Are Dems Capable Of Turning It Around?
I will believe it when I see it. I think they know what must be done. However, in order to do that they will have to step on the toes of their major constituencies and many of their own sensibilities. Wash Post
Need to Connect With Religious, Rural Voters Noted
By David S. Broder
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 4, 2004; Page A35
As the Democrats began picking up the pieces yesterday after their latest defeat, many leaders focused on the need to re-engage their party with church-going and rural constituencies they acknowledge ignoring in the past.
The Democratic Party and allied groups waged an expensive and largely effective effort to increase the turnout of urban and minority voters, but Republicans trumped them by finding even more support among white voters outside the cities and inner-ring suburbs -- many of them people for whom religion is a central element.
That yielded a quickly emerging consensus yesterday across the Democrats' ideological spectrum that they "have to take the time to understand the concerns of rural families and Christian families," as Clinton White House chief of staff Leon E. Panetta put it. "We cannot ignore the swath of red [Republican] states across the South and Midwest. The party of FDR has become the party of Michael Moore and [his film] 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' and it does not help us in big parts of the country."
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), easily reelected Tuesday by Arkansas voters even as her state went for George W. Bush for the second time, said, "People are faced with so many problems they cling to faith and prayers." She added: "I don't hesitate to stand up in a crowd and express how important faith is in my life. It is important to be able to express that in a way that is believable, and Democrats have to get comfortable doing that."
Unlike 2000, when many Democrats blamed Al Gore for losing an election to Bush that they expected to win, few of more than a dozen Democrats interviewed yesterday said Sen. John F. Kerry was personally responsible for the crushing loss.
"Kerry comes out of this well," said Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democrat Network. "He took on a very tough enemy and fought very well. The other team just beat us, and we have to figure out why."
But several others said his Senate colleagues are unlikely to accept Kerry as the party spokesman when he returns to the chamber. His running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, is retiring this year and will have to create a platform for himself to remain a visible leader.
Sen. Harry M. Reid of Nevada, a soft-spoken Capitol Hill veteran, is poised to take over as minority leader from Sen. Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota, a skilled television performer who was defeated for reelection. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, saw her party lose seats in its first test since she moved into that post. She leads a caucus shrunken in size and in its geographic range.
Losses in five Senate races in southern states, where the Democratic incumbents are retiring, and the decimation of a redistricted Texas Democratic House delegation cut more states and districts from their strongest personal links with the national party.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.), who decided yesterday not to challenge Reid for the Senate Democratic leadership, said it behooves Democrats to "think long and hard about what happened yesterday. We were on the right side on the issues . . . but we lost our ability to connect to people on values. We have to get that back."
Despite speculation that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) would become the center of news media attention as a possible 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, her colleagues seemed skeptical that she would seek to establish a more prominent role for herself before she faces reelection in New York in 2006.
"Were I her, I would not want to be thrust into that, and I think she will go to considerable lengths to avoid that," said Harold Ickes, a former Clinton White House aide and a strategist in her first Senate run.
Rather than search for a quick fix from a political celebrity such as Clinton, several Democrats suggested that the party tap the strength of its governors. Gerald W. McEntee, the head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the director of AFL-CIO political operations, cited Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell as examples. "You have to reach out to the Vilsacks and Rendells and listen to what they know from being out there," McEntee said. "You can't just have the leadership in the House or Senate go to some retreat 50 miles away and think they will figure it out."
Time and again, Democrats' comments yesterday circled back to the need to restore the language of values to the party's rhetoric and to try to reconnect with people of faith.
Ickes, who helped run America Coming Together, a coalition of liberal interest groups that supplemented Democratic Party advertising and voter-mobilization efforts, said his organization "hit all our goals" in terms of increasing Democratic turnout in states such as Ohio. "But we did not take into account the increase in [the Republican] vote. They're reaching people we don't reach and talking to them in a different way."
Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), who is retiring this year, said exit polls showed the vulnerability. "Any time a party does better with non-church-going people than with church-going people, you've got a problem," he said. "That is why we've lost across the South."
Henry G. Cisneros, a Clinton administration secretary of housing and urban development, said Democrats managed to fend off Republican efforts to score a major breakthrough Tuesday in the rapidly expanding Latino vote, but still were damaged by some cultural and religious issues.
"When the Catholic bishops started talking about abortion and gay marriage, it was enough to matter in the Latino and ethnic Catholic neighborhoods. We said our position on gay marriage was only marginally different from Bush's, but that did not deal with it."
Initiatives to ban marriages between same-sex couples were on the ballots of 11 states, and all of them passed. The initiatives were credited by Republicans with drawing more of their voters to the polls.
Peter D. Hart, one of the Democrats' most respected pollsters, said that if the party is honest with itself, it will acknowledge that for all the improvement in its voter-mobilization efforts, "we came out on the short end again. It goes back to fundamentals. When 40 percent of the voters are regular church-goers and they go for Bush by 20 points, what don't you get?
"Bush," he noted, "brings it back again and again to faith. That word turns up over and over in his speeches. We have not been able to connect, as he has, with people's core values. Kerry did a very good job in the debates in talking about his values, but that was the only time." Reticent at the beginning of the campaign to discuss his Roman Catholic faith, Kerry became more open in his comments as time went on.
Because the kind of shift Hart and others advocate will not come easily to many Democrats, they are calling for a substantial period of reflection and discussion as the first step in the recovery of their party.
James Zogby, an Arab American political activist and a member of the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats have to ask themselves: "Why did we become a party of little causes and no vision? Why do we so cavalierly throw off the religious vote?"
This defeat, he said, creates "an extraordinary opportunity for us to have a serious discussion independent of ambitions for the 2008 nomination. But our party seems averse to discussing policy."
The left threw everything they had at this election. They spent all kinds of money and actually did a great job of turning out their base. The problem is their base is just not big enough. And that has to concern the Democrats. If they want to win they will have to expand their base and that will take time.
You can't go from being a rabid anti-family, hollywood values party and expect people to take you seriously just because you talk about your faith and take photo-ops at church or reading the Bible. The Democrats are going to have to do a "Sista Solja" to the Michael Moron fringe of their party.
"There is much talk about 'jingoism'. If by 'jingoism' they mean a policy in pursuance of which Americans will with resolution and common sense insist upon our rights being respected by foreign powers, then we are 'jingoes'." - Teddy Roosevelt
BUSH-HATING DEMS MUST FIND NEW WAY
By DEBORAH ORIN Washington Bureau Chief
November 4, 2004 -- Shell-shocked Democrats yesterday woke up to find their party in shambles and in desperate need of a 12-step program for recovering Bush-haters.
It isn't just that Democrats lost another White House race that they'd figured to win.
It isn't just that their top leader in Congress, Sen. Tom Daschle, got kicked out and they got clobbered across the South.
It's that for the past four years, Democrats have defined themselves almost exclusively as the party of Bush-haters Â— whatever he was for, they were against.
Now Democrats have to figure out what else they stand for. For some, the Democratic Party will become the Hillary Clinton-in-waiting 2008 presidential campaign, awash in nostalgia.
But Democrats don't have the luxury of waiting for 2008. They face some tough immediate decisions.
Almost instantly, Democrats could face a dangerous ideological left-right war for the party's soul and control of the Democratic National Committee's political machinery and big bucks.
Already the party's leftists are demanding a bigger role for the angry Howard Dean wing. After all, the supposedly electable John Kerry lost to Bush by a bigger margin than Al Gore and took a host of Senate candidates down with him.
