September 9th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: A way out of the debt trap

COVER STORY: Inside the World Economic Forum

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Petrol prices puncture GST optimism

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Radical groups organised for Forum protests

Straws in the Wind

LABOR PARTY: New book, old view of ALP



DOCUMENTATION: “I’ve always felt like an IVF guinea pig”

MODERN ART: “Anything goes”: gallery

Milk: will wheat be next?

EAST TIMOR: Rebuilding East Timor

'Kursk' disaster timely reminder to next US President

As the World Turns

LITERATURE: The magic of Harry Potter

BOOKS: The triumph of spin over substance

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As the World Turns

News Weekly, September 9, 2000
Gore’s Democrats 'must rediscover family'

US opinion polls show that the public has more confidence in the Democrats to handle the economy and the budget. There is somewhat more trust in the Republicans to handle taxes and crime, but less markedly so than before the Clinton administration.

The public turns to the Republicans on few other issues. Yet this seeming mandate for Democrats to take charge of government has so far not altered the balance of forces on the ground.

Instead of a cakewalk for Democrats, a competitive election is shaping up - one that might just give Republicans control of the three branches of government. How do we account for this state of affairs?

It goes beyond economics: it has to do with values.

This is the one place Republicans hold a decisive advantage ...

Democrats need to honour the religious traditions within their party. Some of their longest-standing supporters - African Americans, Catholics, and Latinos - put religious faith and practice at the centre of their family lives. From the Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal churches in Chicago to evangelical churches in Los Angeles to Catholic churches in Detroit and Milwaukee, these Americans practise the lessons of personal responsibility and obligation to others, especially to the disadvantaged ...

Progressives also need to rediscover the family. For some three decades, the Left neglected to affirm the centrality of the family, especially of two-parent households.

The Left must give itself permission to recognise the benefit of two-parent families to children.

Democrats need to affirm the value of such a family structure, even as they redouble their efforts on behalf of single-parent families, whose battles are tougher ...

The least attractive candidates on values, according to [a major] study, are those who forcefully advocate a larger role for religion in society, for example, starting “with the re-introduction of prayer in the public schools” (only 41 percent approval). People are uncomfortable with politicians who rush through this values debate merely by trumpeting the need for greater religiosity.

One more example: when people are asked which candidate they prefer on values — a Republican who sets a moral example and wants religion to play a bigger role in society, or a Democrat who says “young people aren't learning respect for rules, which is why we need to create smaller and safer classrooms where there is more discipline and higher standards” — the Democrat wins by 54 percent to 31 percent.

As it turns out, the best way to win on values is not by pushing religion into public spaces but by creating settings that help parents in their work and by improving places where values can be learned.

The classroom is one such place where the Democrats currently have more credibility than the Republicans do.

Democrats can find their voice on values, even in a period when many voters are looking for a return to moral values, a strengthened family, and norms of individual responsibility. To be heard, Democrats must honour religious traditions that teach right and wrong, discipline, responsibility and respect.

Democrats must rediscover the family, where children are nurtured and learn their lessons and values. And, finally, Democrats must make clear their motivation in the public realm: to promote policies that help people realise their hopes and dreams for their own families.

— Anna and Stanley Greenberg, discussing the forthcoming US elections from a Democrat perspective in
The American Prospect, August 28, 2000

Social issues become wedge issues

As the major parties espouse similar economic fundamentals, are social policies becoming the main differentiator?

That could be the message in the latest Bulletin-Morgan opinion poll, published in the 29 August issue of the magazine.

In a fortnight when the major issues were the IVF debate, the ALP national conference and the Federal Court decision in the Gunner/Cubillo “stolen generation” test case, the Coalition recorded its best result for the year.

“After being behind Labor for the whole year and after recording the lowest level of primary support since World War II in June, the Federal Coalition has drawn level with the Labor opposition on primary support,” the Bulletin reported.

The poll indicated that on a 2-party basis the ALP would have won an election held in the first two weeks of August. But the Labor lead had been cut to 4 per cent.

With the next Federal election probably at least a year away, will the support for the Coalition’s electorally attractive conservative social policies be eroded by further rationalist economic prescriptions and the continuing negative fall-out from globalisation?

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