When he was Democratic national chairman in...

NEW YORK --

July 17, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR

NEW YORK -- When he was Democratic national chairman in the mid-1980s, Paul Kirk of Massachusetts said he thought the 1988 ticket ought to have one Southerner on it.

I wrote here, paraphrasing Jimmy Carter, "why not the most?" That is, why not two Southerners on the ticket?

At last my dream has come true.

This has caused some criticism, even ridicule. This week I have heard the new Democratic ticket of an Arkansan and a Tennesseean referred to as "the Hillbilly Ticket" and "the Bubba Ticket" and even "the Double Bubba Ticket." That last from a Frenchman!

Some of this criticism is just political science from political scientists who have forgotten that single-region tickets are not that unusual.

Think of the United States as three regions. One section consists of the states of the old Confederacy and the Border states. One consists of the section north of those states east of the Mississippi River. The third section consists of everything else.

The Democrats have nominated a ticket from only the second of those regions five times in this century (if you count Minnesota as in it; three times if not).

That region was overwhelmingly dominant in convention delegates in the past. But now, not so much. Here in Madison Square Garden, there are 1,620 delegates from the Northeast-Midwest region, 1,366 from the South-Border region, 1,194 from the remaining states.

Some of the criticism of this ticket comes from those still suspicious of Southern politicians. If the first group of critics has forgotten the past, this group's error is the opposite. They don't understand the present.

They still think of old Southern politicians. Until now even the most respected of Southern politicians had to play the race card one way or another at one time or another.

For example, William Clinton's idol, Sen. William Fulbright of Arkansas, voted against civil rights bills in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, Albert Gore Jr.'s role model, Sen. Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee, voted against one in the 1950s.

Jimmy Carter embraced George Wallace to get to be governor of Georgia. So did Sam Nunn. Every Southern office holder over age 50 has some such skeleton in his closet.

That's the real significance of the Clinton-Gore generation. As Jesse Jackson put it this week, its members are "free at last."

* * * But William and Albert Jr. have another problem common to their generation.

They've shortened their names.

Supporters can't chant "Jess-ee, Jess-ee" and "Jimm-ee, Jimm-ee" and "Tedd-ee, Tedd-ee" and "Jerr-ee, Jerr-ee" as others have chanted all week here.

(It sounded like Memorial Stadium when Eddie Murray was still around.)

I have a suggestion. How about, "Bubb-buh, bubb-buh"?

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