The Daily Kos, an Internet blog whose "daily rant" reflects the party's left wing, yesterday was demanding that Dean replace Clintonista Terry McAuliffe as Democratic national chairman.
"While McAuliffe was an artful fund-raiser, the party continued to lack the ability to develop a clear message or properly frame the political debate. And it's been killing us," fumed Kos, adding the current party is "on its deathbed."
But to centrists, the idea of a Dean ascendancy spells total disaster. They think Democrats need to reach out to social conservatives. If that's the goal, nothing could be worse for that goal than lining up behind Howard the Scream.
It's not just the Dean fans who are grabbing for power before the corpse of the Kerry campaign is cold.
Running mate John Edwards made what many Dems saw as a crude launch of his 2008 bid as Kerry conceded yesterday.
"We won't stop fighting for you when this campaign ends," said Edwards, who yanked down microphones that had been carefully set for the much taller Kerry Â— forcing Kerry to begin his speech by fiddling with the mikes.
"It was classless, totally classless," fumed a veteran Democratic operative, who wasn't alone in complaining that Edwards did practically nothing for the Kerry ticket and bombed in his home state of North Carolina.
But Edwards is certain to be angling for a role in the party's future along with Sen. Clinton and the more centrist Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), who won a smashing re-election.
Democratic insiders say there already is talk of creating a Bill-Clinton-like coalition around centrists like Bayh.
Great points, FOX.
There will be a war within the Dem community. They will go after each other bigtime. First, who will emerge as Senate Minority Leader? Looks like Centrist Harry Reid from Nevada. That's smart. Then who emerges as DNC Chairman? Keep hearing it's Howard Dean. That's stupid. Philly Inquirer
America Votes | Left to pick up the pieces, Democrats eye the future
The quandary, some say: Move left and stand up for unvarnished progressivism, or move to the center and begin talking about faith?
By Dick Polman
Inquirer Staff Writer
It's Groundhog Day for the Democratic Party.
Just as Bill Murray's comically tormented movie character awoke each morning to greet the same day, the Democrats awoke Wednesday to face the same postelection hangover that tormented them in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988 and 2000.
If you're doing the math, that's seven downers out of the last 10 presidential elections. If you're a history buff, the '04 results also leave the Democrats with their smallest House of Representatives enrollment since 1948, and the smallest Senate contingent since 1930.
So Democrats have resurrected the question that has plagued them over and over: What do we do now?
Move to the left and stand up for unvarnished progressivism, some say. Move to the center and start talking about faith, others say. The latter camp is particularly vocal - citing evidence, culled from Tuesday's election, indicating that, once again, Democrats lost big-time on moral and cultural values, alienating millions of voters in the South and heartland.
Many Democrats are still too stunned to start marching into the future. As evidenced by e-mail traffic, some activists are consoling themselves with inspirational messages. There's Martin Luther King ("We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never give up infinite hope.") and there's Bluto Blutarsky, rallying his frat pals in Animal House ("Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?").
Some are telling themselves that John Kerry's loss wasn't so bad, that he finished only 140,000 votes shy of capturing Ohio and thus the presidency, and that his 55 million votes were more than Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton ever received. All true, but irrelevant. President Bush and the GOP dominate Washington, and Bush strategist Karl Rove has furthered his master plan of ultimately relegating the Democrats to permanent minority status.
As Mark Aronchick, the Philadelphia lawyer and Democratic fund-raiser, said yesterday: "A lot of Democrats probably feel like they got hit with a two-by-four."
Well, they were. George W. Bush won a majority of the voters. And a jolt like that tends to jog painful Democratic memories - such as the fact that, since 1964, only one Democrat has managed to win 50 percent of the vote. (That would be Jimmy Carter in 1976, and he barely hit the mark, after blowing a fat autumn lead.)
So what lies ahead for the party of Roosevelt and Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, the party that fought Nazis abroad and crafted Social Security and Medicare at home? You can't talk about a solution without diagnosing the problem. As evidenced in Tuesday's exit polls, here's one facet of the problem:
Bush fought Kerry to a draw among voters who earn $30,000 to $50,000. And Bush beat Kerry handily among voters earning $50,000 to $70,000. These are working-class and middle-class folks who, by tradition, would be receptive to the economic pitch of a Democratic candidate. Yet they went with the guy whose party is still perceived as favoring the rich. Why?
Bush's wartime incumbency may have helped, but Democratic thinkers believe that Kerry was seen to be on the wrong side of the culture war. Ruy Teixeira, a joint fellow at the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation, argued yesterday that Kerry, as a Northeastern liberal, underscored "these voters' sense of cultural alienation from the national Democratic Party, and its relatively cosmopolitan values." He said future candidates needed "to connect in a genuine fashion with these voters."
And this is particularly true in the South, because, once again, Democrats are lamenting their failure to win anything there. They now have been shut out in two straight presidential elections. The 11 Old Confederacy states now hold 153 electoral votes - and Bush won them all, making up well over half his total. For any Democrat, ceding the entire region makes it that much tougher to collect 270 electoral votes everywhere else.
Marshall Wittmann, an activist at the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist think tank, said: "This could be a liberating time for Democrats, a chance to clean the cobwebs. It should start with the realization that they need to spend less time in Hollywood and more time in churches.
"They need to realize that America is one of the most religiously observant countries outside the Islamic world. Bush's faith is his political strength, and if Democrats don't find a way to talk about faith and values, if instead they move to the left, that plays to Karl Rove's goal of essentially destroying the Democrats as a potential national majority party."
Strategist Tom Pazzi, who hails from the party's labor-Kennedy wing, agreed: "As someone raised Catholic, I'm sensitive to any commingling of church and state. But we don't have to talk faith the way the religious right does. We need to be able to talk about our issues in a thematic way that resonates with people's spiritual and moral needs, the higher needs."
The problem is that the Democratic primaries start with Iowa and New Hampshire, where liberals dominate. Candidate Joe Lieberman, who frequently invoked God and morals, bombed in both those places last winter. As Alan Abramowitz, a nonpartisan analyst based in Georgia, said yesterday: "They've got to change that primary calendar. It'd be a good idea to start with a big Southern state."
That isn't likely to happen. And don't be surprised to see prospective 2008 Democratic candidates trekking to Iowa and New Hampshire next year - road-testing messages that might turn the party around.
Some could be Southerners (Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Gen. Wesley Clark); or Northern moderates (Sen. Evan Bayh, from red-state Indiana); or homegrown (Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack). Hillary Clinton is always mentioned, of course, but some in the party worry that her negatives would deter any red state from voting Democratic.
A pair of recent players may resurface, and they could help determine the party's direction. Howard Dean is now a star on the liberal side, with his own grassroots network, and he might not support a Democratic establishment that goes for a more faith-based approach. Then there is John Edwards, who's out of a job and independently rich - perfect for a full-time presidential bid, with a stress on Southern religion and small-town values.
And Mark Aronchick said that even amid despair, there is hope: the new independent, grassroots groups that aren't going away; a new network of small donors; the Deaniacs' Web-based organizational prowess, "and so many people who, even though they were sad at the result, came away feeling enthusiastic about their work."
"I wish President Bush well. But there will be a great role for the 55 million."
Looks like they are entrenching their stand as far left as possible. Did you see that Durbin thinks he has the whip sewn up? LOL!
