Annapolis Institute Overview


L.A. vote shows Clinton constituency collapsing

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, June 15, 1993

Taxes up. Violence up. Out-of-control school bureaucracies. Excuses by people in high places for uncivilized behavior. Intrusive government. Plummeting property values.

What does it all add up to? The takeover of America’s largest city, Los Angeles, by Richard Riordan, a white, conservative Republican male — the antithesis of political correctness in the world’s most multicultural city. Mayor-elect Riordan defeated liberal councilman Michael Woo, an attractive, articulate ethnic leader who was endorsed by President Bill Clinton.

Only Washington political analysts could wonder out loud if there is a message here for Bill Clinton and the nation — as they did on the weekly news programs last weekend. Never mind that traditional Democrat constituencies — Latinos, Jews, union members and a majority of those making between $20,000 and $40,000 per year — supported Riordan by numbers twice as large as the benchmarks from last November’s presidential contest when Bill Clinton won 60% of the vote in this city. To most normal people, the message is clear. It goes something like this:

First, people want security. They want to be safe in their homes. They want to be free to walk and drive on the streets any time of the day or night without fear of mugging or a drive-by shooting or a car-jacking.

They want what the Constitution promises: domestic tranquility. They want violence against people and property punished. They want the system — especially cops and judges — to be tough on lawbreakers. Candidate Riordan promised domestic tranquility and he won.

Second, people want more control over their lives. People are weary of jumping through government hoops at every turn. It’s both the welfare recipient and the entrepreneur, who needs more than 80 government permits just to start a business to create real jobs in Los Angeles.

The middle class has also had it with policy wonks, government employee unions and interest group advocates coming up with new ways to spend their hard-earned money. Polls show that most people feel government is already growing too fast and taxing and spending too much. And people who feel that way have a lot of facts to support them.

Now, the citizens of America’s largest city have drawn a line in the sand: They voted for a man who is promising control and security to the middle and working classes who remain in the city. The message? Clinton’s constituency is crumbling before our eyes. First, the president’s tax and spend economic plan cost him the support of New Democrats, Perot supporters and many in the middle class that put him in office.

Then he turned his back on two traditional Democrat constituencies — blacks and gays — by waffling on gays in the military and withdrawing the Lani Guinier nomination. Now the Democrat’s urban constituency is disintegrating as multiethnic working people increasingly demand public safety and economic opportunity to escape the dependency they’ve reaped from the social workers, educrats and the professional civil rights lobby. Los Angeles Mayor-elect Riordan tapped into that concern. New York Mayor David Dinkins may be the next victim. It may be too late for Bill Clinton.

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