November 15, 2004


The Values Gap: Why the Democratic party is losing its appeal to Americans (JOE KLEIN, 11/15/04, TIME)

Having written my first "Whither The Democrats?" piece more than 20 years ago and followed it with too many other whithering rants about the donkeys, I have little appetite this time to do it again. After all, the Democrats took flagrantly responsible stands on the two most important issues of the election: in favor of muscular multilateralism abroad and fiscal responsibility at home. John Kerry ran an honorable, if not entirely competent campaign, while the Republicans skimmed the outskirts of the acceptable with their nonstop negativity. And why give ammunition to oleaginous telecharlatans, like James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who have been puffing all over the airwaves since Nov. 2 demanding their pound of policy flesh?

And yet ...

That's a fascinating illustration of why the Left can't bridge the values gap--note that Mr. Klein thinks the Kerry campaign to have been without sin? Mr. Kerry offered no reason to vote for him except opposition to the President, the very definition of negativity, and exploited, if not started, rumors about the draft and brought back that trusty Democratic shibboleth, about Republicans taking away Social Security checks. Yet all this was honorable, while the President's campaign bordered on the unaccptable?

It drives Democrats insane that the Right, especially the Christian Right, forgives people like George W. Bush when they make mistakes, even when they've sinned. But the Left is so imbued with a sense of entitlement that it can't imagine that anything it does is wrong and so secularized it's lost the knowledge that all men do evil. How can such a party hope to discuss values and morality with America?

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2004 11:49 AM

If you don't understand why millions of ordinary decent Americans listen to people like James Dobson but instead dismiss him as an oleaginous telecharlatan, you are so far away as a party from regaining majority status that you might want to consider going the way of the Whigs and starting over. Dobson and his crowd have strong support for a reason, and it is incumbent upon people like Joe Klein who claim to be independent journalists and experts in politics to figure out the whys and wherefores. The dismissive tone of Mr Klein's writing shows that he has no interest in actually figuring out what happened but is content to stand on his soapbox and gripe.

Joe, the next train to Montreal is on Track 4, be on it.

Posted by: Bart at November 15, 2004 12:48 PM

There's no such thing as "muscular multilateralism".

Every nation decides on its own how vigorous its foreign policy will be, and neither the US nor the UN can force them to be aggressive.

To the extent that muscular multilateralism can be said to exist, the Iraq invasion was it, with the "coalition of the willing".

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 15, 2004 1:06 PM

Honorable campaign? Let's see -- he suppressed his full military records; he did not call to task any of the 527's who labeled the President a Nazi; claiming, without specifying, the support of foreign leaders; and like the honorable Richard Nixon, claimed a "plan" for Iraq, but never disclosed it. I'm sure there's other stuff that I just cannot recall but the notion that Kerry ran an honorable campaign is a delusion.

Posted by: Morrie at November 15, 2004 1:12 PM

"...muscular multilateralism..."
What were they going to do, pose on a beach someplace?

Posted by: joe shropshire at November 15, 2004 1:43 PM

Morrie made my point: running for president while refusing to release your military and medical records is hardly "honorable."

Posted by: PapayaSF at November 15, 2004 1:52 PM

Au contraire, as Hanoi John's buddies would put it. The Republicans, if anything, were too genteel about the whole thing. Those Ho Chi Minh Victory Museum pictures should have gotten much more play, as should his all-out effort to protect and defend Communism in Nicaragua. Benedict Arnold was an American war, a real one. I guess you could say that Arnold was for the Revolution before he was against it.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 15, 2004 3:41 PM

And let's not forget that during the last week, within hours of when the "337 tons of missing explosives" lie first appeared, he leaped to the conclusion that our troops are incompetent to run a war. Yep, that's responsible.

As for "fiscal responsibility at home"— These are the same people over the past decades have spend like they win the lottery every 15 April. Their only beef with the current spending isn't the size, but that they, and the people they buy to vote for them, aren't getting a big enough cut, or worse, someone else is getting a bigger cut, and that's just not fair! Whaaaa!!

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 15, 2004 3:59 PM

>How can such a party hope to discuss values and
>morality with America?

They can't.

They can only sieze power and hold it.

Posted by: Ken at November 15, 2004 7:41 PM