whelmingly liberal." They are not. They largely are moderates and incrementalists, which is precisely the nature of the agenda. Even so, its enactment still would represent steps forward for America, rather than the wholesale retreat from 60 years of economic and social progress that Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans have proposed.

Americans for Democratic Action, the nation's oldest independent liberal organization, adopted "A Liberal Platform for 1996 and Beyond" on the same weekend that the "Families First" agenda was released. It projects a broader, more long-range vision than the agenda, and marks the terrain over which liberals must work to move the nation, let alone the president and Congress, as we enter the 21st century.

Baker is wrong to believe that liberals should have challenged President Clinton in the primaries this year in order to move him to the left. Challenges to incumbent Democratic presidents in 1968 and 1980 only elected Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. ADA helped organize those challenges. In contrast, last January, ADA endorsed Clinton for reelection: the first time in its almost 50-year history that it has endorsed an incumbent during the primary season. At that time, I declared that liberals and moderates needed to join together to fight the Republican conservative extreme for "the vital center" of American politics. Liberals will not move forward if we lose that battle.

JACK SHEINKMAN

National President, ADA

Washington

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