Democrats target Republican record
Every well-done script has its good guys and its bad guys - and Ronald Reagan wears the black hat in the 1984 campaign scenario being written this week by Democratic Party leaders.
The Democrats' draft platform, released Monday, casts President Reagan as the bogyman of American politics.
Reagan has defaulted on his responsibilities in the White House, the platform charges. His mismanagement has resulted in $200 billion budget deficits, a $120 billion trade deficit, massive unemployment in key industries, reduced efforts in research, underinvestment in education, and unfair tax and social policies.
''We will be very specific when we discuss Ronald Reagan's record of the past 31/2 years,'' says Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York, chairwoman of the party's platform committee.
On the other hand, the platform will avoid getting too specific about what the Democrats will do if they capture the White House, Mrs. Ferraro says.
This lack of specifics worries Gary Hart, who was the runner-up in the Democratic presidential race this spring.
''We don't think the (draft) document currently lays out a comprehensive economic framework,'' says Kathy Bushkin, the senator's press secretary. ''There are more economic problems than just reducing the deficit.
''The US has a structural unemployment problem, a serious trade problem . . . and we must offer . . . solutions.''
Senator Hart also wants a tough statement on energy policy, an area where he clashed repeatedly with Mr. Mondale during the campaign. Specifically, Mrs. Bushkin says, Hart wants Democrats to support policies that will make the US sufficiently independent so that this country can ''avoid having to go to war for oil in the Middle East.''
Hart and the other Democratic runner-up, Jesse Jackson, will get a full hearing of their views, promises Mayor Richard Arrington of Birmingham, who heads the drafting subcommittee. But Mayor Arrington, like eight of the 15 members of the drafting committee, is a Mondale backer; there is little doubt that in the end, Mondale's views will prevail. Hart has five members on the committee, while Mr. Jackson has two.
Hoping for maximum impact on the platform, Hart released on Monday a 61-page ''substitute'' platform dealing with economic policy, an area in which Mondale is too cautious and weak, Hart argues. But Hart's policy statement is just what Mondale hopes to avoid.
Past Democratic platforms have been an exercise in political self-destruction , in the view of some Mondale supporters. Previous platforms have been extremely specific. They have set up legislative agendas, often espousing controversial positions. They have given Republicans all sorts of tempting targets to shoot at.
At one time, platform chairman Ferraro even hoped to avoid mentioning the Equal Rights Amendment by name. That upset some feminist leaders, however. The draft platform now promises ''an unremitting effort'' for ''rapid ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.''
If there is a single theme, other than dislike of Reagan policies, that runs through the draft platform, it is fairness.
The draft paints the US under Reagan as a land of tax loopholes, fat cats getting fatter, wealthy corporations getting wealthier, and a military machine that gobbles up money for unneeded weapons.
Playing up a theme heard during this year's primaries, the platform wonders again and again what Reagan would do if he were reelected. The deficits would not be dealt with, Democrats charge, and the results would be devastating:
''The deficit will continue to mount. Interest rates, already rising sharply, will start to soar. American families would suffer. Mortgage rates would skyrocket; the adjustable-rate-mortgage time bomb would explode, and millions of families could lose their homes. Automobiles will become increasingly unaffordable. Students and their families would be unable to pay for college loans.''
Suffering, Democrats charge, would spread.
''Economic growth would be stifled. . . . Farmers would be especially hard hit. . . . Hundreds of thousands of workers - if not more - would lose their jobs. . . . Many of our jobs would shift overseas.''
This attack on Reagan is the kind of populist approach to the 1984 election favored by many Democratic insiders. Some credit the Democratic charge that Reagan favors the rich over middle-income taxpayers as a major factor in boosting the number of House seats won by Democrats in the 1982 election.
The ''fairness'' issue, Democratic strategists say, tends to make the election more partisan - a plus for Democrats, since they outnumber Republicans by about 8 to 5. The platform, as now drafted, appears to be just what some Democratic insiders want, to get loyal Democrats angry at Reagan and ready to work for a big party turnout.