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With the possible exception of Elliot Richardson '41, Daniel Patrick Moynihan boasts one of the most impressive resumes of any American political figure in recent memory. If he succeeds in defeating New York Senator James L. Buckley in the latter's bid for re-election, Moynihan, Harvard's sometime Professor of Government who in the past 15-odd years has served three presidents as domestic affairs adviser, Ambassador to India, and most recently, Chief U.S. delegate to the United Nations, will have yet another impressive title to add to his list.
At this point it's still hard to predict with certainty the outcome of tomorrow's election. Moynihan, who began the campaign with an estimated 13 percentage point advantage over his incumbent opponent, has watched his lead shrink to a mere four to six points though the most recent polls show him making a comeback. Since the polls have a three-point margin of error, the campaign would seem to be a horse race, if not a dead heat.
A key factor in tomorrow's election will be the action--or inaction--of New York's estimated half million black voters. Moynihan's political problem with blacks stems from his study of the black family in which he alleged that a "pathological" matriarchal structure was in part responsible for blacks' inferior socio-economic status, and from a memo to former president Richard M. Nixon suggesting that the Administration cool the volatile political climbate by adopting a policy of "benign neglect" on racial and urban matters. Although Moynihan has said repeatedly that the "benign neglect" remark was quoted out of context, and that his purpose in the black family study was to advocate the establishment of government programs to aid blacks, there remains a considerable amount of anti-Moynihan sentiment among both black leaders and the rank and file.
The 108-member New York State Council of Black Elected Democrats has so far pointedly refused to endorse Moynihan, charging that he has not made "affirmative efforts to alter his negative image among some black voters," and polls taken two weeks ago show Moynihan may receive only half the black support usually accorded a Democratic nominee. Kenneth Clark, a prominent black social scientist at the City University of New York, has even gone so far as to endorse Buckley.
But few, if any, black political leaders have followed Clark's lead, and the question seems to be not whether black voters will pick Buckley, who has consistently voted against social welfare programs that benefit many poor blacks, but whether they will vote at all. And despite the Council of Black Elected Democrats' refusal to endorse Moynihan, over ten of its members, including Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) have done so individually.
In addition to confronting Buckley out on the hustings, Moynihan has also had to contend with harassment from the Conservative party and Buckley's campaign forces. First, the Conservative Party asked the New York State Supreme Court to deny Moynihan the Liberal line on the ballot, contending that he had improperly and fraudulently obtained the nomination. Although the Court at first decided in the Conservatives' favor, the Moynihan forces appealed and won.
The Buckley campaign has also played on an issue that is by now familiar to members of the Harvard community--the propriety of Moynihan's decision to stay at Harvard this fall and draw a full professor's salary whil spending at least five days a week away from Cambridge. Last Monday, Buckley campaign press secretary Robert Mackin released two letters to President Bok in which Albert F. Gordon '59, a prominent Harvard alumnus and a major financial contributor to the University, alleged that Moynihan's attempt to wear both his academic and political hats simultaneously was unethical and possibly illegal. Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, refuted the charge of illegality, and President Bok indicated that he had ascertained Moynihan's status under University regulations "a long time ago."
Both Moynihan and Buckley have acknowledged the similarity of their stands on foreign policy and defense issues, and the campaign debate has focused on the candidates' domestic programs and political philosophies.
Moynihan has sought to portray himself as a pragmatic New Deal liberal who favors federal economic and social welfare programs when such intervention is likely to prove effective. He has endorsed the Humphrey-Hawkins full-employment bill, and promises to fight for increased federal aid to New York. Moynihan has repeated referred to his opponent as "Lord Buckley," charging the incumbent has been insensitive to the needs of the poor and has in general been totally ineffective as Senate advocate for New York's needs.
Buckley has countered Moynihan's charges with allegations that "Professor Moynihan" is an irresponsible liberal spendthrift whose programs, if adopted, would raise the average New York family's taxes by $3000. The Buckley image is that of a "classic conservative" who disapproves of federal action in most cases on the grounds that it is wasteful and ineffective, and that increased federal intervention leads to increased government centralization, with a con-commitant decrease in individual rights.
On recent peace of federal legislation that Buckley found particularly disturbing was the new federal Campaign Financing Law that limited the amount an individual could spend on his own campaign and placed a ceiling on total campaign expenditures. In a suit joined by former Senator and now presidential candidate Eugene J. McCarthy, Buckley successfully argued that the spending limits unconstitutionally abridged Frist Amendment guarantees of the right of free expression.
Since overturning the spending limits, Buckley has expressed himself quite freely, stimulating New York State's faltering economy with campaign expenditures of over $1.5 million, much of it raised out of state. In fact, with the exception of Representative H. John Heinz III (R-Pa.), who spent about $2 million on his campaign, Buckley's expenditures have outstripped those of any other Senatorial candidate. Moynihan's campaign, on the other hand, is running in the red, and recently Moynihan staffers agreed to forego their salaries to pump more money into television advertising to counteract Buckley's saturation-level media campaign.
All in all, "Lord Buckley" and "Professor Moynihan," characterized by The New York Times as "that rambunctious child of the sidewalks of New York," have provided New Yorkers with one of the most exciting name-calling, go-for-the-jugular campaigns in years. If he wakes up Wednesday morning as the Empire State's junior Senator-elect, Moynihan would do well to remember his prescient observation in a 1969 address called "Politics As the Art of the Impossible":
The challenge to authority that is now upon us can strengthen and renew institutions as much as it can weaken them. And it can be fun. There is always room, as George Orwell wrote, 'for one more custard pie.'"
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