voting for Anderson is worth it.
The second is that Anderson does not
have a chance, but either voting for him
or "going fishing" will lead to reforms in
the Democratic Party or in the nominating system generally.
The third argument, most often espoused by those who do not plan to vote
at all, is that Reagan, if elected, will simply play Tweedle Dum to Carter's Twee-
die Dee. If you've seen one major-party
candidate, you've seen 'em all, as Gerald
Ford once remarked about slums. Each
of these arguments deserves scrutiny.
To begin, what kind of chance does
Anderson have? It is a fact that a third-
party candidate has never won the presidency since the present two-party system was established in the middle of the
19th Century. It is a fact that the last
third-party candidate to win as much as
17 percent of the popular vote was Robert
LaFollette in 1924. But times change. So
what about John Anderson in the fall
Just six weeks before the election, he
was showing about 13 percent in the polls.
But a CBS-New York Times poll taken
after the televised debate that was supposed to have established him as a serious
candidate showed his overall support had
dropped to nine percent and voters who
watched the debate said they developed
stronger negative feelings about him.
But is he so superior in his campaign
stances that a progressive voter, as a
matter of conscience, should back him
even at these long odds?
New York Times columnist Anthony
Lewis recently observed that Anderson
is running against most of his record as a
congressman, his years of conservative
voting. He has recently moved toward
the center, but when the shift comes so
soon after the announcement of candidacy, is it the result of sincerity or tactics?
In Anderson's case, it is probably both.
As a Republican from Illinois' 16th District, he came out openly against Nixon's
broad view of executive privilege early in
the Watergate crisis. He was on Nixon's
back before many Democrats.
Yet, while acknowledging Anderson's
courage and decency on this and various
other issues, the authors of the Almanac
of American Politics went on to say in
the 1978 edition that "Anderson is very
definitely a Republican, not a Democrat
in disguise. He believes that Republican
economic policies are sounder and better
for the nation in the long run, that the
defense budget should remain high or be
raised even higher, that the federal government is too big and remote and clumsy
and should be cut back."
Anderson once backed the Kemp-
Roth 30 percent tax-reduction bill, although during his campaign he has
criticized Reagan for supporting it. He
was strong for nuclear power until last
year, although he now advocates extreme caution in further nuclear licensing.
He has a terrible labor record. AFL-
CIO leaders did not even discuss him
during their recent endorsement meeting. His rating by the National Association of Businessmen was consistently
high. In 1976 he scored 80 out of a possible 100 points. (Republican Bill Archer
of Houston scored 91; Henry B. Gonzalez
of San Antonio, 8.)
Before his support began to crumble
this summer, his big donors included the
Rockefellers and other "moderate" Republicans such as Robert Anderson, chairman of Atlantic Richfield oil company,
who has now switched to Reagan.
Looked at closely and unsentimen-
tally, John Anderson is not the sort of
person who deserves the support of
Suppose that you agree up to this
point, but you believe that a vote for An
derson , or a vote not cast at all, will
somehow result in a better choice of
candidates in 1984, or even 1988?
A similar argument was used to justify
not voting for Hubert Humphrey in 1968,
because he would not disavow Johnson's
The result was the election of Richard
Nixon, whose Vietnam policy was at
least as bad as LBJ's and whose domestic policy was a good deal worse.
Four third-party candidates in this
century obtained at least some electoral
votes: Teddy Roosevelt in 1912. La Fol-
lette in 1924? Strom Thurmond in 1948;
and George Wallace in 1968. None of
these bolters can be said to have transformed the kind of choices the electorate
was offered subsequently. It is unlikely
that results would be different in the
Finally, we come to the Tweedle Dee-
Tweedle Dum argument, as venerable a
theory as exists in American presidential
politics. So we must ask: Is it simply the
overwrought imagination of brass-collar
Democrats (led on by clever Carter campaign propagandists) that depicts Reagan
as presenting fundamentally different options?
