November 5, 2004


The World Has Changed. Why Can't The Dems?: Another election, another lost opportunity to craft a lasting vision (Richard S. Dunham, 11/15/04, Business Week)

George W. Bush's 2004 victory highlights problems with a Presidential nominating process that regularly leads Democrats to select out-of-the-cultural-mainstream candidates. For the better part of three decades, Dems have struggled to remain competitive in elections where most voters thought they were out of step on security and values. Without neutralizing those concerns, Democrats have little chance of once again becoming the majority party they were from the New Deal through the Great Society. "Something went wrong [in 2004] besides a lousy candidate," says John Kenneth White, a political scientist at Catholic University. "Democrats need to say: 'We ought to look to see if we have a party problem here."'

The narrowness of Kerry's Electoral College defeat may keep many of the party faithful from realizing how deep that problem really is. To lose an election when the party base was charged up -- and turned out in massive numbers -- means that there simply aren't enough loyal Democrats to carry a Presidential candidate to victory. Indeed, the last Democrat to reach 50% of the vote was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

In the intervening decades, the party's socially liberal standard-bearers have watched a steady erosion of support from voters who once made up the heart of the New Deal coalition: blue-collar, less educated, and rural whites. What's left is a bicoastal party that has an ever-more-difficult time competing in the industrial heartland and has collapsed in the South -- once the twin peaks of its power. Continuing to wallow in nostalgia and trying to reassemble the New Deal coalition relegates Democrats to long-term minority status. "If there's a silver lining [in Kerry's defeat], it is that it's going to eliminate the ability [of Democrats] to argue that we have a natural majority on our side," says California venture capitalist Andrew S. Rappaport, a leading funder of Democratic causes. "We don't. It's over." [...]

Whether the Democrats return to Clinton-style left-right fusion and embrace post-September 11 hawkishness in 2008 depends largely on the party's nominee. The two early favorites are Washington insiders with close ties to liberal constituency groups: New York Senator Hillary Clinton and defeated Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards. But if history is any guide, the party's path to victory could run through statehouses, where innovative governors such as New Mexico's Bill Richardson, Virginia's Mark Warner, and Iowa's Tom Vilsack are known to nurture White House ambitions.

Indeed, the past two Democratic Presidents have been governors -- Southern governors, to be precise -- who bridged the nation's cultural divide. It'll take similar skills for another Democrat to win. But without serious soul-searching about the changing electorate and unchanging verities of the primary process, the Dems are likely to play this tune again and again.

Bill Richardson was on Fox yesterday saying that the Democrats need to be more like him--tax cutters, pro-gun, and moderate on social issues--in other words, Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 5, 2004 1:42 PM

And Johnson only got to 50% thanks to anti-Goldwater scare-out-the-vote effort.Gotta go back to 1940 for one where the Dems won more than 50% on their own (1944 is tainted by WWII, and the desire to follow through with the war by all involved.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 5, 2004 6:15 PM

Given Bush's inroads among Hispanics, Richardson's still a possible VP pick in 2008 for Hillary, so long as the African-American support is already sewn up (i.e., Mrs. Clinton doesn't have to beat out -- and possibly beat up on -- Obama or Ford in the primaries), and if having both of them on the same ticket won't remind people too much of the health care/Monica payoff debacles of Bill's administration (time for James Carville and Paul Greenberg to start polling).

Of course, if he were VP under Hillary or anyone else to the left of Ford, he would be there just for window dressing. There's no chance in the world they'd actually govern nationally the way Richardson's trying to do in New Mexico.

Posted by: John at November 5, 2004 6:17 PM

How could anyone consider Richardson a part of a national ticket in wartime given the sieve-like quality of security under his watch at DOE?

Whatever he does as governor of New Mexico is irrelevant because what secrets are there to steal from New Mexico state control? A new way to make salsa? Navajo pottery patterns?

Posted by: Bart at November 5, 2004 7:04 PM

Too early for Obama. He's not stupid and he's seen what happened to Senator Edwards. Hillary-Locke would/should have been the Dems dream '008 ticket (and still may), but thinking ahead isn't a Dem strong point.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 5, 2004 9:58 PM