Skip to comments.Outside view: Emerging Democrat minority
Posted on 11/23/2002 7:24:42 PM PST by hitthefan
Outside view: Emerging Democrat minority
By Horace Cooper
A UPI Outside view commentary
Washington Politics & Policy
Published 11/23/2002 6:55 PM
WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The Democrats have a real dilemma on their hands. In the wake of the November elections, the challenge of repositioning their party so that it is more attractive to the American electorate is more difficult than it might appear at first glance. But reposition they must or potentially they risk becoming a long term minority party or -- worse -- being superseded by an upstart political party.
Many analysts offer fairly pedestrian advice to the Democrats about what they most do to increase their political appeal (including developing a more coherent message; focusing on issues important to main street America; find more enthusiastic and photogenic messengers; etc.), this most recent election outcome demonstrates that the problem is far more serious and systemic.
The collapse of the Democratic party's electoral majority is neither necessary or automatic. It has however occurred and unless that fact is recognized soon this collapse may remain permanent.
Even if the Democratic nominee for president is successful in 2004, a highly unlikely prospect, the serious problem of the party's disintegration will likely continue.
According to United Press International, Americans voted for the GOP over the Democrats by a margin of 53 to 47 percent. A telegenic face doesn't easily undo a 6-point margin.
This is the political landscape after November 5. Republicans hold a majority of statehouses, a majority of governors, a majority of senators and a majority of congressmen. As a result the GOP has a bench from which to launch new candidates making them a viable party in races across the board.
In contrast, the Democrats find themselves increasingly taking a pass in potentially competitive races by either fielding unqualified candidates or no candidates at all as they did in several senate and house races this year.
Having every Democrat united on one message is not going to overcome this state of affairs.
Actually its worse than that. There are places in the country like Texas and Virginia where there simply are no serious Democrat challengers left (undefeated, capable of raising a credible level of funds, likely to command at least 40 percent of the vote in the general election, etc.).
In Texas every statewide office is held by a Republican. In Virginia Democrats hold only two out of five and that appears to be the upper limit. To be fair, Democrats appear to have a similar advantage in California. But the advantage is deceiving.
The Republican party is viable in California. The GOP candidates consistently
and regularly break 40 percent, significantly higher at the statewide level. Republican Bill Simon's lackluster gubernatorial bid still came within six points of upsetting incumbent governor Gray Davis. Repositioning the party so that it appeals to more than just beneficiaries of the social safety net as some progressives recommend won't negate this type of structural disadvantage.
Consider that among several voting groups, Nov. 5 was a walk through the electoral killing fields for the Democrats. White men nationally gave the GOP a 20-point margin and the trend looks likely to increase rather than contract.
Married women favored the Republicans by 10 points on election day.
Rural voters in general preferred the GOP by an average of 20 points. And the former Democrat stronghold, the South, voted overwhelmingly against the Democrats, expelling several governors and at least one senator from office while handing new legislatures over to the GOP.
There is a serious values gap aiding the GOP and hindering the Democrats. Increasingly a sizeable percentage of the voting public rejects the Democratic party out of hand.
The sense that the party promotes the agendas of elite liberals, caters to
minorities at the expense of equality of opportunity and fails to treat national security issues seriously undermines the electoral prospects of the party.
Heading into the 2004 campaign the Democrats face a serious headwind. For the first time in a generation Gallup polls show that the American people have a more favorable view of the GOP than the Democratic party.
Even as Ronald Reagan was winning 49 states in 1984, he was unable to translate his landslide electoral support to the Republican party itself. While the GOP has maintained a favorable rating, meaning more people liked it than disliked it, theDemocratic party was always more popular with the public because it represented the interests of the average person.
That advantage no longer exists. Increasingly the public thinks of the Democrats as the party of special interests. Notwithstanding Ruy Texiera and John B. Judis' thesis that there is an "Emerging Democratic Majority" it appears that unless that majority is undergoing an unusally long gestation period -- say 25 to 50 years -- the untold story is how rapidly and how far the Democrats have descend from the hieghts of political power they once enjoyed. In less than 30 years the party has changed from having a stronghold in every area of the country to now being primarily the two coasts. From being popular in urban and rural to dominating only in the inner city.
Did 9-11 have an impact on this? Perhaps, but it shouldn't be overstated. The trend is the real issue. Does a war-time president like Bush whose leadership skills shine during a crisis provide benefits to his party? Certainly, just as a charismatic president like Reagan drew the country towards him and made being a Republican respectable for new demographic groups.
