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Clinton
Bill Comes Due: President Clinton's increasingly centrist orientation has ticked off some former supporters from the left, who will cast protest votes for Ralph Nader.

Why Clinton?

The prospect of a second-term president with a bias for action--who isn't hobbled by war, old age or scandalous first-term activities--will offer this country the possibility of meaningful systemic change for the first time in decades. President Bill Clinton's early reformist ambitions were derailed by powerful industry lobbies and the ideological zeal of socially conservative Americans who want to turn back the clock and make human reproductive choice and sexual preference governmentally regulated matters.

A strange cast of bedfellows, including big health and insurance lobbies, anti-gay and right-to-life zealots, anti-Castro Cuban-Americans, an unforgiving media with an appetite for titillating scandal and a power-mad GOP new guard, effectively reduced the Clinton presidency to inaction at worst and incrementalism at best. Witness the recent welfare bill as a shining example of compromised legislation--or the foot-shooting Helms-Burton bill cave-in as an example of a weakened president's inability to stand up to special-interest-group pressure.

The best hope to deliver the country from status quo maintenance is a decisive Clinton-Gore victory. A close election, enabled by voter nonparticipation or protest votes for Nader, Perot and Co., will fritter away the century's last chance to re-engineer a federal bureaucracy that has failed to keep pace with three transformative decades of social, economic and technological invention and reinvention. Without a mandate--a clear statement from the American public to move forward--Washington will remain locked in its anachronistic ways.

The president's decisive reelection would increase the chances of substantive campaign and lobbying reform, and bolster initiatives to improve the country's educational systems and to enact drug and public safety programs driven by sound social policy rather than demagoguery.

Pocketbook voters should have no beef with Clinton. The economy is strong, the stock market is up, interest rates and inflation are low, the federal deficit is being downsized, and the administration's championing of information technologies has heated up a boom making Northern California awash with jobs, capital and rising manufacturing exports. (Though Clinton has strong support from some Silicon Valley execs, Bob Dole has picked up endorsements from others who believe that profits from the sale of stock should be tax-exempt.)

The president's technology record is not without blemishes. He has proven too willing to throttle free speech and compromise privacy with Clipper chips and laws against encryption and decency acts. Communications giants have unduly influenced deregulatory legislation to preserve their industry dominance, and the Clinton justice department has abandoned attempts to temper Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior.

There is little reason to believe that Dole would do any better--or that he even understands these issues. Preoccupied with rescuing his failing campaign, Dole has tried to exploit frustrations of Californians by blaming immigrants and their children for a variety of regional and national problems. He has even gone so far as to suggest that the election could be stolen by immigrants who have recently become naturalized and registered to vote.

As demonstrated with the surprise passage of Proposition 187 two years ago, California voters do respond to this kind of thing. More than 70 percent of Californians voted for Proposition 187, despite the fact that surveys indicated the vote would be much closer.

Dole's immigrant-baiting and embrace of the campaign to eliminate affirmative action could hand him a surprise upset--and 54 electoral votes--if too many progressive Californians abandon the centrist Clinton for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, and if other would-be Democratic voters, overconfident of a Clinton sweep, avoid the polls on Election Day.

There is the risk, to be sure, that a landslide victory might send the president some unintended messages. For example: That the majority of Californians agree with his administration's decision to sacrifice four out of five ancient redwood trees in the Headwaters grove. Or that Californians think it's fine to throw millions of children off of welfare rolls with no safety net in place. Or that it's okay to enact so-called anti-terrorist initiatives with civil liberties as an afterthought.

Californians should keep their eyes on the right-wing tide that has swept both houses of Congress and this state's legislature, then punch the card for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Protest votes may not be an affordable luxury in 1996, despite what the polls say.

Metro recommends re-electing Bill Clinton.

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From the October 31-November 6, 1996 issue of Metro

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