In the abstract, the Ds must become persuaded of a whole new set of ideas more in line with the electorate, persuade the electorate of their existing ideas, or disguise their ideas to deceive the electorate. The first is unlikely and the second would take more patience and time than the Ds have or could afford. The third choice, deception, is what the Ds have done, with some success, but saying one thing to one group and something contradictory to another without the game being blown and both groups being alienated is getting difficult. My guess is that denying any rift between the electorate and D ideas will be the ultimate choice.
PeteS in CA
The Sound of One Cricket Chirping
Public opinion has most shallow eyes.
- Euripides in "Medea"
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
We see the lines being drawn. The Nancy Pelosi crowd says just do a better job of what we've been doing. People like Nick Kristoff understand the Dems will never win nationwide in their current form. NY Times
Time to Get Religion
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
If Democrats want to know how to win again, they have a model. It's the British Labor Party.
When I studied in England in the early 1980's, the British Labor Party seemed as quaint and eccentric as Oxford itself, where we wore gowns for exams and some dons addressed the rare female student as "sir." Labor was caught in its own echo chamber of militant unions and anti-American activists, and it so repulsed voters that it seemed it might wither away entirely.
Then Tony Blair and another M.P., Gordon Brown, dragged the party away from socialism, unions, nuclear disarmament and anti-Americanism. Together they created "New Labor," which aimed for the center and aggressively courted Middle Britain instead of trying to scare it. The result is that since 1997, Mr. Blair and Labor have utterly dominated Britain.
The Democrats need a similar rebranding. But the risk is that the party will blame others for its failures - or, worse, blame the American people for their stupidity (as London's Daily Mirror screamed in a Page 1 headline this week: "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?").
As moderates from the heartland, like Tom Daschle, are picked off by the Republicans, the party's image risks being defined even more by bicoastal, tree-hugging, gun-banning, French-speaking, Bordeau-sipping, Times-toting liberals, whose solution is to veer left and galvanize the base. But firing up the base means turning off swing voters. Gov. Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, told me that each time Michael Moore spoke up for John Kerry, Mr. Kerry's support in Nebraska took a dive.
Mobilizing the base would mean nominating Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 and losing yet again. (Mrs. Clinton has actually undertaken just the kind of makeover that I'm talking about: in the Senate, she's been cooperative, mellow and moderate, winning over upstate New Yorkers. She could do the same in the heartland ... if she had 50 years.)
So Democrats need to give a more prominent voice to Middle American, wheat-hugging, gun-shooting, Spanish-speaking, beer-guzzling, Bible-toting centrists. (They can tote The Times, too, in a plain brown wrapper.) For a nominee who could lead the Democrats to victory, think of John Edwards, Bill Richardson or Evan Bayh, or anyone who knows the difference between straw and hay.
I wish that winning were just a matter of presentation. But it's not. It involves compromising on principles. Bill Clinton won his credibility in the heartland partly by going home to Little Rock during the 1992 campaign to preside over the execution of a mentally disabled convict named Ricky Ray Rector.
There was a moral ambiguity about Mr. Clinton's clambering to power over Mr. Rector's corpse. But unless Democrats compromise, they'll be proud and true and losers.
So what do the Democrats need to do? Here are four suggestions:
Â• Don't be afraid of religion. Offer government support for faith-based programs to aid the homeless, prisoners and AIDS victims. And argue theology with Republicans: there's much more biblical ammunition to support liberals than conservatives.
Â• Pick battles of substance, not symbolism. The battle over Georgia's Confederate flag cost Roy Barnes his governorship and perhaps Max Cleland his Senate seat, but didn't help one working mother or jobless worker. It was a gift to Republicans.
Â• Accept that today, gun control is a nonstarter. Instead of trying to curb guns, try to reduce gun deaths through better rules on licensing and storage, and on safety devices like trigger locks.
Â• Hold your nose and work with President Bush as much as you can because it's lethal to be portrayed as obstructionists. Sure, block another Clarence Thomas, but here's a rule of thumb: if an otherwise qualified Supreme Court nominee would turn the clock back 10 years, approve; back 25 years, vote no; back a half-century, filibuster.
"The first thing we have to do is shake the image of us as the obstructionist party," notes Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who manages to thrive as a Democrat in the red sea. He says Democrats must show a willingness to compromise, to get things done, to defer to local sensibilities. "We have to show the American people," he says, "that Democrats aren't going to take away your guns, aren't going to take away your flags."
Rethinking the Democratic Party will be wrenching. But just ask Tony Blair - it's not as wrenching as sliding into irrelevance.
Here is another sober thinker. Again, I dout Dems will listen to Mark Penn. Wash Post
t's the Moderates, Stupid
By Mark J. Penn
Saturday, November 6, 2004; Page A23
Perhaps the consensus view of this election is that Karl Rove and the Republicans brought out huge numbers of right-wing evangelicals while the Democrats registered and brought out some -- but not enough -- liberal antiwar activists, young people and minorities.
While there is some truth to this analysis, it misses the bigger story of what happened. Two key groups -- Hispanics and married white women -- voted more strongly for Bush and are the reason he edged out Kerry. The hype of this election -- that it would be about a huge new youth turnout, or that it was all about the religious right -- was not borne out by the numbers.
While John Kerry lost the popular vote by 3.5 million, he lost Ohio by only 135,000 votes, and in Iowa and New Mexico he lost by fewer than 15,000. He energized his vote in key states so that he came within 200,000 votes of winning in the electoral college. Core Democrats turned out in record numbers in places such as Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
But unfortunately, conservatives outnumber liberals by 34 percent to 21 percent in this country, and Bush was able to compensate for Democratic turnout by bringing out conservatives in his key areas. This 13-point gap is the fundamental problem with letting any election be polarized on conservative or liberal grounds.
Ten million more voters went to the polls this year than in 2000, but the percentage of young people 18 to 29 who voted stayed exactly the same, at 17 percent, and the much-ballyhooed "cell phone" vote never materialized. On the other hand, the percentage of voters who attend church every week also stayed exactly the same -- 42 percent.
So if the election cannot be explained by a massive upsurge in evangelical voters, what really happened? In this election, Bush received 3.5 percent more of the vote than he did in 2000. The exit polls show this movement to be almost entirely the result of changes in two disparate groups: Hispanics (who went from 35 percent for Bush in 2000 to 44 percent this year -- enough to move the entire popular vote 1 percentage point) and white women (who went 49 percent for Bush in 2000 and 55 percent this year -- enough to move the popular vote 2.5 percentage points). It appears that the bulk of the movement in the white women's vote was among married women, particularly those with kids, who may have gone as high as 2 to 1 for Bush.
Hispanics don't fit into the caricature of Bush voters as gun-toting, Bible Belt Republicans, nor do these moms. While the Hispanics who voted for Bush are religious and more pro-life than the average voter, their central concerns tend to be about aspirations: the success of their families and children. The modern moms also have family values and the success and safety of their kids as their chief concerns.
These new Republican voters were solidly Democratic in 1996. Bill Clinton won 72 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1996; Kerry got 53 percent. Clinton not only won female voters overall, he also won white women (48 percent to Bob Dole's 43), married women (also 48 percent to 43) and moms (53 percent to 38). Unlike the unreachable evangelicals, these voters are not far removed from the values of the mainstream of the Democratic Party. They voted Democratic on the basis of balanced budgets, a fair immigration policy, expanded educational opportunities and greater protections for their kids from the dangers of tobacco and other marketing.
