November 13, 2004


Seismic Shifts: The election results were another chapter in a 40-year slide for the Democrats (Eleanor Clift, 11/12/04, Newsweek)

Hispanics are the future, and they responded to conservative appeals on gay marriage and abortion. “Big things occurred in this election, and they are potentially enduring,” says Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. Bush made his most significant gains among women and Hispanics, groups Democrats thought they owned. Remember the gender gap? Hispanic voters handed Bush victories in Florida and New Mexico. In Michigan, where John Kerry won, Bush split the union vote. The cultural polarization that drove the Democrats out of the South is now eroding Hispanic and union support in the Midwestern industrial states, once Democratic strongholds.

It’s tempting to blame Kerry and the Brahmin elitism he radiates, but the election results were another chapter in a 40-year slide for the Democrats, beginning in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson won 90 percent of the electoral votes and more than 60 percent of the popular vote. Support for civil rights played a huge role in the party’s decline, but claiming the moral high ground isn’t going to win elections. “In the South, the Democrats are viewed as the party of social change and antiwar,” says former South Carolina governor Jim Hodges. “It’s time the party looked in the mirror. The problem is the party, not the candidate. Whatever accent they put on the next candidate, if the party continues to share the same image in the country, the results will be the same.” [...]

Quirky and often over the top in his partisan outbursts, Carville is one of the few bold thinkers on the Democratic side. But he doesn’t give it away at think tanks and party retreats. His fame as a strategist and as the husband of Mary Matalin, a top Republican operative, makes him a hot commercial property, and what reporters heard this week is a preview of the advice he is turning into a guide for Democrats. “We’ve got to come to grips with the fact that we are an opposition party, and not a particularly effective one,” he says.

A reporter observed that in a focus group he attended, when people were asked what Democrats stand for, they said: “liberal ... raise my taxes ... they’re for gays.

Gotta be painful for Ms Clift to make such acknowledgements, but she's dead on--it's the message, not the messenger.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2004 1:49 PM

They are running out of Southerners to put on the ticket unless they find some dog catcher in High Point, NC or something.

Posted by: Bart at November 13, 2004 5:18 PM

Running out of Southerners? I'd say Harold Ford is worth a shot, unless you think he's not known enough or ready for the office. Then again, Barack Obama doesn't yet fit on either count and many see the Presidency in his future (Not me, though - Obama strikes me as very average.)

Ford is passionate for his side, yet does not come off as strident or an ideologue; he is also rather eloquent in stating what is important to him. If he gets pegged for national office, of for a more prominent role in Congress, it will not surprise me in the slightest.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at November 13, 2004 5:46 PM

Harold Ford's only political power base is in urban Memphis. He has no statewide appeal in Tennessee much less in any other red state. If he runs for the open senate seat in 08', he will carry only one congressional district, the one he currently represents.

Posted by: Mary at November 13, 2004 8:28 PM

I doubt Ford or Obama could be competitive in any red states. For both good reasons, and unfortunate ones as well...

Posted by: brian at November 13, 2004 9:35 PM

Brian, Condi Rice would carry the Red States though.

Posted by: Jim S at November 13, 2004 11:31 PM

>it's the message, not the messenger

But since The Party Can Never Be Wrong, it's all those traitors, thoughtcriminals, goldsteinist-republican stooges, and The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

Posted by: Ken at November 15, 2004 1:27 PM