Skip to comments.Baffled in Loss, Democrats Seek Road Forward
Posted on 11/06/2004 11:47:08 AM PST by Pokey78
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 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, where Mr. Kerry made a failed effort 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 failed to provide a compelling message, gliding on the belief that Mr. Bush would defeat himself, and that the campaign was slow in responding 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 intra-party 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 President Bush has wielded over the typically fractious Democratic Party.
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 to 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 while Mr. Kerry might have been technically right in saying that a presidential candidate could win without competing in the South, the party would stumble unless it broadened its support.
"We must be a 50-state national party," said the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. "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 3 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."
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.
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.''
Judging by first reactions, they're headed down that same road that lead to that same cliff that the lemmings and the buffalo used.
The Dems will have to get out,all over the US,and find out how people really feel. They never do that.
Many of them are entrenched in the liberalism of academia and they don't have a CLUE about most Americans.
Talk about somebody who doesn't get it!
I am for anything that will shut them up for awhile.
They already have that message Jen. We don't believe them.
BTW you're out in a couple of years. I'm sick of living in a blue state.
It wasn't just the message...it was also the messengers!
Gov. Janet Napolitano, Democrat of Arizona, where Mr. Kerry made a failed effort to grasp from the Republican column, said: "We need a fresh reassessment of how we communicate with people. . . . 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?"
Now, let's see, how could that be? Maybe it has something to do with a President who unippered his pants in the Oval office? No, couldn't be. Afterall, isn't that pretty standard behavior in Hollywood? Maybe it has something to do with a Presidential candidate who owns severn, count them, seven houses, and yet talks about taking care of the "poor". Naw, that can't be it. Or maybe it has something to do with a candidate who says he's a Catholic but supports abortion. Or, maybe it has something to do with the stellar example of marital bliss that the Clintons exemplify - afterall, so many "normal" Americans can really relate to that......
Or maybe it's just that old fashioned idea that you live life simply and honestly and do your best......but then, that isn't "sophisticated" enough for the Democrats...
---Gov. Janet Napolitano, Democrat of Arizona, where Mr. Kerry made a failed effort to grasp from the Republican column, said: "We need a fresh reassessment of how we communicate with people. . . . 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?"---
We all agree that the Dims are full of it, Janet. Eleanor Clift was saying a similar thing: that the Dims needed to start talking differently about values. Translation: the Democrats need to refine their camouflage and lying skills.
"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." "
Interesting she would say this considering that her actions and words and that of her Party have been everything BUT! If what she says were true (not) she would make it easy on herself and just switch to the Republicans.
What is it good for?
I suppose it depends you your definition of values. To a Democrat Values mean leaning to the left, believing that the only ones with the right to freedom are on the left and that everyone else is a moron and shouldn't be heard or seen. They value the fact that as long as the constitution is in effect in this country they won't be able to tell everyone how to think, so they value the idea of trashing it. These values and a few others like valuing dead babies because they can be used for research are their idea of "values". Mine happen to be a different set of values, but I don't think they want to hear mine.
They need to concentrate on the living voters, not the dead and non-exsistent. Spend more time on the people and their desires in each of the area they are campaigning in, selling themselves, instead of getting hollywood types to entertain them.
Well then they're sunk. When was the last time you heard of a new idea from the democrats? All the new ideas have come from the republicans since Newt started the revolution ... flat tax, national sales tax, individual SS savings accounts, individual medical savings accounts, revamping the military, etc., etc., etc.
Most Democrats appear to care more about advancing the cause of militant homosexuality than about electoral viability. May they get what they deserve.
I see that everyone here fastened on the same quotation, and no wonder.
It depends on the values, Janet. Bush's values involve defending and saving lives. Your values involve taking them. There's a difference.
Understatement of the century. On the other hand, they are liberals so they will work on it, then come out with the same agenda of pro abortion, pro regulation, pro big government, pro anything goes society.
Not 'caricatured' but 'aptly described' .
The dims got a real problem. According to exit polls, over 4.5 million homosexuals voted. This is a huge voting bloc for them to pi$$ off.
Bayh almost gets it, except he needs to understand that it's not a caricature... it's the truth.
You got only 38% of the states!! You are lucky you have 44 Senators!! If anything, over time you will lose more. How do you ever expect to get back the Senate? Without the Senate, you won't be able to accomplish much even if you do win the Presidency!
Now that we'll be able to break filibusters, the Republicans are inevitable, so you may as well lie back and enjoy it.
Democratic rally poster on 11/3:
Now tell me again how they are going to show that they aren't contempuous of American values in the Heartland, Senator Bayh...
Above all else, they are hopelessly confused!!
