November 12, 2002
A BIG WIN IN A LOSING CAMPAIGN:Winning a Battle, Not a War (DONALD GREEN and ERIC SCHICKLER, November 12, 2002, NY Times)
Karl Rove notwithstanding, the United States still awaits another political realignment--a period of fundamental change in the way the public views the parties. For better or worse, for almost 70 years neither Republicans nor Democrats have succeeded in substantially altering public perceptions of what they stand for. Last week's election was no different. [...]
Thus last week's Republican triumphs are the result not of some noteworthy shift in partisan allegiances; Republicans won because voters are concerned with issues they have long associated with the party. [...]
The Democrats need not worry that Republicans created a vast new group of Bush Democrats in 2002. Republicans prevailed a week ago not because they altered the public's stereotypes of the parties, but because the public mood fit the stereotypes of the parties that already existed. As the party associated with patriotism and national defense, Republicans benefited from a policy agenda that put Iraq at the forefront, upstaging social spending issues like Medicare or Social Security.
Viewed from this perspective, last week's triumph may represent a missed opportunity for the Republicans: they won the election but failed to create a new image for themselves. And the Democratic Party--even though it has lost the White House and Congress--may find some small consolation in the knowledge that its image, though antiquated, still appeals to more voters than any other.
This is a kind of silly essay. The main point is inarguable: the country turns to Democrats for economic security and to Republicans for national security. But the question is, after the seventy year failure of liberalism to provide effective government-delivered economic security, whether people will continue to turn to Democrats. Polling on Social Security privatization, welfare reform, and similar issues suggests that there's a window of opportunity here when the GOP can ask the American People to act like grown-ups and take control of their own economic security, rather than always turning to the Mommy Party. href=http://www.juddtech.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/967>Conservative theory would tend to suggest that this is a futile dream, that the masses, once addicted to government, will not be weaned--the desire to get something for nothing is just too strong. But these are the issues between Left and Right, as they have been for a good two centuries. The idea that either party can change its image in any serious way seems rather odd. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 12, 2002 9:43 AM