So while liberals and conservatives can be motivated and brought to the polls in increasing numbers, the real battle at the end of the day is for the more moderate voters who this year slipped away to the Republicans, on the basis not of gun control and gay marriage but of security and secular values such as trust and standing up for your beliefs. They are the core of any winning national coalition and at the heart of our national values. These voters have chosen Democrats in the past, and as the Democratic Party rebuilds, they are the first and most important voters we must attract to win a majority in 2008 and beyond.
The writer, who heads a Democratic polling firm, conducted polls for President Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign.
There will be a war. The old school Dems want HRC. The forward thinkers look to people like Va. Gov. Mark Warner. Watch to see who become new DNC Chairman. If it's Howard Dean or Harold Ickes HRC gets a boost. LA TimeDemocrats Map Out a Different Strategy
The 2008 nominee must appeal to red states, analysts say. Hillary Clinton may not qualify.
By Peter Wallsten and Nick Anderson
Times Staff Writers
November 6, 2004
WASHINGTON Â— Reeling from their party's loss in the presidential election, some key Democratic financiers and strategists say they have learned a clear lesson: Next time around, no Northeasterners need apply.
The blue-state party needs a face from a red state if it is going to expand beyond its base on the two coasts and preserve its hold on the Upper Midwest, where its long-standing appeal to voters has become tenuous, these insiders say.
Their voices Â— if they become ascendant as the Democratic Party undertakes a round of soul-searching after Tuesday's losses by presidential nominee John F. Kerry and key Senate candidates Â— could dampen prospects for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who has been frequently mentioned as a prominent White House contender in 2008.
The concerns about the party's direction also could lift lesser-knowns such as Govs. Mark R. Warner of Virginia and Michael F. Easley of North Carolina, who are widely seen as effective communicators of a populist Democratic message in Republican-leaning states.
"We have to be very careful about the kind of candidate that we nominate and where that candidate comes from," said Scott Falmlen, executive director of the Democratic Party in North Carolina, where Easley won in a landslide Tuesday despite Kerry's lopsided loss there to President Bush. "This party has got to get in a position where it does not write off an entire section of the country."
Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, was more blunt. "As of now, Hillary Clinton's a bad idea," he said.
The standard-bearer should be a face from the South or the Midwest, he added, naming Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, this year's vice presidential nominee, or Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana as presidential possibilities.
"Do we see a pattern here? No L.A., no Cambridge, no Manhattan," said Harpootlian, who remains a key party strategist in South Carolina. "The majority of America isn't from those areas, and they don't hold the values of these folks."
Steve Jarding, a Democratic strategist who helped engineer Warner's victory in Virginia by courting rural voters, said the governor's stock rose with the realization that Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, could take the party only so far. Democrats, he said, were now "looking South. We're looking Â… for a proven winner."
Following Kerry's defeat, "it'd be very difficult for a Northeasterner to convince the party that they are the right standard-bearer," said one fundraiser for the senator's campaign, who was not named because of the sensitivity of the subject. "That's the message I'm hearing from a lot of people."
The consternation comes as party strategists begin to grapple with what the centrist Democratic Leadership Council called a "slow but significant erosion of Democratic support in recent years."
The electoral map featuring red and blue states, illustrating Republican and Democratic victories, became even more red this year as Republicans claimed two formerly Democratic states Â— New Mexico and Iowa Â— while nearly scoring victories in other Democratic strongholds, such as Wisconsin. Democrats, by contrast, this year claimed only one state that the GOP had won in 2000: New Hampshire.
Days after their loss, Democratic leaders began trying to sort out how much of their problem had to do with the messenger, and how much with the message.
Some said that Kerry's campaign platform Â— including his support of middle-class tax cuts and tax increases for the wealthy Â— would have succeeded had it been delivered by another person.
They noted that even though Kerry lost Colorado by 6 percentage points, Democrats claimed both chambers of the state Legislature from Republicans and elected a Democrat to replace retiring GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
In Montana, where Kerry lost by 21 percentage points, a Democrat was elected governor for the first time in 16 years.
And in North Carolina, where Easley won reelection as governor, Democrats also reclaimed the House from Republicans and retained control of the Senate, despite a 9-point loss by Kerry.
Still, many Democratic strategists began thinking about how to refocus the party's message Â— including looking for ways to marry the Democrats' traditional belief in an active government with the culturally conservative views that predominate among many Southern and heartland voters.
Exit polls suggested that as many as one-fourth of the voters on Tuesday ranked "values" as their leading concern, guiding many of them to back Bush, a born-again Christian, over Kerry, a Catholic who supported abortion rights and opposed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Kirk Wagar, a Miami trial lawyer who helped raise $15 million for this year's campaign as the Democrats' Florida finance chairman, said he was so frustrated by the party's inability to communicate a values-driven message to voters that he intended to launch an organization to encourage candidates who could do so in future elections.
"I just don't understand why we have been unable to talk" to lower- and middle-income Americans, who should be responding to the Democrats' economic message, said Wagar, 35, a graduate of a conservative Christian college who in late 2002 hosted the first fundraiser for Kerry's presidential campaign.
Wagar said his still-unformed organization would work with candidates who could articulate the Democrats' "core values of opportunity and fairness" but who also didn't "look down on the people Â… in the heartland."
The last Democratic nominee to forge a message with appeal in both red and blue states, Bill Clinton, echoed that frustration Friday as he offered advice to his beleaguered party. He said Kerry had been wounded during the campaign by Republican caricatures of him as antifamily and antireligion.
"We have to be present with a compelling message in small towns and rural areas," Clinton told an Urban Land Institute conference in New York, according to the Bloomberg News Service. "If we don't make the message, we can't complain when we're demonized Â— cartoonized as aliens."
Jarding, the Warner ally in Virginia, said Democrats should not run from religion. He suggested they start to use language that casts the party's belief in an active government as a matter of values.
"The Bible says when somebody is hungry you feed them, when they're sick you heal them, when they're naked you give them clothing," he said. "When people are sitting around the kitchen table at night and they're angry because they lost a job or are working two jobs, I'm guessing they don't sit there and say, 'Life really [stinks] but, by God, we've got to quit having these gay guys get married.' "
Harpootlian, the South Carolina Democrat, said the party is too dominated by its various interest groups, alienating a key voter in many red states: the white male.
"You can't go to a [Democratic National Committee] meeting and have the first act be to divide up into the caucuses: the African American caucus, the Asian American caucus, the Pacific American caucus, the lesbian and gay caucus, the Native American caucus," he said. "As a white guy from South Carolina, where's my caucus? Where's the white guys' caucus?
"That defines the problem of the Democratic Party," he added. "They've got to make folks like me welcome, and make it so I don't have to take a hard swallow every time I go to a DNC meeting."
Al From, founder and chief executive of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, said speculation on who should run for president next time or where those candidates should hail from was misguided.
"Let's get a message and redefine our party in a way that people will want to vote for us, and then our candidate will probably do fine," From said. "A candidate who eliminates the culture gap, eliminates the security gap [on national defense issues], is willing to compete all over this country and has an effective agenda for reform will do fine, no matter where he or she is from."
We must stop telling the Dems how to turn things around. I am guilty too. Kathleen Parker needs to leave them alone. We don't want them to smarten up. Orlando Sentinel
Kathleen Parker: Want to understand Kerry loss? Don't talk down to mid-America
BY KATHLEEN PARKER
ORLANDO (FLA.) SENTINEL
As stunned Democrats scratch the dry earth for signs and glance heavenward for clues to the strange universe that re-elected George W. Bush, it seems unduly cruel to withhold what Ordinary Americans have known all along.