I don't believe so. In spite of Carter's
record that on many counts progressives
find disappointing and sometimes outrageous, a Reagan presidency would
make Carter's most severe critics — liberals and moderates alike — yearn for
the good old days of the late seventies.
Carter, after all, belongs to the Democratic Party, whose platform is far more
progressive than the Republicans'. One
response to this, I am well aware, is that
party platforms are meaningless, and have
no impact on candidates' policies once
they are in office. Barry Goldwater said
it pithily in 1964: "At best," he said, "political platforms are a packet of misinformation and lies."
But as with many other Goldwater insights, the facts are not so simple.
In a classic study, Nominating the
President, political scientist Gerald
Pomper examines whether platforms influence presidential behavior. He finds
that every president ignores or repudiates some planks, but very few have
repudiated the genral philosophy the platform embodies.
Carter's performance confirms this
view. Once in office, he convinced Congress to enact job programs for the unemployed. In foreign policy, he
negotiated an arms limitation agreement
with the Soviet Union and the Panama
Canal treaties. These were major platform planks.
Carter also proposed other 1976
planks — welfare and tax reform promises, for example, but the Democratic-
controlled Congress rejected them. His
Republocrat anti-inflation measures, on
the other hand, were not in the platform
A party platform is not a precise blueprint for presidential policy. But neither
is it meaningless. This is especially true
when two platforms are worlds apart on
numerous key issues, as they are this year.
The constituencies of the two parties
are still quite different. Forty-six percent
and 42 percent of the Democratic delegates in New York described themselves
as liberal and moderate, respectively,
and only six percent as conservative. By
contrast, only two percent and 36 percent of the Republican delegates in Detroit called themselves liberal and moderate, while 58 percent called themselves
conservative. John Anderson is correct
when he describes his own Republican
Party as "a party captured by the ultra-
Some of Reagan's more moderate
backers, such as oilman Robert Ander
son, predict an Eisenhower-like administration if Reagan wins.
I have a different prediction to make.
I think Reagan would be one of the most
conservative presidents of the 20th century — certainly since 1928 — and the
most dangerous one ever, given the awesome power he will have over our military system.
He will be under constant pressure
from extreme right-wing supporters who
have backed him for a decade or more,
especially in states like Texas and California.
Balanced against the moderate wing of
the party — most of whom are now
excluded from the official party organization — is the clamorous New Right, a
rapidly-emerging combination of
militarists, newly-politicized evangelicals, anti-abortionists, anti-gun control
advocates and genteel racists.
Two of these groups are particularly
disturbing. The militarists have recently
dominated the debate over the nation's
military capacity. The Veterans of
Foreign Wars for the first time in its history this year endorsed a presidential
candidate — Reagan.
The ultra-right wing of the evangelicals, while still in a minority of "born
again" Christians is growing rapidly in
numbers and influence. One group of
them, the Moral Majority, was founded
15 months ago by the Rev. Jerry Falwell,
whose religious prorams are watched
by millions of TV viewers. The organization now has 400,000 members, including
72,000 ministers. In its first year it received $1.5 million in contributions.
Falwell is now setting up political action
committees in every state to raise money
for candidates. Most Falwell supporters
will back Reagan.
A staff member of the National Republican Committee told reporters recently
that the political emergence of the
evangelical rightists had a "significant
impact" on the writing of the party's
platform. They will try to call in their
chits if Reagan wins.
Much is made, in the Tweedle Dee-
Tweedle Dum theory, of the restraining
influence of Congress, which at this moment seems likely to be controlled by
Here, too, there are seeds of truth, but
it would be a serious mistake for progressives to underestimate the damage Reagan
could do nationally and internationally
as the occupant of the White House.
Teddy Roosevelt called the presidency
a "bully pulpit." In Reagan's words, "the
voice from that podium is louder than any
voice there is in the countryside." His conservative enthusiasts know he is right.
