Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It's (Probably) Over. The Fight Should Be to Win Back Congress in 2006

Provisional ballots still have to be counted in Ohio, but mathematics suggests that unless there are more than 500,000 of such ballots -- or unless a major block of votes already cast are overturned -- the race for the presidency is over. Bush will win with at least 274, and possibly 286 electoral votes, along with more than 50% of the popular vote -- the first president to achieve that milestone since his father, in 1988.

The Democrats can blame any number of things: a disinformation campaign by the Republicans, the Swift Boat Veterans hoax, Osama Bin Laden's most recent video, the failure of the 18-29 voting block to come out as promised, touch-screen, paperless ballot boxes, Bill Clinton's quadruple bypass.

But I think the issue is bigger than this. The Democrats went into this campaign assuming that they had the issues on their side. The president and his administration had failed to deliver on any number of issues: the war in Iraq was going poorly, Bush was the first president since Hoover to have a net loss of jobs, the environment had suffered, gas prices were ridiculous, the deficit was at record levels, Osama was still at large.

But the Democrats failed to understand that for a significant percentage of the population -- perhaps 30-35% of voters nationwide, and significantly more than that in a block of states stretching from Georgia to Idaho -- didn't care about those issues.

Those people cared really about three issues: abortion, homosexuality and taxes. As author Thomas Frank eloquently wrote in "What's the Matter With Kansas?" the cultural issues were more important to these voters than any other issues.

The fact that Bush was able to tell voters that Kerry once voted against a bill prohibiting late-term (or partial-birth) abortions was enough to convince these voters to come out in droves against Kerry. The fact that Kerry and Bush essentially agreed on gay marriage -- both support civil unions -- didn't help Kerry, because the Republican Party platform was wholly against gay rights, and the Democratic Party was wholly in favor of them. Witness the 10 or 11 (I don't know yet about Oregon) state ballot issues that passed nationwide against gay marriage -- including in Ohio.

When Kerry said that he would only raise taxes on the wealthiest 2%, most Americans could accept the rationale. Most Americans either felt that Kerry was right because of fairness, or because they recognized that Bush's various tax cuts for the wealthy and privileged did not deliver the economic boom or job creation promised.

But those that place cultural issues ahead of all else see cutting taxes as some sort of moral obligation -- even if that decision has negative repercussions in their own lives. Witness, as CBS reported last night, that the county in eastern Ohio that had the largest job loss in that state in the last four years (I apologize for not knowing the name) voted for Bush.

***

The Democrats need an issue. They need to make that issue their holy crusade. I'm not even sure what the issue is, but it has to be the key to the 2006 election season, and possibly beyond. It likely has to be a cultural issue, perhaps one that affects women and children the most. But whatever the issue is, it has to be driven home in every state and congressional district. It has to become an issue that can chip away at the cultural block.

I thought that issue would be Iraq, or more clearly, dead soldiers. Anyone who watched Farenheit 911 was moved by the story of Lila Lipscomb and her anger at this president. Anyone who saw the advertisements dubbed "Brooke's Story" was moved by the loss of a brother, and enraged by the embarrassing jokes told by Bush at the televised dinner this spring.

The war in Iraq could very likely remain a key issue heading into the next election cycle, and perhaps hammering home that it's wrong to joke when our soldiers are dying will resonate with the cultural block.

I don't know the answer, but I know that if the Democrats want to have a role in governing this decade, they need to take back Congress. And the way to do that is to create a crusade that can motivate voters as powerfully as abortion, homosexuality and taxes. To expect the cultural block to change their way is naive -- they see what they are doing as their moral obligation, as good Christians -- and their numbers will only continue to grow with Bush in the White House.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without debating your point (some of which i agree and some not) the simple fact of the matter is that Bush won both th epopular vote by a wide margin and the electoral vote by a bit because of two things:

1) People like him more and find him to have more integrity, more honest and less of a politican. Say what you want about him, Bush is great at portraying this and it may have some smell of truth, despite what you want to believe. Kerry did not sell himself in this regard. He was just not likeable and seemed more of a politican.