Herewith a few hints: Michael Moore, Bruce Springsteen, P. Diddy, Paris Hilton, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Bar- bra Streisand, Jon Bon Jovi, Uma Thurman, Kirsten Dunst, Leonardo DiCaprio, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Ron Reagan, MoveOn.org, Dan Rather, the French - and everyone else who would be speaking German today if not for the bravery and sacrifice of Ordinary Americans who today are held in such contempt by all of the above.
It's the elitism, mes freres.
Here's another clue: When courting voters in flyover states, one does not say: "I love you, stupid redneck morons." Especially not when sporting biking tights and straddling an $8,000 two-wheeler - a dollar amount, incidentally, that to many Ordinary Americans is a life's savings.
Not that John F. Kerry ever said such. But he didn't have to. Preening in luxury, surrounded by celebrity friends contemptuous of the values ordinary Americans hold dear, he might as well have waltzed down Beale Street whistling Dixie.
Never has a politician been so out of touch with the voters whose goals he purportedly shares. Nor has a party been so out of tune with the nation's defining song: "God Bless America."
The folks who re-elected Bush not only voted for the man they felt best represents their interests, but also against a culture they see as alien and hostile. The Bush vote was equally a protest against Hollywood, an increasingly untrustworthy news media and the puerile Michael Moore contingent.
What those three cultural entities have in common as viewed from America's heartland is an attitude of effete superiority that isn't just untenable but despised.
In Thursday's New York Times, cosmopolitan New Yorkers grappling with Kerry's unthinkable defeat told the story.
Beverly Camhe, a film producer, Zito Joseph, a retired psychiatrist, and Roberta Kimmel Cohn, an art dealer - elite New Yorkers all - were stunned. In Joseph's words, Bush voters are "obtuse," "short-sighted," "redneck," "shoot-from-the-hip" religious literalists.
"New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what's going to injure masses of people is not good for us," Joseph said as he shared coffee and cigarettes with Cohn at an outdoor cafe.
The two-America divide isn't fiction after all. And the division, as nearly everyone has noted, is about values.
But what the Democrats got wrong, and what the Times subjects seem to be missing, is that traditional values and sophistication are not mutually exclusive. Nor does sophistication equate to intelligence, we hasten to add.
People who believe in heterosexual marriage because the traditional family model best serves children and therefore society are not ipso facto homophobic.
Americans vexed about our casual disregard for human life are not necessarily Stepford-Neanderthals. And those people who believe in some power greater than themselves are not always rubes.
In small towns across the nation, especially in the Deep South, one can find plenty of well-traveled, multilingual, lattÃ©-loving, Ivy-educated Ph.D.s, if that's your measure of sophistication.
But they're not snobs, nor do they sneer at people who pay more than lip service to traditional values. In fact, they often share those very values in quiet, thoughtful, deliberative ways.
The Democratic Party is now entering the post-election navel-gazing stage of self-recrimination and analysis. How did it lose the very people who are supposed to be its target constituents?
The puzzle is not that the Democrats lost, but that they can't see how. It's simple:
Â• When Michael Moore, the unkempt, perennially juvenile propagandist, is the face of your party, you lose the grownups.
Â• When a gum-smacking Ben Affleck is your most articulate celebrity spokesman, you lose regular folks too busy with bills and children to (a) give a rip what Ben Affleck thinks or (b) figure out who he is.
Â• When the news media position, inflate or distort news to advance their political agenda, you lose fair-minded Americans who would rather go with an ordinary man who shares their values than with the pampered darling of the New York bistro set. In a nutshell.
Getting back to real America won't be an easy trip for many of those now seeking answers. As any of those evangelical Christians who voted Bush will tell you, you have to believe before you can see.
Good one Trex.
Dems must change their Primary Election schedule. They should go to regional primaries or have "Red States" move to the front. Iowa and N.H. Dems are too Liberal.
The debate begins. NY Times
Baffled in Loss, Democrats Seek Road Forward
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 - The Democratic Party emerged from this week's election struggling over what it stood for, anxious about its political future, and bewildered about how to compete with a Republican Party that some Democrats say may be headed for a period of electoral dominance.
Democrats said President Bush's defeat of Senator John Kerry by three million votes had left the party facing its most difficult time in at least 20 years. Some Democrats said the situation was particularly worrisome because of the absence of any compelling Democratic leader prepared to steer the party back to power or carry its banner in 2008.
"We really need to work on the question of what we are for," said Walter F. Mondale, the former vice president whose 1984 loss to Ronald Reagan was invoked by some Democrats in assessing the party's spirits now. "Unless we have a vision and the arguments to match, I don't think we're going to truly connect with the American people."
Gov. Janet Napolitano, Democrat of Arizona, a state that Mr. Kerry failed to grasp from the Republican column, said: ''We need a fresh reassessment of how we communicate with people. How did a party that has been out of power in Washington, D.C., become tagged with the problems of Washington, D.C.? How did a party that is filled with people with values -- and I am a person with values -- get tagged as the party without values?''
And Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana said: ''We need to be a party that stands for more than the sum of our resentments. In the heartland, where I am from, there are doubts. Too often, we're caricatured as a bicoastal cultural elite that is condescending at best and contemptuous at worst to the values that Americans hold in their daily lives.''
Mr. Kerry's loss has, inevitably, created recriminations about a candidate that many Democrats had always viewed as stiff, and a campaign that was often criticized as slow-moving and unfocused. Democrats said that Mr. Kerry had failed to provide a compelling message, coasting on the belief that Mr. Bush would defeat himself, and that the campaign had been slow to respond to attacks on his war record by Vietnam veterans.
And some Democrats, especially centrist ones, expressed concern that liberals would draw a mistaken lesson from the loss: that the Democratic Party needed to swing back to the left to energize Democratic base voters to counter the upsurge of conservative base voters on the right.
''That's not a recipe for winning,'' said Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat frequently mentioned by party officials as a possible presidential contender in 2008. ''That's a recipe for disaster.''
But the criticisms of Mr. Kerry were slight when compared with the scorn offered for Al Gore after he lost in 2000, or for Michael S. Dukakis after his defeat in 1988. And there was little sign, at least so far, of the kind of intraparty warring that typically grips losing political parties.
Instead, in interviews with elected officials and party leaders across the country, Democrats were much more interested in talking about the future than this past year, reflecting what Stanley Greenberg, the Democratic pollster who advised Mr. Kerry and worked for Bill Clinton in 1992, sardonically described as the unifying power Mr. Bush has wielded over the typically fractious Democratic Party.
''People are determined to get this right,'' Mr. Greenberg said.
Several party officials said what they were most concerned about was the extent to which Republicans had succeeded in presenting the Democratic Party as out of the cultural mainstream.
''I'm not saying that Kerry did anything wrong on this, but I think that we ignored in large measure the three big cultural issues of this election: guns, abortion and gay rights, epitomized by gay marriage,'' said Harold M. Ickes, a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton who ran an independent political committee that sought to unseat Mr. Bush, adding. ''These are very, very big issues. They really, really motivate people.''
Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, Democrat of Michigan, said that in order to be competitive with Republicans, Democrats had to have a message that was ''strong and strongly pro-work, pro-responsibility, pro-duty, pro-service, pro-child, pro-seniors.''
''And not to be afraid of saying God,'' Ms. Granholm said. ''And not to be afraid of saying that this is a country that is based upon faith.''
