Former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis told a Harvard audience last night that the 1982 gubernatorial elections will indicate what is happening politically in the country, providing a mid-term test of the Reagan administration.
"There has been no swing to the right," Dukakis said, commenting on the election of conservative politicians nationally and his own 1978 Democratic Party primary defeat by Gov. Edward J. King. "The country stays at center politically, with some shifts through action and reaction," he told an audience of 90 at Phillips Brooks House.
Dukakis, director of Inter-Governmental Relations at the Kennedy School of Government, has not yet officially announced his candidacy for the 1982 Massachusetts gubernatorial election, although "the campaign is under way and has been for several months," he said. His talk was sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Democratic Club, which has not yet endorsed a candidate, Christina Spaulding, the club's vice president, said last night.
Dukakis' campaign will emphasize Massachusetts economic issues, especially those relating to federal spending cuts. "There is no reason why a well-managed state government can't live with Reagan's budget cuts," he said. However, Dukakis said that further cuts, although unlikely, would be difficult to live with. "Reagan has Congress up against the wall; they won't give any more," he added.
Dukakis predicts state governments will take an increased role in their own decision-making over the next few decades. "Vietnam taught us that concentrating power in the Nation's capital can be dangerous," he said.
The next few years will be important for the Democratic Party, enabling it to thoroughly address economic issues, historically the party's focus, Dukakis said.
"Carter's defeat was based on a failure to deal with the economic issue," he said. "The job of democrats is to conscientiously seek to change things for the better and not be afraid to use government to do it," he added.