Deep down in their hearts, Michael S. Dukakis’ delegates to the Democratic National Convention agree more with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on some key issues than they do with their own candidate, especially on taxes, a Los Angeles Times/CNN survey shows.
Dukakis’ delegates are resigned to a tax increase, something Jackson favors but their own candidate opposes except as a “last resort.” They also agree with Jackson that Palestinians should be given their own homeland in Israeli-occupied territories, a stance opposed by Dukakis.
But despite these private sentiments, if convention history repeats, loyal Dukakis delegates this week generally will support their own candidate during any floor fights pressed by Jackson over platform planks.
And there are other issues where delegates pledged to Dukakis and Jackson genuinely disagree, philosophically as well as politically. For example, Dukakis’ delegates solidly support their candidate’s opposition to Jackson’s proposal for a five-year freeze on military spending.
This is one Democratic convention, the survey showed, where the party’s prospective presidential nominee has positioned himself more toward the political center than the predictably liberal delegates are. By contrast, Democratic candidates Walter F. Mondale in 1984 and George S. McGovern in 1972 mirrored more closely the liberal views of the delegates.
The most liberal of this year’s delegates, as might be expected, tend to be Jackson’s. There are twice as many self-described “very liberal” delegates among Jackson’s ranks as there are within Dukakis’.
But the most striking difference demographically between the two rival factions involves race. Nearly two-thirds of Jackson’s delegates are black. Only 5% of Dukakis’ are. Conversely, 84% of Dukakis’ delegates are white, while only a fourth of Jackson’s are.
Dukakis’ delegates outnumber Jackson’s by roughly 2 to 1.
The Times poll, in cooperation with Cable News Network, interviewed 4,029 delegates, 97% of the convention total, starting June 10 and continuing through last Thursday.
“Political conventions do two things: They discuss the party’s convictions and pick the party’s candidate,” Times Poll Director I. A. Lewis observed. “In many ways, Jesse Jackson represents the convictions of the delegates. Michael Dukakis represents the candidate they want. They’ll argue about their convictions and then vote for their candidate.
“Either way, Dukakis wins. If the delegates endorse his views, he presents the public with a unified party. If they dispute his views or even vote him down on one or two platform planks, he will have displayed the moderate image he feels he needs to win. In some ways, Jesse Jackson has been a godsend to Michael Dukakis.”
A big part of Republican George Bush’s campaign strategy is to paint Dukakis as a traditional “tax-and-spend liberal,” to the left of the contemporary American mainstream. But although in Massachusetts Dukakis recently endorsed a tax increase to balance the state budget, he cautiously has avoided any statements that might leave the impression he would hike federal taxes as President. Instead, he has insisted that he would deal with the federal budget deficit largely by tightening enforcement of the present tax code.
Issue for Debate
Whether Dukakis really is a tax-and-spend liberal is an issue for campaign debate, but there is little question--based on this survey--that his delegates basically are. Asked whether the next President “will have to raise taxes in order to reduce the federal budget deficit,” nearly two-thirds of Dukakis’ delegates said yes. So did roughly the same percentage of Jackson’s delegates.
In a separate pre-convention survey by the Times poll of 1,763 registered voters, rank-and-file Democrats were evenly divided on the need for a tax increase, illustrating that they are more centrist than the party’s convention delegates.
Dukakis’ delegates on the Democratic platform committee recently voted down a Jackson plank to substantially raise taxes for the “rich"--those earning more than $200,000 annually. So the civil rights leader has vowed to take his case to the convention floor. The Times/CNN survey found that 81% of Dukakis’ delegates at the convention basically agree with Jackson’s view that “the wealthy should pay a higher tax rate than they do now.” Among Jackson’s delegates, 94% support the notion.
Dukakis’ and Jackson’s delegates also agree overwhelmingly that the federal government should spend more money on education, fighting drugs, Social Security, health care, welfare, low-income housing and aid to farmers. But Jackson’s supporters tend to want to spend a lot more than Dukakis’ do.
Another issue on which Dukakis’ and Jackson’s delegates tend to agree privately--but their candidates do not--is the question of a Palestinian homeland. At the platform meeting, Dukakis’ delegates voted down a Jackson plank calling for “mutual recognition, territorial compromise and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.”
But in The Times/CNN survey, nearly two-thirds of Dukakis’ delegates favored “giving the Palestinians a homeland in the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” Among Jackson’s delegates, 9 in 10 favor the idea.
However, the delegates part company in their basic attitudes toward Israel. About two-thirds of Dukakis’ delegates have a favorable impression of the Israeli government, but more than half of Jackson’s delegates have an unfavorable impression.
Aid to Israel
In a similar vein, two-thirds of Dukakis’ delegates want to keep U.S. military aid to Israel “at about the same level,” but almost as large a proportion of Jackson’s delegates think the aid “should be cut down.”
And apparently reflecting resentment that still lingers from some of Jackson’s “Hymietown” comments during the 1984 campaign, about a third of Dukakis’ delegates contend that the black leader “can be accused of anti-Semitism.” The other two-thirds disagree, however.
Besides trying to project a moderate stance on domestic issues, Dukakis has been attempting to fend off charges by Bush that Dukakis is soft on defense. The governor’s platform representatives beat back a Jackson plank calling for a five-year freeze on military spending. And Dukakis’ convention delegates agree with their candidate on this issue, by 3 to 2. Jackson’s delegates, on the other hand, support a freeze by 3 to 1.
Democratic voters as a whole oppose a military freeze by 5 to 3, the separate Times poll showed.
From the Democratic Party’s standpoint, one positive finding of the survey was that not much bad blood existed between the Dukakis and Jackson factions. The bulk of the interviews, however, were conducted before Dukakis chose Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate and failed to inform Jackson of his selection before announcing it publicly. So some of that good will may have soured.
But in the survey, 9 in 10 Jackson delegates had a favorable impression of Dukakis, and roughly the same percentage of Dukakis’ followers viewed Jackson favorably.
Also, only 1 in 6 of Jackson’s delegates said they would support Dukakis “less strongly” than some other Democratic candidates. And a third said they would support him “more strongly.” In fact, by 5 to 4, Jackson delegates said Dukakis would be “the strongest” Democratic candidate in their own state.
Something virtually all delegates agreed on was their dislike of President Reagan and Vice President George Bush. Nine in 10 delegates held unfavorable impressions of Reagan--and even more, 19 in 20, viewed Bush unfavorably.