October 24, 2004

RETROGRADE, SHELLY, RETROGRADE:

Calls to Reinvent a Party (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 10/24/04, NY Times)

In this of all elections, a defeat would have the makings of being especially debilitating for Democrats, given the depth of the party's bench, its continuing search for a unifying message, and the institutional challenges to the party's influence that emerged from independent 527 committees this year.

Most immediately, a large reason that Mr. Kerry captured his party's nomination is that Democratic primary voters concluded he could hold his own on national security. He is, after all, a Vietnam veteran who voted for the war on Iraq.

In this context, a Kerry loss would crystallize an excruciating question for the Democratic Party: Can it ever compete with the Republican Party on a threshold issue that seems likely to be central to American presidential elections for a long time to come?

"If we lose, we are going to have to find an answer to the question of how are we going to keep this country secure,'' said Al From, the head of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of moderate Democrats who helped elect Bill Clinton president at a time when no one thought or talked about a domestic terrorist attack.

A Democratic consultant, who did not want to be quoted by name speculating on the possibility that Mr. Kerry might lose, said that if that happens, "Democrats will go back to 'What does it take to win?' - except this time, it will be, 'Oh my God! What does it take to win?'

"There will be a push from the left saying we weren't left enough. And there will be a push from the center saying we weren't center enough."

And there will, no doubt, be still another round of intraparty fighting over the war in Iraq, with some Democrats wondering if the party would have been better off nominating someone who opposed the war from the start - say, Howard Dean - as opposed to Mr. Kerry, whose initial vote for the war resolution has proved a constant complication for his presidential campaign.


The problem for Democrats is that they blew their shot at being the Third Way party during the Clinton years, and now George Bush's GOP has decisively claimed that turf. The only place left for them is really to return to a hard Left Second Way ideology--a kind of neo-socialism--which can keep them at 40% and a viable party but one that forfeits the possibility of having much say in the national agenda.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 24, 2004 10:15 AM
Comments

If Kerry loses, Hillary is the 2008 nominee the moment the senator makes his concession speech, because the party faithful will think they can return to power by harvesting that "Clinton magic" one more time. That means the Democrats won't even begin to conduct any self-examination of their national policies until 2009 at the earliest, no matter what happens at the state and congressional level over the next four years.

Posted by: John at October 24, 2004 10:30 AM

Holding 40% of state and Federal elected offices hardly shuts a party out of contributing to "the national agenda".

Particularly since I can guarantee that idiotcons will overreach in many states, and get slapped back into bare majority positions, or worse.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 24, 2004 11:25 AM

Michael:

What did Republicans matter from 1932 to 1980?

Posted by: oj at October 24, 2004 11:27 AM

Remarkable how much that "Second Way" resembles Hitlerian/Mussolinian fascism, isn't it? Apart from the concentration camps, I mean.

Socialism has only one way to disguise itself as something other than socialism. It must leave the nominal title to capital in the hands of private owners, then regulate and tax it so strictly that, for all practical purposes, it has been nationalized. Put another way, it must separate the forms of ownership from the rights to the things owned.

That's an exact definition of fascism.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at October 24, 2004 12:43 PM

An "In Laws" allusion!

OJ, I commend you on your taste in movies.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at October 24, 2004 4:09 PM

A socialist party carries 25% in Manhattan, the Bay Area, and Cambridge. 0.25% nationally. Forget it.

If the Democrats have a future it will be as the party of Jefferson, small government, balanced budget, states rights, isolationist, free trade, etc.

The Republicans will be the party of Hamilton and Lincoln.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 24, 2004 6:02 PM

OJ, you're right about the Clinton years being a lost opportunity for them, and I think John is right that they'll think Hillary will save them in '08, but I really doubt that'll happen.

In theory the Dems could take a libertarian turn, emphasizing free-market solutions to help the poor (think Jack Kemp), but that's basically impossible given their union/government employee/trial lawyer core.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 24, 2004 7:20 PM

Hillary, unlike Bill, is viscerally 2nd Way. Bill got to the Right of George H. W. Bush. What Democrat will be allowed to run that far Right in '08?

Posted by: oj at October 24, 2004 7:25 PM

Back in circa 2000 I wrote that it would likely take a very long time to rehabilitate all the institutions that Bill Clinton had corrupted: the presidency, the Congress, most of the Cabinet departments, and both political parties.

Bush has done a lot to fix the presidency; I can't think of even a single Bush appointee who's been indicted yet, and it's been nearly four years.

Congress is still messed up.

Good appointees have gone a long way to repairing the damage done to the executive branch.

Bush has taken hold of the RNC, and it's got good people.

But the Democrats are still led by the same people. The Democrat Party is still just as corrupt from top to bottom.

Posted by: J Baustian at October 25, 2004 1:26 AM

As long as the Democratic Party remains merely a cobbled together batch of interest groups rather than a group with a coherent ideology of some kind, they are doomed to fail.

Posted by: Bart at October 25, 2004 7:33 AM

'What Democrat will be allowed to run that far Right in '08?..'

Hillary

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at October 25, 2004 11:07 AM
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