September 15, 2004


D Is for Descendancy: The Democrats are no longer the majority party. Is this the year they'll finally admit it? (BRENDAN MINITER, September 15, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

The Democratic Party is in descendancy. It's not just that John Kerry's campaign is sinking like a stone, or that George W. Bush is turning out to be a resilient politician. The Democratic leadership is in electoral denial, failing to grasp a profound shift among American voters and therefore on the cusp not of winning back control of one of the branches of government, but of handing control over to Republicans for a generation or more.

This denial has been fed by moderate electoral victories, most notably Bill Clinton's eight year control of the White House, Al Gore's popular-vote plurality in 2000, and what turned out to be transient congressional gains in 1996, 1998 and 2000. Democrats still seem to believe they can win back the White House without making any significant modification to their party's policies--that they are the natural majority party just waiting to be given back control.

A broader look, however, reveals a much different electoral landscape. Somewhere during the Carter presidency Americans lost confidence in the ideas of the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton ran and won as a "third way" Democrat in 1992, when it seemed safe not to worry about foreign threats. When he took office, he tried to move the country to the left, raising taxes and rolling out a plan to socialize medicine. [...]

Republicans have been in the White House for 16 of the past 24 years, held a Senate majority for 14 of those years and controlled the House for the past 10 years. GOP candidates aren't winning elections by luck. The Democrats had their "Great Society" and stayed in power by handing out welfare checks. It took a long time, but Republicans discovered something more valuable to hand out, a form of personal liberty that allows individuals to create real wealth. On self-interested grounds alone, health savings accounts and private Social Security accounts are an electoral inevitability. [...]

In a time of economic prosperity the electorate was nearly deadlocked over two candidates four years ago, but for more than two decades it has proved decidedly in favor of the ideas emanating from the right. After the election Democrats may blame Mr. Kerry for running an inept campaign, as they did Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. But to do so would be to fail to grasp why for the duration of the campaign the party was counting on the economy to stumble, the war to go badly or for a terrorist attack to turn public opinion against the president. Or why with less than two months from Election Day, the party's only remaining hope for victory was for Mr. Bush to stumble.

The Republican Party is extraordinarily lucky that Bill Clinton proved so feckless about the third way, else they'd be the Tories today.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 15, 2004 6:46 PM

Nope -- Clinton's big successes, Welfare Reform and Nafta, were based on Rep ideas, not Dem ideas.

The Dems booted out ALL pro-life folk, both small gov't AND big gov't. In power, the Reps are discovering the joys of gov't handouts.

But love of America, land of the Free, home of the Brave, is far stronger among Reps than Dems.

The Dems have to decide if American soldiers are occupiers or liberators. The Dem split on Iraq, war victory or law enforcement surrender, makes THEM the Tory party (split on EU).

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 16, 2004 7:59 AM

I agree with OJ. Clinton had a lot of potential to transform the Democrats back into the majority party, but squandered it.

It's just the Baby Boomer leadership. Their destruction of the party can only last so much longer. I've talked with a lot of young Democrats, we're all in agreement that the leadership is rotten and needs replacement at all levels. We'll come back, but it may take a decade.

Hopefully, the GOP won't flush the country down the toilet by turning us into the next Argentina by then.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 16, 2004 12:09 PM