Next task for Democrats: cementing factions
New York — It will take much more than Ted Kennedy's say-so to get Democratic liberals, blacks, feminists, Jews, and laborites fully behind Jimmy Carter for 1980. The President's problems with these Democratic factions in the hinterlands -- whose delegates founded the core of Senator Kennedy's frustrated challenge here at the convention -- run more deeply than any "unity" symbolism can reach, both Carter and Kennedy backers say.
As for Senator Kennedy himself, reaching accommodation with Mr. Carter is more a matter of setting a tone of cordial accord -- or a gentlemen's pact of understood disagreement -- rather than winning Carter initials on specific Kennedy liberal positions, his campaign strategists say.
Pragmatism will prevail, say some Democratic activist leaders -- particularly unionists -- who predict fears about Ronald Reagan as president will outweigh a lack of grass-roots enthusiasm for Jimmy Carter.
But others see the liberal rank and file's tepid attachment to the Georgian keeping them hom Election Day. And in a close race -- in key states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan -- the threatened voter boycott could mean defeat.
"The tendency for blacks will be to stay home," says K. Leroy Irvis, Democratic leader of Pennsylvania's House of Representatives. Mr. Irvis, only the second black speaker in the nation at the state level, is a Carter delegation leader in New York.
"Blacks all over, not just in Pennsylvania, are upset that Carter has not delivered," Irvis says. "I preach realism: The alternative is Reagan. Carter is going to be middle-of-the-road, and many liberals don't like that. It'll be a tough fight."
Jews, politically influential in the Northeast, also have problems with Carter that go beyond the suspended Kennedy candidacy.
"Many liberals in may part of the country are Jewish," says Lenora Berson, a Pennsylvania chairwoman for the Americans for Democratic Action and a Kennedyite. "We feel a profound unease every time a Carter relative goes to the Mideast.
"We're uneasy also with Ronald Reagan, who's been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. If John Anderson becomes for real, he'll do well in the liberal community. If he fades, there'll still be a low turnout and little support for Carter."
Jobs are the symbolic turnout issue for blacks in Ohio, a must state for Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Says Laurence Nelson, a black Comprehensive Employment and Training Act director from Dayton and a Carter delegate, "The fact Kennedy hung in as long as he did pushed the President in a more liberal direction." But Carter has not yet been pushed far enough to stir Ohio blacks to vote.
"It worries me," Mr. Nelson says. "Carter will have to show them a meaningful program. Teh biggest need for blacks is jobs. Basic issues like health care, housing, and education are important, too, and Carter's not been able to get these programs through Congress.
"Carter has less black support in Ohio today than he did four years ago," Nelson says. Black precincts in west Dayton alone gave Carter a 19,000 majority -- in a state he won by on 11,000 votes.
"Now, unless an awful lot of work is done, he won't even get 19,000 votes in west Dayton," Nelson says. "Blacks won't vote for Reagan. They just won't vote."
Kansas Gov. John Carlin, a Carterite, sees low enthusiasm levels eroding even moderate support. The President's moderate platform and policies are "consistent with Kansas," although it's a state Reagan is expected to cary. Carter's weak drawing would hurt the rest of the Democratic ticket in Kansas unless the state party works hard to turn out their voters.
Rhode Island delegate Richard Licht -- a state senator and Kennedy backer -- sees "a healing process under way" at the New York convention. "We liberals have had few victories," he adds.
"Carter has a lot of work to do to take Rhode Island," Mr. Licht says. "He's weak throughout the state, and not just with Catholics. In a recent poll, he got . . . only 22 percent [of the vote] statewide. Reagan got 38 percent.
"Carter won Rhode Island with 64 percent in 1976. If he can't win Rhode Island big, he can't win the country.
"It's across the board dissatisfaction, not just a single issue in Rhode Island. It's the lack of leadership."
South Bronx Hispanic leader Herman Badillo says flatly Carter will have to do more than make platform concessions to get the Hispanic vote.
"He did not keep his promises for '76, urban aid for the South Bronx," says Kennedyite Badillo. "It's very grim. There's no enthusiasm for Carter. [ Carter people] think Democratics won't vote for Reagan. But there's another possibility: A lot of people just won't vote at all in New York City. I think Carter's going to lose New York."
Michigan liberals and labor people will gravitate toward independent John Anderson in the fall, says Kennedy delegate Donald Tucker, a Detroit lawyer. But many will stay with Carter, he predicts.
"There was a lot of hardball played in the Kennedy-Carter fight in Michigan," he says. "But this is a state with a lot of big league hardball players.
It's still too early for overt labor support. Labor leaders will meet a week or two after the convention. There will be universal support for Carter."
Women's movement leaders, many of whom backed Kennedy, have doubts about Carter, a patchup which Kennedy cannot repair. They were pleased Carter "pulled off his whips" and allowed the floor to push through two women's planks -- federal funding for abortion, and the withdrawl of party funds from candidates who don't support the ERA.
"The platform puts him in a different position," says Karen Mulhauser, executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). "He can't send lobbyists to Congress to support the Hyde amendment [which restricts federal funds for abortions]".
Women's activists see the greater danger in Reagan, who opposes abortion and federal funding for abortion. "Reagan could appoint two to four Supreme Court justices if he's elected, determining abortion policy into the next century," the NARAL's Mulhauser says. The feminists' fallback candidate is not Carter but Anderson, she says. Her organization's political unit has already given Anderson the maximum $10,000.