Democrats hoped that the selection of Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis as their candidate marked an end to the chaos and ugliness that surrounded the Democratic primaries, but it was not to be. Dukakis/Bentsen supporters stayed faithful with buttons and bumper stickers, like the one upon which our design is based. We print this on a thin, white, 100% cotton tee, available in unisex and a woman's style.
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I made a deliberate decision that I was not going to respond to the Bush attack campaign. That choice was just a huge mistake. It is not a question of forgiving the other side; you have to assume that they are going to do anything and everything to win. The question is are you ready? Do you have a strategy of dealing with the attack campaign? Preferably, a strategy that turns the negativity into a character issue of the candidate that is condoning it. I did not have that essential strategy. I am really not in a position to blame anyone, but myself. Huffington Post interview, May 23 2009
The chaotic, ugly 1988 Democratic presidential primaries should have primed then-Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis (1933 - ) for the all-out assault he would face in the general election against then-Vice President George Bush, but they did not. His eventual loss remains a cautionary tale to presidential aspirants.
Perhaps the campaign was ill-fated regardless; as the Democratic Party failed to convince two of its stars - New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy - to throw their hats in the ring, it was left with a too-wide open, scattershot field, ranging from ultra-liberal Reverend Jesse Jackson to social conservative Missouri Representative Dick Gephardt. Dukakis, riding high off the "Massachusetts Miracle" period of economic growth during his administration, remained largely unscathed as his opposition dwindled. Colorado Senator Gary Hart withdrew following rumors of adultery; Delaware Senator Joe Biden dropped out after plagiarism accusations; Gephardt, a leading contender, was done in by negative ads (including one by Dukakis) portraying him as a flip-flopper on the issues.
The best America is a nation where the son of Greek immigrants, with your help, can seek and win the presidency of the United States. Speaking to a crowd during the 1988 campaign
Soon the race for the Democratic nomination was between Dukakis and Jackson. Jackson scored an upset win in the Michigan caucus, delivering the party into a spell of turmoil, but Dukakis would emerge as the overall victor.
Though Dukakis had dipped a toe into negative campaigning in the primaries (the Gephardt ad; his staffers also leaked the supposedly incriminating tape of Biden’s plagiarism), he was unable or unwilling to fend off the attacks from Bush.
Bush seized upon Dukakis' liberalism, and additionally insisted he somehow was a "Harvard Yard" elitist (Dukakis is a Swarthmore grad; Bush is a Yale alum). Later, when Dukakis at first declined to release his medical records, rumors were circulated about a past psychiatric condition (his long-term doctor repudiated the claims).
The Bush camp also hammered Dukakis over his support for Massachusetts' prison furlong program. Convicted murderer Willie Horton, serving a life sentence for murder without the possibility for parole, was nonetheless released for a weekend, courtesy of the program. He failed to return and subsequently raped a woman and beat a man. The Bush campaign, including manager Lee Atwater and media consultant Roger Ailes (president of Fox News Channel), used the tragedy to smear Dukakis at every opportunity, most famously with an ad entitled "Revolving Door," which, while it did not name Horton, mentioned "weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers not eligible for parole" who "committed other crimes like kidnapping and rape." It was very successful and almost overnight cemented the idea that Bush was tough on crime and Dukakis was not.
Dukakis was also seen by some as soft on national defense, which resulted in a classic moment in campaign preposterousness. Hoping to deflect this criticism, the campaign arranged for Dukakis to be photographed in a military tank at a General Dynamics plant in Michigan. It served no purpose other than to make Dukakis look silly, and the picture was used extensively in ads by Bush.
A kid of immigrants becomes a governor and runs for president. A true American story ... I'm just a guy who loves his country. I was fortunate to be involved in public life for more than 30 years. Lots of us have dreams; I have lived mine. CNN interview, September 29, 2005
Though Dukakis' anti-death penalty stance was well-known, during a debate with Bush, moderator Bernard Shaw asked a question many would later claim was inappropriate: "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis stood firm and said he would not, but some viewers judged Dukakis not by his answer, but by what they felt was a lack of sufficient emotionality in his answer.
In the end, Dukakis and his running mate, Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, lost to George Bush and Indiana Senator Dan Quayle in an Electoral College landslide. Today, Dukakis is a political science professor at Northeastern University and a visiting professor at UCLA.
The lessons of the Dukakis loss – respond immediately and with force to negative attacks – likely did not escape at least one Democrat: then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, who would face his own barrage from the Bush campaign machine in the 1992 presidential election. But Clinton was prepared: he created a team within his campaign whose sole job it was to fend off the attacks.
My friends, if anyone tells you that the American dream belongs to the privileged few and not to all of us; you tell them that the Reagan era is over and a new era is about to begin.
Because it's time to raise our sights -- to look beyond the cramped ideals and limited ambitions of the past eight years -- to recapture the spirit of energy and of confidence and of idealism that John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson inspired a generation ago.
It's time to meet the challenge of the next American frontier -- the challenge of building an economic future for our country that will create good jobs at good wages for every citizen in this land, no matter who they are or where they came from or what the color of their skin.
It's time to rekindle the American spirit of invention and daring; to exchange voodoo economics for can-do economics; to build the best America by bringing out the best in every American.
It's time to wake up to the new challenges that face the American family. Time to see that young families in this country are never again forced to choose between the jobs they need and the children they love; time to be sure that parents are never again told that no matter how long they work or how hard their child tries, a college education is a right they can't afford.
It's time to ask why it is that we have run up more debt in this country in the last eight years than we did in the previous 200; and to make sure it never happens again.
It's time to understand that the greatest threat to our national security in this hemisphere is not the Sandinistas -- it's the avalanche of drugs that is pouring into this country and poisoning our kids.
I don't think I have to tell any of you how much we Americans expect of ourselves.
Or how much we have a right to expect from those we elect to public office.
Because this election isn't about ideology. It's about competence.
It's not about overthrowing governments in Central America; it's about creating good jobs in middle America.
That's what this election is all about.
It's not about insider trading on Wall Street; it's about creating opportunity on Main Street.
And it's not about meaningless labels. It's about American values. Old-fashioned values like accountability and responsibility and respect for the truth.
And just as we Democrats believe that there are no limits to what each citizen can do; so we believe there are no limits to what America can do. 1988 Democratic Nomination acceptance speech
1988 Democratic National Convention Address, July 21, 1988, Omni Coliseum, Atlanta GA