September 15, 2000


Bush on the Ropes

By Jerome DeHerrera

Bowing to criticisms that his campaign has lost its meaning, George W. Bush last week changed the strategy of his campaign again.

Having used "compassionate conservative," "a reformer with results," and "progress with prosperity," all of which do not seem to have captured the imaginations of Hispanic families, the Bush campaign has switched to "real plans for real people."

This change in theme was hastily brought about after Bush began sliding in the polls after Al Gore's proposals to build on the current progress and prosperity began resonating with likely voters. As dangerous as it is to believe totally in the polls, they do suggest that Gore has found his voice, and that the public is listening to him.

This change is similar to Bush's response when John McCain had Bush on the ropes after his dismal showing in the early primaries. As you might remember, Bush responded to McCain's momentum by usurping his message with the theme "reformer with results" and by going negative.

Now, in response to Al Gore's lead in the polls and his strong support among working families, women, gays and lesbians, blacks and Hispanics, the Bush campaign is trying to steal Gore's message of Progress and Prosperity for Working Families.

This change by the Bush campaign, along with his being forced by public opinion to debate Al Gore in prime time television on the national networks when all of the people can watch them, is good news for Hispanic families. Latinos will have the chance to contrast the issues and policies that will affect our families and our communities.

Bush and Gore must answer questions surrounding their social security, health care and education plans _ concerns that are at the top of the list for Hispanic families. Of the two candidates, Bush's ideas so far have raised the most questions.

Bush's plan to partially privatize the Social Security program has drawn fire from three prominent economists including a former trustee of the Social Security program. In a letter addressed to Bush, they asked him to explain how he could promise that he would not reduce Social Security benefits although his plan would drain over 16% of the program's income and cost up to $1 trillion in transition costs.

Regarding health care, Bush's commitment to uninsured children in low-income families is suspect and so is his newly formalized plan to provide prescription drugs for seniors which may give too much power to the already powerful HMOs and the insurance industry.

For example, U.S. District Court Judge William Wayne Justice ruled that the State of Texas, with Bush as governor, had not done enough to notify low-income families that their children may be eligible for Medicaid and other insurance programs. Texas currently has one of the highest levels of uninsured children in the United States. And Families USA, a citizens group, has cast doubt on his prescription plan for the elderly.

Bush's education proposals, which he has touted as his number one priority, have also come under fire. Many teachers and local education officials have begun to wonder how Bush expects schools in poor school districts to meet higher standards without new resources.

Any objective observer would have to conclude that traditional Democratic issues are on the minds of voters and will be key in deciding who will be our next President.

Because of this, Al Gore is now leading in the polls and George W. Bush is changing his theme again in the hopes of convincing working families that he has more to offer them.

Jerome writes a political column from Washington D.C. Please send your comments to

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