On August 16 last year Bill Bradley announced thap after representing New Jersey in the Senate for three terms he would not run for a fourth term. In interviews and at the news conferences he conducted afterward Bradley did his best to talk about the deep problems of public life and economic adjustment that had left him frustrated with the political process. Each of the parties had locked itself into rigid positions that kept it from dealing with the realistic concerns of ordinary people, he said. American corporations were doing what they had to do for survival in international competition: they were downsizing and making themselves radically more efficient and productive. But the result was to leave "decent, hardworking Americans" more vulnerable to layoffs and the loss of their careers, medical coverage, pension rights, and social standing than they had been in decades. Somehow, Bradley said, we had to move past the focus on short-term political maneuvering and determine how to deal with the forces that were leaving Americans frustrated and insecure.
That, at least, was what Bill Bradley said. What turned up in the press was almost exclusively speculation about what the move meant for this year's presidential race and the party lineup on Capitol Hill. Might Bradley challenge Bill Clinton in the Democratic primaries? If not, was he preparing for an independent run? Could the Democrats come up with any other candidate capable of holding on to Bradley's seat? Wasn't this a slap in the face for Bill Clinton and the party he purported to lead? In the aftermath of Bradley's announcement prominent TV and newspaper reporters competed to come up with the shrewdest analysis of the political impact of the move. None of the country's major papers or networks used Bradley's announcement as a news peg for an analysis of the real issues he had raised.
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