Party officials said they were concerned about evidence of a cultural gap between Democrats and much of the country. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said that his dealings with Mr. Kerry and his advisers had vividly demonstrated to him the problems the party faces.
''I remember being on a trip with him in New Mexico: I put a cowboy hat on Senator Kerry and someone on his staff shuddered and asked me to stop,'' he said. ''This is I think an example of the East Coast not connecting with the West Coast and with the rest of the country.''
Democrats said their immediate concern was the 2006 Senate elections, when 17 Democratic incumbents are up, compared with 15 Republicans, giving Republicans an automatic upper-hand from the outset. Several of the Democrats are in nominally Democratic states where Mr. Bush made a strong showing, like New Mexico and Minnesota. The Republicans picked up four Senate seats on Tuesday, expanding their hold on the Senate to 55-45.
The problem, some Democrats said, will be even more vexing in 2008, when there will be no incumbent president , leaving the race open on both sides. At this very early date, party officials said Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York senator, is best positioned to win the presidential nomination. But Democrats and some Republicans said Mrs. Clinton was open to caricature by Republicans as the type of candidate that this election suggested was so damaging to the Democratic Party: a Northeastern, secular liberal.
In addition to Mrs. Clinton, two Democrats from this year -- Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who was Mr. Kerry's running mate, and Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor -- are likely to move to wield influence, and perhaps run for president themselves.
Both men are burdened by their own losses this year. And in one disadvantage for Mr. Edwards, several party officials said there would likely be renewed hesitancy to run a member of Congress for the presidency, given the success the White House had undercutting Mr. Kerry's credibility with votes he had cast.
So the other Democrats mentioned as either high-profile leaders and possible presidential candidates are all governors; Mr. Warner, Mr. Richardson, Ms. Napolitano, as well as Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, Michael F. Easley of North Carolina and Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.
Party officials said that the results of this election underscored what had appeared to be the case in 2002. Republicans have now surpassed the Democrats in registering and turning out the voters.
Coming off this election, Democratic officials said they were concerned that the party's ideological and geographical appeal is shrinking after looking at an election night map blazing with red states. They said that Mr. Kerry might have been technically right in saying that a presidential candidate could win without competing in the South, but that the party would stumble unless it broadened its support.
''We must be a 50-state national party,'' the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson said. ''We must take on the South, reach more working poor people.''
Ms. Napolitano, who in an interview over the summer expressed confidence that Mr. Kerry would win her state (he lost it by 11 percentage points), said: ''You can't write off everything from Atlanta to California. You've got to find some beachheads there. Obviously it's going to be more uphill than we thought.''
Some party leaders cautioned against glumness, noting that Mr. Kerry had come within three percentage points of defeating Mr. Bush, a wartime president. But other Democrats argued that the party had as strong a chance for victory as it could have hoped for, and argued that the loss presaged a period of Republican domination.
''We are in a tremendous amount of trouble,'' said Gordon Fischer, the Iowa Democratic chairman. ''There are fundamental problems not only with the candidates, but also our tactics and the message: Who Democrats are and what we believe.''
Andrei Cherny, who worked as a special policy adviser to Mr. Kerry through the spring, said: ''Look, we lost in 2000 during a period of peace and prosperity in American history. In 2004, we lost as challengers with huge job losses and a failed war launched on false pretenses. We should have won.''
Most of all, though, party leaders said the main challenge now was coming up with a compelling case to make to voters, to counter what they acknowledged was the clear message Mr. Bush had made. Mr. Warner, reflecting what has been a theme of his governorship in Virginia, said Democrats should seek to present themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility by attacking Republicans for growing deficits.
''It would help in a host of ways in terms of just ending the notion of Democrats as free-wheeling spenders, 'government solves all your problems,''' he said. ''Because that leads right into the slippery slope of Democrats being lax on moral issues, faith issues. Fiscal issues are a huge opportunity for Democrats.''
Al From, the head of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of moderate Democrats, said that the party made a mistake by spending too much time on getting out the vote and that the way to win an election was to come up with a message, the way Mr. Clinton did in 1992.
''This is the second election in a row where they got a majority of the popular vote, because they did in 2002,'' he said. ''A mobilization strategy, while important, is clearly not the most important thing. We need to persuade people who would otherwise vote for them to vote for us. And you do that with good ideas.''
The great one-Mark Steyn. Chicago Sun Times
Condescending Dems still don't get it
November 7, 2004
BY MARK STEYN
Mustn't gloat, mustn't gloat. Instead, we must try and look sober and reflective and then step smartly to the side and let the Democrats tear themselves apart.
I'm reluctant to intrude on family grief, especially as the Dems are doing such a sterling job all by themselves. But, when big shot Democrats look at Tuesday's results and instantly announce the reason they flopped out was because . . .
Whoa, hang on a minute, my apologies. There's been a clerical error here: That was my post-election column from 2002. My post-election column from 2004 goes like . . . well, actually, it goes pretty much the same. It'd be easier just to take the second week in November off every two years and let my editors run the timeless classic whither-the-Democrats? column. All that changes is the local color. In 2002, I was very taken by the band at Missouri Democratic headquarters attempting to rouse the despondent faithful with Steve Allen's peppy anthem, "This Could Be the Start of Something Big,'' and noted that the party faced the opposite problem: This could be the end of something small.
As they've done for a decade now, the Democrat bigwigs worried about it for a couple of weeks and then rationalized it away: In 2000 they lost because Bush stole the "election"; in 2002 they lost because of that "vicious" attack ad on Max Cleland. The official consolation for this year's biennial bust hasn't yet been decided on, but Tom Daschle's election-eve lawsuit alone offers several attractive runners, including the complaint that Democrats were intimidated by Republicans ''rolling their eyes.'' Could be a lot more of that if this keeps up.
So it seems likely -- just to get my 2006 post-election column out of the way here -- that in a couple years' time the Democrats will have run on the same thin gruel as usual and be mourning the loss of another two or three Senate seats. You want names and states? Well, how about West Virginia? Will the 88-year old Robert C. Byrd be on the ballot in 2006? And, if he's not, what are the Dems' chances of stopping West Virginia's transformation to permanent "red state" status?
It also seems likely -- just to get my 2012 post-election column out of the way here -- that in eight years' time the Dems will have run on the same thin gruel as usual and, thanks to the 2010 census and the ongoing shift of population to the South and West, lost another five House seats and discovered that the "blue states" are worth even less in the Electoral College -- though in fairness their only available presidential candidate, the young dynamic Southerner 94-year-old Robert C. Byrd, managed to hold all but three of Kerry's states.
I had a bet with myself this week: How soon after election night would it be before the Bush-the-chimp-faced-moron stuff started up again? 48 hours? A week? I was wrong. Bush Derangement Syndrome is moving to a whole new level. On the morning of Nov. 2, the condescending left were convinced that Bush was an idiot. By the evening of Nov. 2, they were convinced that the electorate was. Or as London's Daily Mirror put it in its front page: "How Can 59,054,087 People Be So DUMB?"
Well, they're British lefties: They can do without Americans. Whether an American political party can do without Americans is more doubtful. Nonetheless, MSNBC.com's Eric Alterman was mirroring the Mirror's sentiments: "Slightly more than half of the citizens of this country simply do not care about what those of us in the 'reality-based community' say or believe about anything." Over at Slate, Jane Smiley's analysis was headlined, "The Unteachable Ignorance Of The Red States.'' If you don't want to bother plowing your way through Alterman and Smiley, a placard prominently displayed by a fetching young lad at the post-election anti-Bush rally in San Francisco cut to the chase: "F--- MIDDLE AMERICA."
