November 10, 2004


Dems must decide which faction will revive them (Walter Shapiro, 11/10/04, USA Today)

The political map is obviously part of the dilemma facing the Democrats, because the party is now almost completely rooted in the Northeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific coast states. But this easily remembered division of the nation into blue Democratic states and red GOP bastions is too simplistic. For the Democrats have become four separate parties, which are only united because of their antipathy to Bush and all things Republican. Each of these Democratic factions brings problems that stand in the way of creating a governing majority.

•The Party of Cultural Permissiveness: Even in their political downslide, the Democrats can take credit for the transformation of American social life. Over the past 30 years, racial tolerance has slowly become the bipartisan standard. The feminist movement has triumphed to such a degree that Condoleezza Rice is Bush's national security adviser and Hillary Rodham Clinton is an early front-runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination. Even though a referendum against gay marriage may have cost Kerry a victory in Ohio, once-radical notions such as civil unions for gay couples have now become a mainstream position. [...]

•The Anti-War Party: As Kerry learned to his distress, Vietnam remains the wound that will not heal. While the party does boast prominent hawks such as Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democratic activists are congenitally skeptical about military adventures such as the invasion of Iraq. Each time party leaders try to demonstrate their national-security toughness, as with the Senate votes by Kerry and John Edwards to authorize the Iraqi war, they run into predictable difficulties in the Democratic primaries. This political problem, which dates back to Vietnam, will not be simply solved by split-the-difference rhetoric.

•The Party of Economic Justice: As cultural and national-security issues dominate the national debate, it becomes harder than ever for Democrats to reassemble the New Deal coalition by stressing their economic agenda. Blue-collar Democrats who single-mindedly vote their pocketbooks are fast becoming an extinct species. With the budget deficit likely to hamstring any bold programmatic visions, the Democrats face a continuing challenge in running on such traditional issues as health care and tax fairness.

•The Status Quo Party: Leading Democratic constituencies like labor, the elderly and African-American groups are motivated by preserving without alteration Social Security, Medicare and the tattered remnants of the social safety net. What this means, in practice, is that the Democrats have ceded the reformist agenda to Bush and the Republicans. Every once in a while, the Democrats win an election by flogging the Social Security and Medicare issues. But these momentary triumphs prevent the Democrats from offering any proposals to ensure the solvency of these retirement systems.

You can't ever get those four to add up to 50% in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 10, 2004 2:16 PM

This is embarassing even for McPaper.

1. The Cultural Permissiveness Crowd is done. America has probably reached the end of its permissiveness. Gay marriage violates people's understanding of what marriage is all about, even people who are basically secular. Now, we're getting into Comedy Central territory where people want to marry their dogs. I mean, my guy would look terrible in a troisseau.

2. The Anti-War Party was always a loser. When have they won anything serious. Kerry is the closest they've ever come to the Presidency. Their 'Blame America First' attitude is resented across the Red and Blue divide.

3. The Party of Economic Justice. Now, this is too, too much. The Democrats gave up on even the merest interest in economic justice in the McGovernite 70s. Gary Hart, Tony Coelho, Michael Dukakis ushered in a period where the Democrats turned their backs on the working man even more than most Republicans, and decided to sell their influence for campaign contributions. NAFTA sailed through under Clinton, even though it was harmful to many Union households. When it came down to a trendnoid concern over the environment vs. preserving jobs, the Democrats consistently chose the spotted owl over the flannelled lumberman.

4. The Status Quo Party. Call them what they are: the cattle. These people hear a small noise and get stampeded every time. It's embarassing. They don't like the way things are, yet when someone promises a change, they freak out preferring the continuation of their current misery to the chance that things might get better.

The Democrats, unlike the GOP, have no unified message whatsoever. They are a cobbled together group of special interests and a candidate has to dutifully genuflect at each group's temple. The Democrats only win the Presidency when the GOP manages to nominate a loser like Old Bush or a cadaver like Dole. They have no message because they have no center. You have to come to the American people with a campaign slogan more informative than 'Vote for us, because we're not Bush' or what appears to be their next tack 'Vote for us or you're a poopy-head!'

Posted by: Bart at November 10, 2004 3:42 PM

It does not look good when the faction of the party I am in is not even mentioned.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at November 10, 2004 3:54 PM


Reluctant Republicans?

Posted by: oj at November 10, 2004 4:13 PM

The Democrats reflexively claim to be the party of economic justice while proclaiming policies of economic disaster.

Blue collar workers do vote their pocketbooks. They just happen to be a whole lot smarter than the Left gives them credit for.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 10, 2004 8:57 PM

The political party which will replace the Democrats will know what it must do: lose the gun-grabbers, lose the baby-killers, lose the multis and trannies, and lose the queers. They might even be to hang on to the schoolteachers, but the first four blocs must go.

This doesn't mean flip-flopping, it doesn't mean having your dead duck pose next to a dead goose, it means an entirely new approach.

Nor will hanging around waiting for the Republicans to fragment themselves do it. Thus far there is no sign of that happpening. This is because of how well the Republican majority is put together. It's the "false consciousness": let me keep my guns, save a few babies, and I'll let you have your tax cuts.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 11, 2004 9:51 AM