Touching the Angels Who Won't Touch Back

Commentary by Pete du Pont

We just witnessed the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. If ever a political convention reflected the city's nickname, this had to be the event. Now, the Democratic National Convention begins in Los Angeles, the City of Angels. If Vice President Al Gore intends to become the next President of the United States, he will need more than a City of Angels to overcome the impressive 11-point post-convention bounce that Republican nominee George W. Bush received earlier this month.

By the looks of the poll numbers, Americans liked the positive messages of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Republicans maintained a "Big Tent" attitude and included diversity in their daily programming schedules. We saw people of different races, backgrounds, and opinions. But we also saw agreement on issues, and support for change.

To counter the Republicans and bolster their own messages, the Gore-Lieberman campaign and the national party have called in some of the biggest stars in the firmament: Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, Kenny Rogers, Cher, Stevie Wonder, and Boyz II Men. But Al Gore is going to need more than stars and Angels between now and November.

In Los Angeles, the Democrats' intended messages are being based on the nation's growing prosperity and booming economy. "Continue the Prosperity," "Expand the Opportunity," and "Protect the Family" are the themes we have been told we will be hearing from Los Angeles over and over again.

To gain ground, Gore needs to stay on message - prosperity, opportunity and family - and come forth with some Big Solutions. What should America do with its multi-trillion dollar surplus? Al Gore's Big Solution is beat up the wealthy with higher taxes! What should America do to save Social Security and Medicare? Beat up on the doctors and scare the senior citizens! What should we do about America's failing grades in providing public education? Beat up on parochial schools and blame Newt Gingrich!

The Clinton-Gore tactics for the past eight years have always been the same. Beat somebody up. Scare the pants off them. Blame someone else. Where has this approach gotten Al Gore so far this summer? About 17 points behind Bush before the conventions began.

Vice President Gore needs to try another approach. He needs to lecture less and explain more. He must keep criticism to a minimum and begin to lead. We need to hear less about Al Gore and more about Al Gore's solutions for improving America. We hunger for the details on how the Democrats intend to continue the prosperity, expand the opportunity, and protect the family.

Al Gore and his running mate Joe Lieberman will fly into LAX with a lot of baggage that the Hollywood community wishes would be lost in transit. As a Senate wife, Tipper Gore chose objectionable music lyrics as her meritorious cause and helped push for warning labels on tapes and CDs. Parents loved it, but the recording industry hated it. Now, the executives of Time-Warner and Sony and the parents of other recording studios will be expected to contribute, wine, and dine, and otherwise play the perfect hosts to the Democratic ticket.

And look what's inside Joe Lieberman's baggage: He had the courage and has made a career of castigating the movie and television industry for the violence, gratuitous sex, foul language, and overall immorality which streams into cineplexes and our living rooms every night. How will the Hollywood moguls greet this icon of family protection? How will teachers' unions react to his school choice legislation? Labor to his free trade ideas and his conservative economic philosophy?

For nearly a week, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman will be center stage in a community that represents much of what these two men believe is wrong with America today. The two men have different beliefs about many things, none of which will be explored in the City of Angels but all of which will be carefully looked at in the fall campaign. That is when we will see which campaign team has the ideas on prosperity, family and opportunity that will appeal to the most Americans.



The NCPA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public policy organization. We depend entirely on the financial support of individuals, corporations and foundations that believe in private sector solutions to public policy problems.