November 6, 2002
THIS IS HOW THE DEMOCRATS END:
Here are a few things that the big GOP night makes possible and to keep an eye on. The victories in the Senate and Governor races in GA give Senator Zell Miller the cover he may think he needs to switch parties. He can now say that it's obvious his state is as uncomfortable with the direction of the Democrats as he is and so he'll leave the Party and run for re-election in '04 as a Republican.
Additionally, it should now be possible for President Bush to recruit a real Democrat or two to serve in his cabinet. Recall that after the 2000 dustup he was stuck with just Norm Mineta, because the election was too toxic for others to join up. It would be a particularly savvy move to bring in a black Democrat, or two--Ron Kirk, Harold Ford, Jr., & Cory Booker would all be likely picks. Max Cleland would also seem an ideal pick for a job with the Administration.
The other thing, that's far more important in the long term, is that Democrats are probably going to look at tonight as a repudiation of the Clinton New Democrat/Third Way ideology and the party is extremely likely to jag to the Left. They'll make the catastrophic mistake of looking to the Al Gore of 2000 as the model of how they can beat Republicans. To begin with, Terry McAuliffe is toast, presumably to be replaced by a true liberal, and, with Dick Gephardt running for the Presidency, Nancy Pelosi takes over the House Democrat Leadership. Meanwhile, the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination will be forced to the Left. Even in the teeth of an economic recovery, the Party will start beating the drums against tax cuts, free trade, and Social Security privatization and even as we head off to at least one war, they'll start agitating for more deference to the UN. This has the "advantage" of suiting where the activists would like the Party to be anyway, but the disadvantage of putting them at odds with the nation.
To get some sense of where this leads them, just imagine how much uglier tonight would have been if instead of "conservative" Democrats--Shaheen, Bowles, Pryor, Cleland, etc.--running as kind of softer versions of Republicans, you'd had full-throated liberals running on genuine Democrat positions, like raising taxes and opposing the war. It could not possibly have helped, but that's what their '04 campaign may well look like.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 6, 2002 1:41 AM
Penetrating observations, Orrin. I would add that the GOP now has alot of responsibility on its shoulders, and no one to blame if things go wrong. If Iraq doesn't go well, or goes too
well, and the economy still struggles (admittedly unlikely, but not inconceivable prospects), then 2004 coudl get ugly.
Well first, let's finish counting the votes. I just watched Carnahan concede, and I'm amazed -- there was lots of time to find 30,000 votes in Saint Louis city.
Next, would Mr. Chafee still jump? Oops, it's back to the Democrats. Would that then prompt Mr. Miller to jump? I could see that.
But let's suppose it's 50-49-1 republican. Yes, the democrats have to move left because that's where their base is. And Jean Carnahan can say to them, "see, I voted with Dubya 80% of the time, and he still came after me." (That she deserved it is beside the point). There will be no point for moderately liberal democrats to cooperate with the President, since he'll still come after them in 2004. Zell Miller, paradoxically, is safer than ever, as he's a true conservative. Full-blooded liberals like Boxer, Kennedy and Mikulski can't move further left than they are, but they can lead the rally since they're all quite safe (please, no comments about how Arnie could beat Boxer). So it's a powerful cry to the Democrats -- come home, come back to the high ground because it's the only safe place to be.
Would it be safe? I disagree gently with OJ. There is a larger left-liberal base in this country than many of us would like to concede. And liberals know how to get elected, else this conversation would have been over 20 years ago when Ronald Reagan was elected.
So if I were a card-carrying liberal democrat (shudder), I would not be crestfallen but so much. I'd start sifting through the ashes and figure out how to rebuild. And know that I've done it before.
I am amazed, Orrin, that you think a Republican president could or would put Dems in his Cabinet.
It has worked the other way, since FDR, but how many Democrats did Eisenhower, Nixon or Reagan put in their Cabinets? I believe the answer is zero.
It's quite possible thought that you're looking at a positive feedback cycle for the Dems, where they've just shed their most conservative voters, causing a shift left, which sheds another layer of most conservative (of the remaining) which shifts them even further left which ...
If that's the case, Republicans should start drooling, given the precedent of the Labour Party's Loony Left in the late '70s and '80s (in Britain).