From that podium he will be able to
exploit ideological conflicts that have not
been politicized since the end of the
Vietnam War. We have already been given
a preview of this in his recent remarks on
Vietnam and evolutionary theory. While
in that pulpit, Reagan will also appoint
hundreds of key officials, most of whom
will naturally agree with his political outlook.
Reagan will have unusually wide latitude in two areas, whatever the makeup
of Congress: Supreme Court appointments
and foreign affairs.
The Burger court has, for the last few
years, teetered on an ideological tightrope, handing down split decisions that
reflect the public indecision of our times.
Reagan's election could change this situation dramatically.
The Court is largely comprised of elderly men. Five are past 70 and four have
had health problems in recent months, including the two liberals, Brennan, 74, and
Marshall, 72. Rehnquist, the most conservative member, is also the youngest, at 56.
If Reagan is elected, if he manages to
win re-election in 1984, and if he lives to
the end of his term in 1989, the next
youngest man now on the Court will by
then be 69. Reagan will probably be able
to appoint at least four justices. If most
of them resemble Rehnquist, who some
observers describe as the closest philosophically to Reagan, the United States
could have a fundamentally right-wing
Supreme Court into the 21st Century as
a result of Reagan's appointments alone.
Carter has not had a chance to make
any Supreme Court appointments, but he
has named more women and members of
minority groups to the federal judiciary
than any previous president, by a wide
In foreign affairs, Reagan comes on
very strong, compared to Carter's usually low-key approach. The President has
great power in crisis situations, and where
no crisis exists, he has extraordinary power to create one, as LBJ demonstrated in the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
In a balanced and sober report to its
readers, Business Week made this assessment of Reagan's probable behavior in
"Convinced that frustration with declining U. S. fortunes abroad will turn voters toward his hard-line anti-communist
views, Ronald Reagan is ready to scrap
the noninterventionist 'Nixon doctrine,'
shelve detente, and return to aggressive
U.S. containment of Soviet influence. At
the heart of the policy is a buildup of
U. S. strategic and conventional forces unprecedented in peacetime.
"Reagan's tough foreign policy stance
marks a sharp departure from President
Carter's battered policy of 'cooperation
and competition' with Soviets and from
the efforts of Republican Presidents Nixon and Ford to ease East-West tensions
and normalize relations with the People's
Republic of China. Reagan . . . discounts
warnings that U. S. allies, who are often
contemptuous of Carter as moralistic and
naive, are unwilling to abandon the comforts of detente for a new cold war."
(Business Week, July 28, 1980).
Reagan's "crash program" to restore
nuclear superiority will likely include several disturbing features. Along wit
abandonment of the strategy of nuclear
parity, there will be new pressure on European allies and Japan to follow the
United States in world politics. The status of Taiwan will be upgraded. Cold War
security alliances will be refurbished, including those with right-wing dictatorships. Development and deployment of
both the Missile X and the cruise missile
will in all likelihood be accelerated. And
Carter's decision to scrap the B-1 bomber
is probably going to be reversed.
John Lehman, one of his key military advisers, estimates that his plans for
the "rearming of America" could necessitate raising fiscal 1981 spending by $15
billion above Carter's budget, as well as
increasing it 10 percent, after inflation,
foreach year in the foreseeable future.
Business Week estimates that it could "rapidly push" defense spending beyond
$200 billion each year from $131 billion
in fiscal 1980.
We live in difficult times. They are
times in which we confront many intractable problems, and others that cannot be easily resolved, even by very able
politicians. While Carter should rightly
be blamed for many of his failures during
his first term, many others can be attributed to trends and events largely beyond
I am worried when I think about
Jimmy Carter's ability to respond sensibly, cautiously and humanely to the unforeseen crises at home and abroad that
will confront the President in the 1980s.
I would also be worried if Ted Kennedy
were the president, or FDR, reincarnated