The Democratic Convention: Alongside the balloons, an air of realism - The Democrats meet in New York this week to endorse the man they are coming to believe can oust George Bush from the White House

THE PREPOSTEROUS, exhilarating hoopla is wonderful for morale. But what matters at this Democratic convention is unity. Five times out of the last six, the Democrats failed to conquer the White House. Whatever the song says, happy days will not return in 1992 - unless Bill Clinton can show his country he has created a party in his own image, at peace with itself and at one with him.

There may be scant sign of it on the streets of New York. Gays, the homeless and women's rights groups will be demonstrating, Aids victims will be marching - the very pressure groups that remind God-fearing, suburban America of everything it does not like about the Democrats. And all this in the city the rest of the country loves to hate.

Inside Madison Square Garden, however, if all goes according to plan, it will be very different. On display will be the new model party that Mr Clinton has spent his political career attempting to build: faithful to its liberal heritage, yet reshaped to reach out to the middle classes whose desertion in the 1980s proved fatal.

Bill Clinton has prepared the ground assiduously. By nailing down the nomination so early, he has been able to pack every committee that matters with his supporters. Few Democratic nominees presumptive have gone to their ritual crowning with such control of the convention agenda. In theory, the risk of bruising public floor fights is minimal.

The 9,000-word platform is the gospel of Clintonism. From its talk of a 'New Covenant' between people and government, promised on the day he declared last October, to the warm words for business, its emphasis on wealth creation rather than wealth distribution, and insistence on personal responsibility, the document embodies the centrist 'Third Way' for which the Arkansas Governor has long argued.

It urges defence cuts, but not such as to jeopardise US military supremacy and its capacity to 'use force decisively where necessary'. Only in its unconditional support for abortion does the platform have a liberal ring. It will be mighty hard for the Republicans to use the 'L-word' as they did so devastatingly against Michael Dukakis four years ago.

But the keynote will be unity. Nominating Mr Clinton will be none other than a once-suspicious Mario Cuomo, guardian of the party's New Deal soul. A deal has been struck with Paul Tsongas, his most serious primary opponent, whereby the former Massachusetts Senator will speak tomorrow night. In return, Tsongas-backers on the drafting committee voted to prevent the former Governor of California, Jerry Brown, from presenting his ideas in a full-scale debate.

Technically, Mr Brown's name may yet be placed in nomination. In effect, however, he has received an ultimatum: endorse Mr Clinton, support the platform and release his 600-odd committed delegates - or resign himself to presenting his quirky notions outside the convention.

Which leaves Jesse Jackson, who will speak tomorrow and who has crossed swords bitterly with Mr Clinton. But the Jackson bluff has been called. No longer is he the sole voice of the black community, and his influence at this convention is far less than in 1984 and 1988. On Saturday Mr Jackson bowed to the inevitable and tepidly endorsed Mr Clinton, gaining nothing in return.

In 1992, the master of the game is the moderate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) which Mr Clinton once led. Nothing could be more symbolic than the choice of the Tennessee Senator Al Gore as running mate. Mr Clinton could have chosen a black, a woman, a north-eastern liberal, to 'balance the ticket'. The balance he has gone for is a man of his generation, from the same part of the country, cut from similar ideological cloth, another prime mover within the DLC. The message is plain: this is a different party, that wants to win.

The strategy has its dangers: Mr Jackson is down but not out. In eschewing him, Mr Clinton could forfeit his formidable campaigning ability to get out the black vote, a core Democratic constituency essential in a presidential year. Nor has Mr Clinton the coalition-builder dispelled the impression his party is in thrall to lobbies, Political Action Committees and other big contributors.

But that is a small concern. Democrats sense the tide is turning their way. No party has a greater talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But this time there is none of the giddy optimism of 1988 which caused defeat to be so painful. In 1992, alongside the hoopla, the balloons and the flagwaving, an unusual element is in the air: realism.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there