Ya got that right Sanator Bayh..that's a TRUE assessment of you DemoncRATS!
Just look at the supercilious tilt of that guys head. It just doesn't quite fit with the mindless hatred in his eyes. Sad evidence of how pathetic they really are.
You have to feel sorry for America's democrat party. It has been rudderless since the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of communist guidance, direction and orders. Oh, sure, lots of the same people are still in dem leadership positions but they don't think well for themselves.
Bwwaaahahahahahahaha...talk about clueless. Sure, yep, people filled with values, like Michael Moore, Barbara Streisand, Ben Afleck, Roseanne Barr, Rosie O'Donnell, P.Diddy, and all the rest of the entertainment industry libertines. And how about all those Leftist hate-America freaks who love to march in the streets? Oh, and the DEMOCRAT Mayor of San Francisco totally ignoring the law of the state and "marrying" homosexuals.
Then there's the Vermont and Massachuetts supreme courts which ORDERED THEIR STATE LEGISLATURES to come up with homosexual marriage schemes. And those state legislatures complied instead of telling the courts to take a flying leap, which would have been the proper thing to do. Earth to Dem Leftists: the legislature is a separate branch of government which does not have to take orders from the judicial branch.
The list of where the Left/Dems are out of touch with this country is so long that it would take hours to cover it all, let alone correct. So I hope they all do move to Canada or France or New Zealand. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Leftist Dems also value dead voters. They are the party of the dead.
Anything but pro-life, right, Granholm?
memo to Kerry, Begala, Micheal Moore, and any other liberals, yes you are liberals, even you John Kerry:
socialism is NOT what Americans mean when we talk about values. Figure this out, and you'll have something.
It's a whole lot of fun observing how clueless the Left is.
Hi Southack. That's quite a photo. I think I'll print it in color and send it to the entire California congressional delegation, along with Bayh's quote.
in a world Dem values equal socialism. They want the voters to ignore the elephant in the room of partial birth abortion.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: "Next time we will LIE and call ourselves centrists." [The way Klinton won]
These guys are just like the New Yorkers and mASSholes - they are so full of how 'special' they are and how living where they do makes them SOOO much more intelligent, insightful, wise, blah, blah, blah - I have lived on 2 Continents in 3 countries, traveled and done business on 4 contintents - these people are NOT special - New Englanders and New Yorkers are more bigoted, delusional and narrow-minded then ANY of the other people I have met and worked with - if used to be a joke among my European friends to see just what stupid things visting US 'cosmopolitans' from New York and Boston would say and do.
These fools shouldn't change a thing - well - maybe they need to yell louder and speak a little slower so all the rest of us 'slow thinkers' can understand and learn.
I wonder if she's still lectoring at her Catholic parish.
The irony is that gun-control measures produce no positive results, abortion is already legal so it makes no sense to trot it out each election cycle for people to rally around or condemn and gay marriage is important to maybe 2-3% of the voters. SS reform is possibly the most populist measure in front of us today and the democrats are running from it. They have no sense and simply don't understand the electorate.
Nor do they care, except as it benefits their lust for power.
Hello??? The Republicans 'presented' the Democrats as 'out of the mainstream'??? IDIOTS! The Democrats presented themselves as out of the mainstream, because they are out of it. Whoopi Goldberg grabbing her crotch and making Bush jokes? Michael Moore, perpetually immature, discordant, deceptive, propagandizing obtuse conspiracy theories and blatant lies? Ben Affleck? Barbara Streisand? A teeny-bopper looking trial lawyer with scant political experience but a long resume of using junk-science lawsuits to drive doctors out of business? Major media organizations forging documents?
There was NOTHING mainstream about the Democrats in this election. They presented themselves this way, and there is nothing they can do about it, because they are out of the mainstream.
The problem is, Harold, is not that you ignored these issues. The problem is you and your Party are on the wrong side of these issues and all your smokescreens and lies from your own mouths and those of your MSM enablers can longer cover up where you stand (as they have for the past 40 years).
You have been "outed". OUTED!!
Change your hearts and your genuine direction - not just your rhetoric - and you might have a chance. Otherwise, Harold Baby, fuggeddaboudit. America no longer believes your lyin' lips!
Thanks for the rant. I sure needed it.
If you believe the first part of the question, and have to ask the second part of the question, then there's no point in trying to explain.
The key part of this article was the implications for the future of the U.S. Senate. The GOP needs a solid strategy for grooming great conservative candidates to win Senate seats in red states. Two Senators from each state solidly won by Bush and one Senator from each "battleground" state would probably give us 60 votes, easy. And they would be real Republicans.