Almost right, man. It would be more accurate to say that "MIDDLE AMERICA" has "F---ed" you, and it will continue to do so every two years as long as Democrats insist that anyone who disagrees with them is, ipso facto, a simpleton -- or "Neanderthal," as Teresa Heinz Kerry described those unimpressed by her husband's foreign policy. In my time, I've known dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and other members of Britain's House of Lords and none of them had the contempt for the masses one routinely hears from America's coastal elites. And, in fairness to those ermined aristocrats, they could afford Dem-style contempt: A seat in the House of Lords is for life; a Senate seat in South Dakota isn't.
More to the point, nobody who campaigns with Ben Affleck at his side has the right to call anybody an idiot. H. L. Mencken said that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people. Well, George Soros, Barbra Streisand and a lot of their friends just did: The Kerry campaign and its supporters -- MoveOn.org, Rock The Vote, etc. -- were awash in bazillions of dollars, and what have they got to show for it? In this election, the plebs were more mature than the elites: They understood that war is never cost-free and that you don't run away because of a couple of setbacks; they did not accept that one jailhouse scandal should determine America's national security interest; they rejected the childish caricature of their president and paranoid ravings about Halliburton; they declined to have their vote rocked by Bruce Springsteen or any other pop culture poser.
All the above is unworthy of a serious political party. As for this exit-poll data that everyone's all excited about, what does it mean when 22 percent of the electorate say their main concern was "moral issues"? Gay marriage? Abortion? Or is it something broader? For many of us, the war is also a moral issue, and the Democrats are on the wrong side of it, standing not with the women voting proudly in Afghanistan's first election but with the amoral and corrupt U.N., the amoral and cynical Jacques Chirac, the amoral and revolting head-hackers whom Democratic Convention guest of honor Michael Moore described as Iraq's ''minutemen.''
At some point in both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns, your typical media liberal would feign evenhandedness and bemoan the way the choice has come down to "two weak candidates.''
But, in that case, how come the right's weak candidates are the ones that win? Because a weak candidate pushing strong ideas is better than a weak candidate who's had no ideas since Roe vs. Wade.
Why did the majority of America reject thee? Let me count the ways ...
PeteS in CA
The Sound of One Cricket Chirping
Public opinion has most shallow eyes.
- Euripides in "Medea"
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
It's very predictable. Libs are in denial. "If only we can find the right candidate." Or, "we need teachins." They can never admit Americans aren't buying what they are saying. Good news here. They are incapable of turning it around. NY Times
Voting Without the Facts
By BOB HERBERT
The so-called values issue, at least as it's being popularly tossed around, is overrated.
Last week's election was extremely close and a modest shift in any number of factors might have changed the outcome. If the weather had been better in Ohio. ...If the wait to get into the voting booth hadn't been so ungodly long in certain Democratic precincts. ... Or maybe if those younger voters had actually voted. ...
I think a case could be made that ignorance played at least as big a role in the election's outcome as values. A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.
This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.
The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there's a fair amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd. The report said, "It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely to have misperceptions than those who oppose him."
I haven't heard any of the postelection commentators talk about ignorance and its effect on the outcome. It's all values, all the time. Traumatized Democrats are wringing their hands and trying to figure out how to appeal to voters who have arrogantly claimed the moral high ground and can't stop babbling about their self-proclaimed superiority. Potential candidates are boning up on new prayers and purchasing time-shares in front-row-center pews.
A more practical approach might be for Democrats to add teach-ins to their outreach efforts. Anything that shrinks the ranks of the clueless would be helpful.
If you don't think this values thing has gotten out of control, consider the lead paragraph of an op-ed article that ran in The LA. Times on Friday. It was written by Frank Pastore, a former major league pitcher who is now a host on the Christian talk-radio station KKLA.
"Christians, in politics as in evangelism," said Mr. Pastore, "are not against people or the world. But we are against false ideas that hold good people captive. On Tuesday, this nation rejected liberalism, primarily because liberalism has been taken captive by the left. Since 1968, the left has taken millions captive, and we must help those Democrats who truly want to be free to actually break free of this evil ideology."
Mr. Pastore goes on to exhort Christian conservatives to reject any and all voices that might urge them "to compromise with the vanquished." How's that for values?
In The New York Times on Thursday, Richard Viguerie, the dean of conservative direct mail, declared, "Now comes the revolution." He said, "Liberals, many in the media and inside the Republican Party, are urging the president to 'unite' the country by discarding the allies that earned him another four years."
Mr. Viguerie, it is clear, will stand four-square against any such dangerous moves toward reconciliation.
You have to be careful when you toss the word values around. All values are not created equal. Some Democrats are casting covetous eyes on voters whose values, in many cases, are frankly repellent. Does it make sense for the progressive elements in our society to undermine their own deeply held beliefs in tolerance, fairness and justice in an effort to embrace those who deliberately seek to divide?
What the Democratic Party needs above all is a clear message and a bold and compelling candidate. The message has to convince Americans that they would be better off following a progressive Democratic vision of the future. The candidate has to be a person of integrity capable of earning the respect and the affection of the American people.
This is doable. Al Gore and John Kerry were less than sparkling candidates, and both came within a hair of defeating Mr. Bush.
What the Democrats don't need is a candidate who is willing to shape his or her values to fit the pundits' probably incorrect analysis of the last election. Values that pivot on a dime were not really values to begin with.
Just saw Dick Morris on FOX. He says the nomination is Hillary's for the asking. If so Ronald Brownstein thinks the Dems are dead meat. LA Times
Democrats Need a Red-Blooded Candidate to Stanch Losses
November 8, 2004
Maybe Democrats will find a way to argue about the reason for the sweep by President Bush and congressional Republicans last week. But the answer, and the lesson, appears about as clear as these things ever get: The Democrats need to widen the electoral battlefield.
In the congressional and presidential races, Democrats maintained the core of their support in the blue states that Al Gore won in 2000. But at both levels, the Democrats made scant headway in the red states Bush won last time.
That left Sen. John F. Kerry with too narrow a margin of error for reaching 270 electoral college votes and congressional Democrats with too few options for reversing the GOP majority. It also allowed Bush, far more than Kerry, to take the offense and erode the edges of the other side's coalition.
"We were not pressuring them in as many places as they were pressuring us," said Steve Elmendorf, Kerry's deputy campaign manager. "We were never really in play in a whole bunch of states Bush had won four years ago, and he was pushing us hard in states we won four years ago."
From this pattern, the lesson seems unavoidable. Democrats need a nominee who can effectively compete for more of the country than Kerry did Â— especially socially conservative regions such as the South and rural Midwest. That would give the Democrats more paths to an electoral college majority. A nominee with more appeal in the red states might also create a climate that enables the party to seriously contest more House and Senate seats.
The red and blue map of electoral results vividly captures the point. If Bush, as is likely, holds his lead in New Mexico, Kerry would have been reduced to three enclaves: the Northeast and New England, the upper Midwest (where he held Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota) and the West Coast.
Bush (again pending New Mexico) won literally everything else across the giant L that runs from the mountain states and Great Plains through the South. If you stayed south of Illinois, you could drive from California to Pennsylvania without crossing a state, and conceivably a county, that Kerry carried.