2) people believe they will be safer from terrorism under Bush. and that bush will be tougher on the terrorists, the state sponsors etc. kerry did nothing to change that peception and even played into it with some of his somewhat meandering views on the subject (until the end of the race).

Everything else in this election was chatter. If there were no war, it would have been Kerrys. But given the war, people want 1 and 2 above and put that way out in front of other typically important issues. Not very complicated.

The dems need to find the voice in the party that appeals to what most of america wants. they need a Joe Lieberman with political charisma.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll concede that people may like Bush better -- polls said they'd rather have a beer with him, etc.

But the idea that Bush will keep him safer is pure spin. Bush not only hasn't protected ports, borders, nuclear and chemical sites, trains and airports, but in September directed the Republicans in the Senate to vote against Democratic initiatives to fund such things.

Furthermore, as David posted on this site, insurers regard the war in Iraq as detrimental to U.S. safety. Osama, alive and well and in hiding, is still capable of launching an attack against us -- as Cheney harped on throughout the campaign.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reread David's post.
A more substantial reason than terrorism Kerry lost was because of the moral vote. According to CNN, exit polls found morality a bigger issue to Americans than either terrorism, Iraq or the economy.
As one example, morality was a big reason Kerry lost the critical state of Ohio, because over a third of evagelicals and Christians overwhelmingly voted for Bush. These hypocrites and self-proclaimed fundamentalists favor Bush anti-abortion and anti-gay agendas.
Kerry indeed missed opportunities to win this class over. But then again none of the pre-election polls accurately forecasted morality would turn out to be such a big issue with voters. I think it had to do with most polls focused on terrorism and the economy not asking the right questions.
Now, someone please explain to me why a victim of incest or rape wanting an abortion, or gays wanting to get hitched should be construed as less moral than a senseless war that has KILLED more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis, most women and children -- and counting.
Anyway, all this talk about Kerry not being a strong candidate on terrorism only exemplifies how the Bushies were more successful at portraying their man as the stronger candidate in this area. The overwhelming objective evidence, which was often buried by the shell-shocked post 9-11 media saviating over the Iraq War, would suggest otherwise.
It had more to do with Bushie spin than Kerry's character.
And again, the terrorism issue alone did not defeat Kerry. Terrorism took a backseat to the morality issue.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time to move on. The American people have spoken. The stronger candidate won. Now, you can look forward now to Hillary Clinton losing in 2008.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stronger candidate did not win.
The reason: the majority vote for Bush was not one based on intellect.
The most error-prone president in history has been allowed a second term. It boggles the mind.
We can look forward to four more years of record deficits, political diversion and partisanship, U.S. hatred abroad, and more endless death and destruction in Iraq.
It is time to move on but some of us are not going to lie down like good little sheep while Bush continues to act secretly, avoid the press, make deceptive statements, and fail to acknowledge mistakes or problems (thereby paralyzing himself and his administration from correcting them).
The American public must no longer stand for the Bush Administration's record of violating civil rights, (locking up innocent people indefinitely without allowing them access to counsel) and the widespread stifling of freedom of speech and expression.
We will no longer tolerate the Bush Administration condemnation of anyone who questions the Iraq War and its other policies as "anti-American" "anti-U.S. soldiers" "liberal" " a Michael Moore" "far left wing."
Some of us will stop at nothing to quash the Bush goals: extermination of the middle class and creation of a far-right wing, fascist conservative state.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can handle it that you do not like Bush or disagree with his policies or even the handling of foriegn policy. I can deal with the fact you dont like the way he ran his now proven successful campaign.

BUT

when you say "Some of us will stop at nothing to quash the Bush goals: extermination of the middle class and creation of a far-right wing, fascist conservative state." it boggles my mind.

