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Michael Dukakis

From dKosopedia


Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis ran for President in 1988 as a smart, even-tempered, extremely competent chief executive. But his campaign of ideas was derailed by George H.W. Bush and his dirtier-than-dirty sleazefest of a campaign, and, fairly or unfairly, the name "Dukakis" is synonymous with "disaster" in Democratic circles as a result.

Dukakis was born November 3, 1933, became an Eagle Scout by 18, graduated from Swarthmore College in 1955, served in the Army and received a law degree from Harvard in 1960. Dukakis won his first term as governor in 1974, but was unable to do much about a major state budget crisis and lost the Democratic primary in 1978 to Ed King.

Dukakis returned in 1982 to win back the Governor's office; his running mate was an ambitious Vietnam vet named John Kerry. This time Dukakis won accolades for his performance in office and gained popularity for being the only state governor to ride the subway to work each day. In 1986 Dukakis was voted the most effective Governor in America by the National Governors Association.

Dukakis entered a crowded Democratic field in 1988, including Colorado Senator Gary Hart, Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt, Tennessee Senator Al Gore and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. The campaign wound down to Dukakis and Jackson, and while the outcome was not in question, Jackson's showing was strong enough to win him significant platform concessions at the Democratic National Convention. Dukakis chose Lloyd Bentsen, a conservative Democratic Senator from Texas, as his running mate.

The outcome of the 1988 campaign often obscures the fact that Dukakis was well-positioned to win the race coming out of the convention, holding a significant lead over Vice President Bush. That's because the Bush campaign, led by the amoral genius of Lee Atwater, decided to play the kind of dirty politics that hadn't been seen on a national level for decades. Bush used the word "liberal" the way George Wallace and Strom Thurmond had used the n-word, browbeating Dukakis as a "card-carrying liberal member of the ACLU". Bush's people played up Kitty Dukakis's past alcoholism. And, worst of all, Bush played the race card by using the Willie Horton story to paint Dukakis as soft on crime and drugs.

Dukakis's responses were embarrassingly weak and ineffective. He tried to use logic, but he came off cold and robotic, especially when he was famously asked during a debate by CNN's Bernard Shaw, "If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" and answered like he was discussing state office supply appropriations rather than his wife's impending death. When this didn't work, Dukakis tried to play Bush's game, starting rallies with the Pledge of Allegiance and trying to look tough instead of soft. But people couldn't buy Tough Dukakis; one campaign ad where he drove a tank to show his military hawkishness was so ridiculous (Dukakis was wearing his tie, for crying out loud) that Bush's people aired it themselves.

The campaign's outcome was no surprise; Bush won 40 states and 426 electoral votes to Dukakis's 10 states and 111 votes (Dukakis won Washington D.C.'s 3 votes as well). Most analysts were simply relieved the nasty campaign was over.

Dukakis served three more years as governor of Massachusetts, resigning in 1991. He has taught numerous courses on government and policy, mostly at colleges and universities in the Boston area.

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This page was last modified 06:17, 28 November 2006 by dKosopedia user Harkov311. Based on work by Bartfart and Ray Radlein and dKosopedia user(s) Allamakee Democrat, Bcarlson33 and Tunesmith. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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