WASHINGTON — AFTER decades of bitter infighting about social and foreign policy, Democrats are coalescing around a 1992 platform that has one major emphasis: economic growth.
Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the party's presumptive presidential nominee, says the platform can help put him into the White House by showing that Democrats intend to do things "in a different way."
At a breakfast meeting with reporters on Thursday, Mr. Clinton said the goal of the platform will be to convince Americans that Democrats want "real political reform," economic investment, and genuine change. If they can achieve that, he says, voters will say: "Hey, that really is different. That's a new Democratic Party." Behind the scenes, some pulling and tugging still is taking place prior to final adoption of the platform language. Ted Van Dyk, a representative of Paul Tsongas on the platform-writin g committee, is pushing for several significant changes in the current language.
The most controversial would be a plank calling for new legislation to protect the civil liberties of persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
Clinton aides, noting that the rights of homosexuals are already supported elsewhere in the platform, oppose the Tsongas proposal.
In some cases, Clinton has compromised - if somewhat reluctantly - to solidify support within the party. He has dropped his demand, for example, for an immediate middle-class tax cut. Former Senator Tsongas, one of Clinton's major rivals for the nomination, had ridiculed the tax cut at a time of $400 billion budget deficits. At the breakfast meeting, Clinton still clung to the hope that something can be done for middle-class taxpayers.
"Because of the six or seven increases in Social Security taxes in the last 12 years, middle-class taxes have gone up while middle-class incomes have gone down," he notes. "The reverse is true of upper incomes. And I think something needs to be done about it."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut, a Clinton ally on the platform committee, says the platform will show that Democrats are making adjustments in four areas where they had lost touch with the American people. He observes that the platform emphasizes economic growth rather than redistribution, security (against both crime and foreign aggressors), values such as personal responsibility, and the need to shake up the status quo in Washington.