You are betraying the cause with such ridiculous nonsense. If you truly believe that and if you are the mainstream (or hope to be) of the democratic party, then you may as well rename the dems the minority party....because you will never regain control of the house, senate or the presidency. And, as someone who has voted democrat for every presidential election but one, I am embarrassed that the democratic party has so many people like this.

the stupidity of the anger coming out of the far left over the 2000 vote, ever single thing the republicans do, and now the current vote is staggering. You can only give so much credit to the so called conservative media spin or to the dumbness of the american public etc. Part of the blame here has to go to the simple fact that the democratic party no longer appeals to most americans. In a year where even ardent supporters of republicans were questioning the republican president, and rightly so, the dems could not win. If you look at it simply, Howard Dean, who i respect but disagree with, represents the current voice of the dems. In hilarious fashion, Kerry spent the primaries trying not to be Dean and was the appointed the winner by his party basically because he was electable. He was electable because he was being portrayed as more centrist. Then, during the course of the campaign he listened to the voices in his head and swung back to the point where he was in Dean coutnry again. Problem is that most people i know, republican or democrat, respected Dean for having true beliefs no matter whether they agreed or not. Kerry, who as described above was not consistent, so people didnt know what to make of him. He was not a good choice for candidate.

The dems need a new voice. New vision. The blind anger the far left portrays against all things republican needs to fade to black-be ignored by their own party. Basically the liberal far left, who love to point out every single problem America has ad nauseum, fails to recognize that they are the democrats biggest and loudest problem.

Simple math here. Most of America is centrist by most definitions. Bush is not a centrist and neither was Kerry. So they battled on two fronts-winning the center and galvanizing their bases. If the dems had a centrist candidate, they would have had the edge on the center and then easily could have galvanized the base liberal left by tapping into the assinine anger they carry around. Now that would have been a smart campaign plan.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Kerry record shows him taking both "centrist" positions and liberal positions on different issues. But the claim he is one of the most liberal senators is a Republican created myth.
For "inconsistency" examine Bush positions these last four years.
Secondly, the government is spending $270 billion dollars on a war of questionable merit with no end in site. The country is witnessing unprecedented job losses while a mounting deficit will be passed onto our children.
Under the above blogger's reasoning, we should all just roll over and play dead. We far left-wing liberal troublemakers make too much noise over "every little problem" facing the country. We are the "greatest hurdle" towards mainstream acceptance of the Democratic party.
David got it right when he said the Democrats have been unable to tap into the conservative vein.
But your argument makes no sense at all.
Why don't you go on and reflect on the Republican reaction to Clinton's sex life.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the changing motivations for the Iraq war sound like inconsistency to me.
And the claim that the Bush Republicans will seek to drag the country to the far conservative right was cited by several commentators (when I flipped channels in the wee-dawn hours this morning of the electoral vote coverage). It's a valid concern.
I think there's also some merit to the claim the Republicans have been working to censor unfavorable media coverage.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad. Blind but still sad.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems to me the above blogger was simply commenting on what you said about Bushs goals. Whether you agree with his view of the democratic party or not, the reasoning is plausible at a minimum. And when you quote something, the concept is to capture exactly what was said which you did not do. Bizarre response. Is it not possible that a more centrist candidate would have been a better choice. I have no idea who could have been such a choice but it is certainly possible. As a democrat, I supported Kerry but admit he may not have been the best choice. And, while there is nothing wrong with anyone, liberals included, debating or discussing American policy or what not, there is a consensus among many that the "angry liberal" has replaced the "angry republican" of the 90s. And neither of those is appealing. If you dont see this exists, I would suggest you are just one of them.

I dont understand the comment about Bill Clinton's sex life but I will just ignore it. I believe Clinton to be the quintessential centrist candidate.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I apologize for overreacting to the above blogger's comment, perhaps in response to post-election shell-shock, but do think I pretty much addressed the individual's arguments.
I agree getting angry doesn't accomplish anything for either side. There's always room for calm, reasoned, rational discussion in the name of driving positive change. Maybe it took these "hippee" protesters to convince the elder statesmen to end the Vietnam War.
Perhaps these labels are being too casually thrown around, liberal, centrist, right-wing. Bush likes to call his enemies liberals but some of his own policies like privatizing social security, taking preemptive war, and rewriting the tax code lean more on the liberal side than they do conservative.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One persons opinion....

