The Wilder Side

Doug Wilder

No new taxes. Massive cuts in social spending. Dirty political feuds with prominent Democrats. Sound familiar?

No, it's not George Bush, or one of his cronies. It's not a Republican at all. It's L. Douglas Wilder, governor of Virginia, formal contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Wilder, best known as the nation's first elected Black governor, defies the stereotype of a Black politician. He sounds more like Jack Kemp than he sounds like Jesse Jackson.

Since Wilder was elected two years ago, he has slashed the state's $2 billion budget deficit not by raising taxes, but by cutting funds for education and social services.

To his credit, Wilder jeopardized his popularity in his chief constituency by redistributing spending from wealthy Northern Virginia secondary schools to poorer rural areas. He has also fought the Virginia good-old-boy establishment to help minority-owned businesses.

But these accomplishments are little known outside Richmond. What has made national news is Wilder's perpetual feud with Sen. Charles S. Robb. Wilder's waning poll ratings show that many Virginians are beginning to wonder whether he's spending his time solving the state's problems or sulking in political paranoia.

Wilder hopes to create a novel coalition between Black voters and conservative Democrats. But if the Democratic Party really wanted to nominate someone like Doug Wilder, it could have found someone much more popular--someone like George Bush.