Wednesday, November 03, 2004

If I Were A Democrat . . .


I would be very frustrated today, and I'd be asking lots of questions.

They would not be tactical questions, like, "Why didn't we have a better get-out-the-vote effort?" They'd be much more basic. The Democratic Party nominated a weak candidate and the party needs to to start taking a close, hard look at itself and its message.

Bush was not a dream candidate either. (I would have designed a candidate who is a little more nimble with the English language. Otherwise, I love the guy.) It speaks volumes about Bush, the issues, the electorate, John Kerry, and the Democratic Party that Bush was able to win. Consider:

  • Bush's inarticulateness is a real limitation in a modern candidate.
  • He had an very unpopular and difficult war going on in Iraq.
  • The entire old news media pounded him relentlessly. Everyone from Michael Moore to the entire Hollywood establishment to Dan Rather to the New York Times was all over him.
And yet Bush won. Why?

Kerry did not connect with people. That is beyond doubt. Bush, in all his inarticulate glory, did, for some reason. That's also beyond doubt.

Calling on my B.A. in political science earned so many years ago, I think the Democrats have a big, big problem: They have a very liberal wing of their party that makes it very difficult for their candidate to reach an electorate whose center is far from the left wing on many issues. The left is reflexively anti-military and anti-war; abortion rights and any offshoot, such as unfettered embryonic stem cell research, are sacred to them; they want to facilitate same-sex marriage; and so on. (I do not lump all Democrats into this group any more than I can lump all Republicans into the more extreme faction of my party.)

It is tough to win a national election when you have to keep that leftist base happy-- especially in wartime. Kerry could not do that and still reach out to the "sensible center" without looking like a waffler. To pull that off you need a Bill Clinton, and a Clinton only comes along every 50 years or so.

It is telling that the only Democrat to serve two full terms as president since FDR was Bill Clinton-- a New Democrat. The last Democrat to receive more than 50% of the popular vote was Jimmy Carter in 1976, and he got only 50.1%. Before that you have to go back to the Lyndon Johnson landslide of 1964 for a popular vote total exceeding 50%.

This time the Democrats nominated an old-line liberal-- the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate-- with limited personality skills. I think the Democrats will be more successful as a national party if they listen more to guys like Al From and the Democratic Leadership Council.

Meanwhile, I'm happy my guy won. In fact, "happy" does no justice to how delighted I am!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious of your opinion of how this positions Hillary in 2008? We've all seen or heard the wide speculation of her presidential ambition. If such an overwhelming vote for a conservative, seemingly unpopular president exists this you think the chances are realistic for her candidacy in 2008?  

Posted by jae

Wednesday, November 03, 2004 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting question, jae. I expect Hillary to try to become a born-again conservative Democrat, along the lines the Democratic Leadership Council suggests. Whatever she does will be poll-driven. What I wonder is whether she can get away with being a New Democrat from New York. Daniel Patrick Moynihan did, but Hillary does not have Moynihan's gifts. Not even close.

To me, the really interesting question is whether Hillary can overcome the deep reservoir of distrust and revulsion that millions of American voters feel towards her. I'm talking about the people who are absolutely horrified by the prospect of her serving as President of the United States. I don't see it happening but the Clintons have a way of sliding past such opposition. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Wednesday, November 03, 2004 1:21:00 PM  

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