I agree that liberal is not / should not be a bad word. I also agree that logical and reasonable debate is useful, democratic, and in large part has made this country what it is today - the best there is in the world. The issue at hand is that there are way too many people in the "everything Bush does is wrong" camp---the focus on all things Bush has taken away from the logical debate they may have on some issues. These people are already ignored by most of the american public. They need to be partially ignored by the democratic party. Failure is usually a strong impetus for change. The liberal left has failed.

The dems will be and should be looking inward to determine what went wrong here. The list is pretty long and some things are out of their control (country is centrist/slightly right overall, electoral population shifts etc., the fact that Bush's campaign was a well oiled machine). Then there are these issues to think about:

1) In a country that is centrist overall, you need to have a candidate that appeals to the center but will not lose the left. I dont expect to find another Bil CLinton but someone with similar views.

2) If the person has a record, he must run on it and not let the other party define it.

3) Simple, straight messages on the 5 most important issues. No nuance, no complications, no directing people to a website. On the lesser issues that is ok, but on the large ones, the public must hear the message clearly and repeatedly so they "know" the candidate pre election.

4) Dem party has to shift away from the "I hate Bush mode/ appointed president" (hopefully this election ended all that) and focus on the social issues where they differ from republicans. And forget the Bush conspiracy theory. Bush should have lost this election because he failed at his job, not because he is some form of criminal as some in the party allege or intimate.

5) Distance yourself from all non campaign efforts, even those in your corner. Hollywood, Michael Moore, the 527s, Soros.....forget it. Must state publicly that while you appreciate their votes, you do not stand behind what they may say. This was a huge mistake this election and only served to galvanize the other side rather than shift opinions. And so many untruths by these groups led to increased press about how it was false.

6) Candidate should not be a billionaire or from the Northeast if at all possible. No liberal is going to be president in the near future.

7) No woman/african american tickets (e.g. Clinton-Obama) at the same time. cannot win. maybe separate but not together. and forget Edwards as a candidate-a lightweight in wartime doesnt work.

8) think hard about hillary as she starts off with a liberal label, a 50% negative rating....

9) The party should be rebuilt around centrists, not leftists like Dean. Dean&Co. should have a voice but should not BE the voice of the party. As the republicans shift more to the right, it opens up room for the dems to become the party of the center.

10) Lose the doomsayer mentality that everything is wrong with this country all at once. Noone who lives here buys that.

What to do in the meantime? Hopefully work with the president/congress, disagreeing where necessary but without the outright anger/hatred shown recently. Wish for the best for this country even if it means admitting some of Bushs policies work. Even if you do not like him, show respect for the president simply because he is the president. Take blame and responsibility for the loss rather than blaming everything else (stupid american public, the media, poll fraud, karl rove).

The democratic party has lost its way--it has no consistent coherent message and seems to disagree within itself. It needs to get its act together and march in step with a platform for the ultimate goal of getting a president in office. I, for one, hope the party reinvents itself in a way that appeals to moderate americans across the country.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Clinton comment referenced Republicans/conservatives who condemn so-called liberals for making noise without recognizing their own actions against Clinton during the Lewinsky debacle.

I just had an obvious yet profound thought. Bush wants to endorse Christian principles while not only pushing a deadly war but also while continuing on as one strongest proponents of the death penalty. As Gov. in Texas, Bush has been widely criticized for putting to death people of questionable guilt as well as killing who were mentally retarded. I guess "thou shalt not kill" need not apply.
This discussion is relevant now because the sure-fire campaign to move the country to the far right.
This guy is really scary! He and Cheney are already in the media announcing the election win means the population has given them a "mandate" to push forward their radical agendas in Iraq, social security and other areas.
At least the Bloomberg story reminds us that they won the presidency by the slightest margin for an incumbent since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Hardly a mandate.
It's now time to put our hopes into the system of checks and balances. But with a congress stocked with Republicans can we be so sure?

