Massachusetts Democrats are eyeing a leading role in helping their national party pick up the political pieces after its drubbing in last November's presidential election. A statewide convention to shape a new platform for Bay State Democrats, embracing both national and local issues, will be held in mid-May.
Similarly in the works are a series of forums on future directions of the party, in which a parade of prominent Democrats -- governors, senators, congressmen, mayors, political scientists, and others -- will participate. The forums, designed to get party members thinking and talking about ways to strengthen their party, are to begin this spring. US Rep. Chester G. Atkins, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, says the meetings, to be held at various locations around the state, will focus on national issues.
James Roosevelt Jr., a Cambridge lawyer and grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, has been tapped to put together the programs, which are to feature some of the party's top talent.
Although the intent of the forums clearly is to help develop strategies to broaden the party's appeal in both the 1986 congressional elections and the 1988 presidential election, they can also be expected to showcase at least some potential White House contenders.
Mr. Atkins notes that -- next to Walter Mondale's majorities in his native Minnesota and Washington, D.C. -- the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee got his biggest percentage vote here (48.6 percent). Thus, the state chairman holds, it is particularly appropriate for Massachusetts Democrats to take the initiative in getting the party ``moving in the right direction.''
With Democrats in overwhelming control of both legislative chambers and holding all statewide offices, Massachusetts has seemed to be headed toward becoming a one-party state. But the Republicans made slight gains in both the state Senate and House last November.
Democratic leaders are hoping to involve a substantial number of party members at the grass-roots level in building the new state platform.
``Our party is a lot less divided now than it was,'' asserts party chairman Atkins, crediting Gov. Michael S. Dukakis with having played a major role in solidifying Bay State Democrats.