That dominating performance across the heartland Â— mirrored in the congressional results Â— put weight behind the judgment of Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist, when he said: "It's no longer a 49-49 country; it's 51-48 and maybe a little bit better" for Republicans.
If there's any solace for Democrats, it's that Bush hasn't built a coalition so broad that it's out of reach. The 29 states that Bush has carried both times equal 274 electoral college votes. The 18 Gore states that Kerry won plus the District of Columbia provide a base of 248 electoral college votes. Indeed, Democrats have now carried those 18 states in four consecutive elections. The party wouldn't need to move much from red to blue to squeeze out its own narrow majority in 2008.
But that will require a nominee who is able to expand the playing field. As a nominee, Kerry did many things well. But as a Massachusetts senator with a generally liberal voting record, especially on social issues, he labored to get off the runway in the states Bush carried last time.
Kerry reached 48% of the vote in just three of those states: New Hampshire (the sole state Kerry recaptured), Ohio and Nevada. In 21 of the 29 Bush 2000 states, Kerry was held to 43% of the vote or less.
Partly because his own base was so strong, Bush was able to mount challenges for more Democratic terrain. Bush gained 48% or more in six states that Gore carried. Although Bush still fell well short in the Northeast, he significantly improved his performance in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Only in five of the 18 Gore 2000 states was Bush held to 43% or less.
In some of those states (such as those in the Northeast), Bush's showing may be a post-Sept. 11 high point for the GOP. But overall, the numbers should warn Democrats that unless they can force Republicans to spend more time and money defending their strongholds, the GOP will continue to encroach on their base.
In the battle for Congress, the Democrats' need to expand into red territory is even more urgent. Democrats control about three-fourths of the Senate seats and three-fifths of the House seats in the states won by Gore and Kerry.
That's about the same percentage Republicans control in the states Bush won twice.
But because Bush won more states, that leaves the Democrats with too narrow a base, especially in the Senate, which magnifies the influence of the Republican-leaning small states. Without a bigger battlefield, the Democrats are doomed to lasting minority status in Congress.
For Democrats, these two problems are intertwined. Democrats probably can't regain much congressional ground in the red states until they elect a president who can improve the party's image there. The need is greatest in the South, where the GOP's crushing, 18-seat advantage in the Senate and 40-seat spread in the House provide the margins of majority. Reversing the solidifying Republican hold on the South and the other red states won't be easy for the Democrats under any circumstance. But it probably will be impossible without a candidate who has broader regional appeal than Kerry.
That imperative seems certain to raise the 2008 profile of Democrats who have won elections in regions the party needs to put back into play Â— such as governors Tom Vilsack of Iowa (the rural Midwest), Bill Richardson of New Mexico (the desert Southwest) and especially Mark R. Warner of Virginia (the South).
Kerry ran admirably against a formidable incumbent during wartime. But the clearest lesson of his candidacy is that Democrats may be unable to win the White House unless they pick a nominee from outside their natural geographic base.
Democratic Party must be 'born again,' Carville says
By Stephen Dinan
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Democratic strategist James Carville said yesterday that the Democratic Party's losses last Tuesday were no fluke, and that they need to rethink exactly who they are and provide something more than a litany of policy proposals.
"The underlying problem here is, there is no call to arms that the Democratic Party is making to the country," said Mr. Carville, the architect of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign win. "We've got to reassess ourselves. We've got to be born again."
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Democrats are debating what went right and what went wrong in last Tuesday's election, in which President Bush won re-election over Sen. John Kerry, and Democrats also lost seats in both the House and Senate. Some have said there is no need for soul-searching, and blamed the losses on a difficult election-year map or a poor candidate at the top of the ticket.
During the Democratic National Convention this summer in Boston, when Mr. Bush trailed in the polls, Mr. Carville said, "It would be the greatest political achievement of my lifetime" if he came back to beat Mr. Kerry.
But yesterday, Mr. Carville said not only was it a great comeback, but coupled with the 2002 congressional-election losses, it shows it's time for Democrats to engage in a major re-examination.
"We can deny this crap, but I'm out of the denial. I'm about reality here," Mr. Carville told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "We are an opposition party, and as of right now, not a particularly effective one. You can't deny reality here."
Rich Lowery says Dems in denial. National Review
The Americans liberals forgot reelect the president.
On nearly every TV political chat-fest, journalists and Democrats are asking themselves with puzzled or plaintive expressions on their faces: "Values? What are these so-called 'values'? And how do we get some?"
The convincing Bush victory last Tuesday was partly driven by moral issues. More voters (22 percent) said they cared about those issues than any other concern, including the economy (20 percent), terrorism (19 percent) and Iraq (15 percent). Those values-voters broke for Bush 80 percent to 18 percent, a wipeout that did much to secure his victory. So we are due another of those periodic moments when the chattering class discovers the strange continued existence of Christians and other exotic beings inhabiting locales not in New York, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.
In a "values" discussion on CNN the other night, the Republican governor of Nebraska was queried and probed as if he were from another planet: "Bipedal, carbon-based life forms in Nebraska are sexually dimorphic and pair off in long-term commitments called Â— forgive me if I mispronounce this Â— 'marriage'? Can you please describe, in as simple terms as possible, the concept of barbecue? Who is Brooks? And if I may follow up quickly, who is Dunn?"
It is extraordinary that liberals constantly forget about these voters, since their entire political strategy is based on them Â— getting around them, that is. The liberal reliance on the courts to effect social change is entirely driven by the fact that most of the country is not keen on social liberalism. Indeed, last Tuesday's biggest loser was the Massachusetts supreme court. In its eagerness to slam gay marriage down the throats of Massachusetts Â— and, by extension, the rest of the country Â— it prompted a populist backlash that benefited President Bush.
All eleven state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage passed last week. All but two passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. In the crucial swing state of Ohio, support for the anti-gay-marriage amendment juiced up turnout in the GOP south and west of the state, and nudged swing voters in the Appalachian southeast Bush's way. According to one estimate, one-fourth of Ohio voters identified themselves as born-again Christians, and they voted for Bush by a 3-1 margin.
Liberals will try to dodge the import of these results. Already there are complaints about the supposed stupidity of voters concentrating on moral issues when there are so many more urgent concerns. What about global warming? The minimum wage? But for many people, faith is an existential commitment. Expecting them to put their religious convictions aside in the voting booth Â— especially when they consider those convictions under assault by unelected judges Â— is simply to misunderstand faith's power.
The election suggests Democrats should make some adjustments. First, nominate candidates who partake of the cultural sensibility of most voters. Ken Salazar, who won a Colorado Senate seat for the Democrats, is a bright spot for them this year. He has a rural background, wears cowboy hats and bolo ties, and has never been seen windsurfing. Second, be more moderate on the social issues. Abortion-on-demand in every possible circumstance shouldn't be holy writ, and gay marriage will have to wait. Third, ground liberal positions in the deepest ethical imperatives of traditional religion. This is what Illinois senator-to-be Barack Obama did in his moving address at the Democratic Convention (and it has been a key to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's political success).
Finally, it would be a mistake to draw a straight line between the votes of those people who say moral issues were important to them and the president's positions on abortion and other hot buttons. They were probably swayed as well by his intangibles Â— his authenticity, his toughness, his instinctive patriotism, his disdain for elite affectation. Those are qualities that can't be faked, and Democrats will never value them properly until they truly value Â— instead of misunderstand and disdain Â— fly-over-country moral-issues voters. The philosopher Jeremy Bentham once said the best way to convince people you like them...is to actually like them.
Â— Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.