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Sunday, August 31, 2008

"The Ferraro Factor"

The National Review, August 10, 1984. This all sounds very familiar:

II. The Ferraro Factor Walter Mondale had to do something to halt the hemorrhaging in the polls that had been taking place since he sewed up the nomination. Geraldine Ferraro appears to have accomplished this, at least for the time being. Walter Mondale, perhaps for the first time in his political career, has done something interesting, and everyone has paused to assess it.

Announcing a vice presidential choice prior to the convention was not an entirely new idea. Ronald Reagan made a similar dramatic move in 1976, and for roughly similar reasons. As it became clear that Reagan was narrowly failing to catch President Ford in the delegate count, erosion began to take place among Reagan's own delegates. He had to do something, and he named Richard Schweiker. This was so unexpected that it stopped the erosion and even added some suspense to the Kansas City Convention.

The preliminary assessment of Geraldine Ferraro among political professionals is that she probably represents a modest plus for the ticket, but that she is also capable of talking first and thinking about it only later, and is a potential embarrassment on that account. (See also "For the Record.") The choice of a woman in itself does add a touch of color to an otherwise drab Mondale operation, and Mrs. Ferraro at once appeases the feminists and appears to be acceptable to Hart, Jackson, and other assorted factions.

Like much else at the convention, Mrs. Ferraro, somewhat paradoxically, reflects the impact of Reagan. The week before the convention she made a speech in St. Paul, Minnesota, stressing the themes of "family, faith, neighboorhood, and hard work" that Reagan made popular in 1980 and has continued to stress as President. Like Mario Cuomo, Mrs. Ferraro is religious, even conspicuously so, and the word "God" was mentioned more often at this convention than at all the Democratic Conventions combined since 1960. Mrs. Ferraro, like Cuomo, is an ethnic American, and patriotic, and both serve up Horatio Alger with an ethnic twist. Mrs. Ferraro is an orthodox liberal, but with some differentiation: She opposes busing, favors tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools, and though she wants to cut defense spending sharply, did support the Trident submarine, the Pershing II, and draft registration. Cosmetically, at least, she represents an effort on the part of the Democrats to recapture their old middle-class and ethnic constituencies. She does not come across as a quiche-eating McGovernite or as an erstwhile admirer of Castro or Ho. That picture of her standing on a big tree stump with a plaid-shirted, outdoorsy-looking Mondale could also have been a nice middle-class couple in a Reagan TV ad.

If naming Geraldine Ferraro represents a modest psychological plus for the Mondale campaign, it has not, so far at least, produced anything dramatic in the polls. Prior to Mrs. Ferraro's emergence as the nominee, an NBC News poll found that while 11 per cent would be more likely to vote for a Democratic ticket with a woman on it, 15 per cent would be less likely to do so. Some politicians see her selection as amounting to a virtual write-off of the South, where Mondale desperately needs to carry at least some states, and the payoff to Bert Lance for resuscitating Mondale in the Georgia primary is not likely to repair his prospects there.

The Democrats will attempt to project the issue as "whether a woman can be Vice President," a point the Republicans can cheerfully concede, returning to the question of whether this woman in particular should be the Vice-President. There was no aroma of affirmative action about the elevation of either Jeane Kirkpatrick, a distinguished scholar and writer, or Sandra Day O'Connor, a distinguished lawyer and regional political figure. The performance in office of both women has abundantly validated their selection. But Mrs. Ferraro is manifestly an affirmative-action nominee. She has been in the House only since 1979 and cannot be said, on the record, to be as qualified to be President, if necessary, as, say John Glenn, Fritz Hollings, Mo Udall, or -- George Bush. Indeed, her inexperience may be the explanation for her gaffes about Reagan's Christianity and the absence of a woman at the Last Supper. Once the euphoria wears off, she will face tough scrutiny.

And Gus Hall is pretty sore about all the publicity Mondale has been getting for this "historic choice." After all, Angela Davis has been his running-mate for more than two months.

    Posted by on Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 03:15 PM in Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (63)


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