Democratic delegates who nominated Bill Clinton and Al Gore to their national ticket last night are more liberal, more feminist, more unionist, more educated, more non-WASP and more tied to the public sector than the party membership or the nation as a whole. As such, they are not quite on the same wavelength as victorious Clintonians determined to move their party to midstream for the fall election campaign.
Whether this convention proves a success could depend on next week's polls, when party managers fervently hope Mr. Clinton will jump from the low-to-mid-30s to near 40 percent in the opinion samplings. A mid-week New York Daily News poll showed just such a jump, but with the nation awaiting tonight's ** Clinton-Gore acceptance speeches, the verdict is still out.
What makes this Democratic convention different from the blood baths of recent vintage is the lack of real contention on the floor of Madison Square Garden or in caucus rooms scattered around Manhattan. Jerry Brown has been tilting at windmills. Jesse Jackson has suffered the fate of worn edges and non-candidacy. Hero of the week is party chief Ron Brown, a consummate smoother-over, who will lose no points for making the convention so undramatic that its television ratings have plummeted.
Actually, the lower the ratings the better it was for thDemocrats on Monday and Tuesday nights. That was when the diverse groups who make the Democratic Party the big tent the GOP is not had a chance to ventilate their special causes. In virtually every convention since 1968, those Democrats who ZTC value ideological combat over election victory had their perverse wishes fulfilled. They dominated, to their party's detriment.
This time, the unlikely twosome of Bill Clinton and Ron Brown concocted another scenario. They scheduled Paul Tsongas and Mario Cuomo into last night's nominating process, culminating in a triumphant roll-call for the Clinton-Gore ticket. And tonight, when the national audience will be largest, you can count on the party standard-bearers to emphasize unity and a remarkably centrist appeal to the voters.
To be sure, Governor Cuomo spoke for the liberal faithful last night in stating that Democrats believe Americans "of whatever color, whatever creed, whatever sex, whatever sexual orientation, all of them, [are] equal members of the American family and, the neediest of them -- because of age, or illness or circumstance -- are entitled to the greatest help from the rest of us."
The core message of the Clinton campaign, though, is far more oriented toward economic growth, entrepreneurship, fiscal discipline, strong defense and other mainstream issues the Democrats have allowed the Republicans to co-opt for so many years.
This may not bring victory. But it avoids a sure formula for defeat.