The reality is that the collapse of the Democrats is part of a 30-year long development. Since 1964 the Democratic party, while winning the presidency four times, has received more than 50 percent of the vote in a presidential election exactly twice. In 1964 and in 1976, but just barely.
The GOP on the other hand while winning six times has gotten a majority 4 times in 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988.
Also, in 2000 the election in which Al Gore won the popular vote while losing in the electoral college, he carried fewer than 200 congressional districts, foreshadowing the House Democrats' uphill challenge in retaking the House in 2002.
What does this mean? It is possible for the Democrats to topple a GOP candidate here and there such as in Wyoming, a state Bush won by more than 40 points in 2000 but elected a Democrat governor. But the problem is those elections are anomalies rather than trends. The fact is that the so called "GOP electoral lock" at the presidential level has expanded and now in approximately two-thirds of the country the GOP candidate for state and national office starts out with an advantage that must be overcome by his Democratic rival.
The longer this trend continues the more difficult it will be to reverse. Losing replicates itself. As the back bench is depleted by losses, new challengers come in with less experience and less viability and they lose even more.
Issues such as their attacks on the Boy Scouts, support for needle exchange in the inner city, and a reflexive hostility to U.S. military action are part and parcel of the modern Democratic party.
While these and similar issues are a large cause of the public's alienation with the Democratic party, reversing course may not be the best option. Critics of the DLC and other "centrists" within the party rightly charge that if given the choice between the GOP and the GOP, voters will elect the GOP every time.
On the other hand, there needs to be a real examination among the party members as to why issues important to core Democrat constituencies prove to be losers nationally. Reversing course on issues like the death penalty and middle class tax relief may help in the short run (i.e. Bill Clinton election in 1992 for example). But, as 1994 proved, beware the wrath of a scorned public.
The truth is that unless the party can convince the public to change its view on these issues, the decline of the party will continue.
Perhaps the bleakness of the present situation will challenge the Democratic party sufficiently that it decides to take action now. It's more likely though that the party elders will agree that better polling, TV friendly candidates and other smoke-and-mirror approaches will solve their problems.
Even if these techniques work in the 2004 presidential election they can't sustain the party against this long-term trend. When the GOP has a majority of inner city mayoralties it will be too late.
(Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Centre for New Black Leadership.)
Copyright © 2002 United Press International
ALL nonminority women - outside the northeast, urban Midwest, and Kalifornia - do.
For Bush to have won heavily-black Southern states like 1/3-black South Carolina by 16 points (and numerous others), there's no mathematical way any substantial share of nonminority women could have voted Democratic.
I have come to the conclusion with you that philosophically the democrats are dead and the new debate is between libertarian and conservative thought (reflected in Republican vs Libertarian Party), but libertarians do not embrace the same liberal "godless positions". It isn't the libertarians who are stopping the ten commandments or Christmas creches, and there are plenty of Christian libertarians, myself among them. Most libertarians are Constitutionalists who are just fine with there being active reference to God in political debate. They just wouldn't codify it.
As a white man growing up in this country with Mr. Rogers in the morning, Donahue in the afternoon, and Alan Alda at night, is it any wonder anyone knows what masculinity really is? Am I to tell my kids to look to clinton and gore on how to be a man?
Like the DLC clinton taking up gays in the military as a signature issue the moment he got power ?
This reminds me of a great SNL skit from the '88 Presidential campaign - "Dukakis After Dark".
The premise of the skit is that late in the campaign Dukakis decides rather than spending his remaining funds on a useless campaign commercial, he'd rather hold a Hef-style party and invite all his liberal friends. One telling exchange goes as follows -
Lloyd Bensen - "I don't get it, why don't people like us?"
Dukakis - "Well Lloyd, we represent unpopular and discredited views".
The funniest part was Joan Baez's song which sums up everything you need to know about modern liberalism...
Abortion on demand,
We'll take your guns away
And bury them in the sand
Free needles for the addicts
And condoms for the kids,
We won't hold criminals responsible for anything they did
who's to say what's right and wrong or anything's a sin
All that really matter is the wars we lose or win...
At this point he cuts her off - but the ending is the kicker
He says - " That just about does it for the campaign. You know, I think the one thing that really hurt us is the fact that Reaganomics works. It really does. I mean, aren't you better off than you were eight years ago? I know I am. "
A (somewhat inaccurate) transcript is here
If all you think about is your Gayness....Vote Democrat.
If you hate anything religious, especially Christian...Vote Democrat.
Gotta love this guy, this piece is spot on!
Me too, this is awfully sweet. I can't wait for 2004!!!!