Harry, you'd be extraordinarily wrong. Nixon had both John Connally and Pat Moynihan. Reagan's entire team was Democrats, from J. Kirkpatrick to Bill Bennet, etc. Every President tries having someone from the other Party, except Bill Clinton in his first term, because he was a small man.
That's a very big factor. Shaheen, Bowles, etc. would have been a real moderating force. Now the nutjobs are all that's left.
Orrin, I hope you're right, because I'd love to see AOG's scenario play out. But I think they'll want
to moderate themselves. Their trouble will be that to appear moderate, they'll have to start actually discussing and debating issues and philosophies -- and they have no ideas or reasons or principles. So I think we'll go through a few more elections like this cycle -- they want to avoid appearing leftish, so they don't go full-throated, but they have nothing to say, so they avoid votes and avoid debates. And a majority of voters gradually becomes more comfortable thinking of themselves as Republicans.
I think PJ is right about the Dems moderating themselves -- esp. if NH is so conservative again, it will be hard for potential presidential candidates to come in there spouting leftist canards. (I stole that insight from NRO's forum this morning.) But ponder this: if the GOP enlarges its voter base, as does seem likely, will this result in a shift in the primary
voting pattern, i.e. less dominance by ideological conservatives, as the party draws in more moderates (esp. if the Dems swing left)?
In NH the Democrats are about 27% in terms of Party registration. They voted yesterday for a candidate who favors creating an income tax. They are a fundamentally marginal party and the state has a long history of supporting any MA Democrat who comes down the pike (recall Dukakis and Tsongas). This makes John Kerry the overwhelming front-runner (unless Hillary gets in, which I think less likely now) and he is just not a moderate influence on the party.
By Mass. standards Kerry is a moderate, because he is a soft-spoken arch-liberal.
But the NH Dem primary is not what I had in mind. I think American politics has divided this way. 35% lives off the government, cares only about their money, and votes nearly 100% D. 65% cares about ideas, wants the government to do what's right, and votes 75% R - 25% D. The reason the Dems have made holding onto power so important is that once they lose power, they no longer can uphold their end of the bargain with the 35% who exchanges votes for money. So their hold on this group starts evaporating: these people suddenly want to build good relations with Republicans. And they are in such a deep trough on the idea/philosophy front that it will take them decades to even become competitive. In short, we are seeing the collapse of the Democratic party.
This is the same result you guys are talking about but a different pattern. What we will say is not the Dems going hard left, but going disunited, as they search for a nonexistent philosophy which both justifies subsidies and privileges for their special interests and is appealing to public-spirited folks.
Here are my further comments
, despite them being sabotaged by PJ's latest riposte.
No way Ron Kirk gets into the Cabinet. He ran one of the most racially poisonous campaigns this cycle.
I don't know the other two you talk about.
But won't the natural leader of the party come from the presidential crop?
I think the 2004 Dem nominee will be some governor with a record of bipartisan compromise. It will NOT be a sitting Senator. Yesterday's election was a repudiation of Democratic Senators.
But I doubt whether the Dem party is ready for a leader. They have to have discovered the outlines of a coalition that can win 50% of the vote before they will embrace a leader who can build that coalition. Since no such coalition exists, except perhaps on the old Clinton lines, they'll try the Clinton approach one more time, or else get blown out.
In case my view was not clear: It is as much the case that followers call forth leaders, as that leaders call forth followers. Like that French revolutionary who, after the mob started for the Bastille, tried to push his way to the front shouting, "Let em through! They need me! I am their leader!", leadership from the Dems will appear only when followers are ready to follow. And nostalgia for the old coalition is the only unifying bond of the rank-and-file right now, and someone who Clinton-like promises to re-create it once again is the only sort of 'leader' who can currently get broad Dem support. But that broad support may have slipped for good below the magic 50% . . . and that means a new coalition has to be built . . . and that seems far away.
But it won't be a governor who's not even completed two years, so who does that leave: Gray Davis?
Good question . . . Won't be Roy Barnes of Georgia either. The Dems are in a bad way for 2004. Maybe Barbara Streisand will throw her hat in the ring?
Realistically, their crop looks like this:
Who there can redefine the party other than by moving it radically back to the Left?
Joe Lieberman would have been a moderate prospect, but he damaged his credibility in 2000.
Of your list Edwards & Gephardt seem to me to have the best shot at the nomination.