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President-elect Bill Clinton's success depends on his ability to challenge the Washington establishment, a panel that included a senior Clinton strategist and the president of Common Cause said last night at the Kennedy School of Government.
Stan Greenberg, Clinton's campaign pollster and senior strategist, noted that the recent election occurred at a time of institutional and political crisis.
"The people's political imagination has been crushed by political cynicism from the top," Greenberg told the crowd of 120. He said that Clinton must create a sense that people can affect change.
Frederic M. Wertheimer, president of Common Cause, a Washington, D.C.-based organization devoted to campaign reform, said that Washington is a "city lying in wait," ready to acclimate Bill Clinton to the "business as usual" mentality.
The outcome of the battle between the Clinton administration's mandate for change and Washington's institutionalism will go a long way in determining Clinton's ability to solve the nation's problems, Wertheimer said.
"The system has to be shaken up for the hope [for change] to be turned into progress," Wertheimer said.
Jill E. Abramson '76, a Wall Street Journal reporter, focused on the "incredible force" that special interest groups have on government policy.
Abramson said that Clinton's success in bucking "the culture" of Washington will determine whether he is able to implement the change he has promised.
"My worry is what we're seeing is people putting on different colored jerseys, but the game is still the same," Abramson said. "Clinton is the one who has to change it."
E.J. Dionne '73, author of "Why Americans Hate Politics," also participated in the discussion.
Richard J. Zeckhauser '62, Ramsey professor of political economy at the Kennedy School of Government moderated the discussion, entitled, "Mandate for Change: Will It Occur?"
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