November 4, 2004


Where the Democrats go from here: The election results point to serious problems, like an inability to reach outside the Democratic base. (Liz Marlantes, 11/05/04, CS Monitor)

"Democrats clearly need to reassess what they're about and what they're doing," says Mr. Klinkner. "But what it's really going to come down to is what kind of job Bush does over the next four years," he says. "And in that sense, the Democrats are going to have to be reactive."

Certainly, the election results point to a number of serious problems for Democrats. President Bush made small but potentially significant inroads into the Democratic base, gaining a higher percentage of Hispanic votes than in 2000, and reducing the gender gap by winning over more women. He made gains among Catholic and Jewish voters, and even performed better in urban areas, the Democrats' stronghold.

Regionally, the Democrats' strength now seems almost entirely confined to the coasts and pockets of the Midwest. The party is currently without a national leader, having lost its Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle. Democrats were also defeated in every Senate race in the South, suggesting that the party faces growing challenges in trying to compete in that part of the country.

This year, Sen. John Kerry essentially ceded the entire South, aside from a brief flirtation with North Carolina when he put Sen. John Edwards on the ticket, and a last-minute visit by former President Bill Clinton to Arkansas. The Kerry campaign saw more promising territory for picking up electoral votes in the Southwest - states such as New Mexico and Colorado, both of which Kerry wound up losing narrowly. Some Democrats argue this region still represents a better fit for the party as it seeks to expand its base of support. But others say Democrats can't expect to win the White House if they can't compete in the South.

"It's very hard for a Democrat to win when you write off the South completely," says Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta.

If Kerry had managed to carry Ohio, Professor Abramowitz notes, he could have pulled it off. But the strategy left little room for error. And Kerry may have come up short in Ohio, despite the state's economic woes, for the same reason he lost across the South - an inability to connect with culturally conservative voters on values.

One would merely note that the GOP didn't return to power until it became pro-active, rather than reactive. If Democrats have no ideas they'll never do more than occassionally elect a Clinton or Cleveland, who governs as a Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2004 11:18 PM

Oh they have plenty of ideas. Chief of them being that they were far too centrist in this election hence the loss.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at November 5, 2004 5:28 AM

It isn't that he 'couldn't connect' with more culturally, conservative voters, it's that, as can be seen from the hailstorm of Democrat post-mortems, he and his supporters don't even respect cultural moderates, let alone cultural conservatives.

Even if I agreed with someone 100%, if he didn't respect me, I wouldn't even give him the time of day, much less vote for him. So, the Democrats have to either start agreeing with the non-trendnoid on some things or put their soi-disant hipsters in the attic with the crazy aunt for a while.

Posted by: Bart at November 5, 2004 6:35 AM

The idea that Kerry chose not to contest the south is laughable. Kerry never had any chance to take any southern state besides Florida. Any resources put into the south were wasted, as was the vp pick.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 5, 2004 7:53 AM