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the points of the above blogger. But let me make sure I'm hearing one of them right. It's okay for the Republicans to say everything the Liberals/Democrats have accomplished or hope to accomplish is wrong (which they do).
But when the Democrats do the same thing and say everything is wrong with Bush and the Republicans, they are wrong and ignored by most of the American public?
It's a two-way street. Just because a slim majority of Republicans and their sympathizers have elected the president this time around, doesn't mean the Democrats are any more repulsive with their criticisms or skepticisms of the opposition party. That's an oversimplification of the issue.
A few other observations, please excuse me if I'm rambling.
* Although I'm not suggesting that the U.S. has reached anywhere near such an extreme, few faulted those who found little right with the fanatical Communist control of Russia, North Korea and China and Sadaam's stranglehold on Iraq.
* The Democrats have their Michael Moore's, but the Republicans have their whack jobs as well, i.e. Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, Jim Baker etc.
Yeah, perhaps the Democrats as the "new minority" have to be more cognizant of reactionary stances in order to win broader support and again wrestle control of the legislature in 2006, and the presidency in 2008.
It goes in waves. I cannot at the moment recall a time in recent history when either the Democrats or Republicans held control of the federal government for an overly-long period of time, say more than a decade.
We'll again get our turn. Time will tell.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree overall. Comments:

As you indicate the comparisons to Communism etc. are extreme at best and far fetched at this point.

Yes, neither dems nor republicans need to stand against everything the opposition does simply for the sake of the fight. It definitely works both ways and neither side is immune to this criticism. The world right now is not black and white and both sides can work in the gray areas. Overall, the two sides need to work together to succeed.

As a sidenote to my criticisms above, I caught some show on Air America tonight (think it was called democrat majority) with Janeane Garafolo, who I used to like. She and her colleague were basically in favor of Kerry not conceding even though he couldnt win--they feel the fight against Bush is worth it even if it hurts the country. The were basically calling Kerry a wimp for conceding. Of course, these same people were calling for rioting in the streets in some bizarre comparison to the rioting to get Milosovic out of office in Yugoslavia. THIS IS THE TYPE OF JUNK THAT GIVES LIBERALS AND DEMS A BAD NAME. ITS GOT TO END. THIS FRINGE OF THE PARTY MUST BE PUSHED INTO A CORNER.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Garofalo is an radio entertainer who speaks her mind. I can't really imagine anyone getting their underpants in a bundle over her.
You can imagine what the Rush Limbaughs would have said had Bush lost the election.
Nonetheless, many of my friends and associates, whom I consider good, intelligent hard-working people, are echoing the sentiments of countless letters to the editors and web bloggers over the past few days. A revolution in the streets just may be in order should it become necessary to quash an overly aggressive Bush onslaught of terror. The administration will shove down our throats religion, fear, death, war, class divisions, etc.
It is an undeniable fact that many are terrified what a newly-envigorated Bush second term will bring based on the experience of the last four disasterous years.
These people love their country. They will not sit idly by while the Bush Administration continues on and intensifies a course to unravel 50 years of social reform and 70 years of diplomacy.
Washington insiders quietly laugh at Bush when he says he will work towards earning the confidence of Democrates.
He failed on a similar promise in 2000 and is not about to start now with an enlarged Congress and an actual popular vote margin.

If you thought Bush I was a bad picture, just wait for the sequel.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough on most points. We will have to wait and see about Bush II activities--meanwhile everyone needs give him some time to make things better.

I differ completely on the revolution comment. That type of language is dangerous and in my opinion, stupid. our system of government is specifically set up to avoid revolution. One such structure is congress. another is called a presidential election and we just had one. this is not a dictator that needs to be overthrown. Civil type of disobedience to raise the consciousness of what is going on is democratic. Revolutionary action is how other countries act, not this one.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like dusting off my old Beatles record.

12:03 PM  

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