ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Michael Barone reviews some pointers for OliverWillis

I posted yesterday about the desire of Oliver Willis to look back to 1992 for a political strategy that might be the road to the White House in 2008. It looks like some of Clinton's own strategists are looking at the current state of the Democratic Party and some of the underlying assumptions and they find that the Dems have some room to improve.

"The Politics of Polarization" is more a diagnosis than a prescription. The authors start off with a basic observation, which Democrats too often ignore: There are more conservatives than liberals. Over the past 25 years the proportions in exit polls have been about the same: about one third of voters call themselves conservatives and about one fifth call themselves liberals. This means that Democrats have to win far larger percentages of moderates than do Republicans to prevail. Moreover, the Republican and Democratic constituencies have become ideologically more polarized. There has been a sorting out of Americans voting on ideological lines. In 1976 more than one quarter of liberals voted for Gerald Ford and more than one quarter of conservatives voted for Jimmy Carter. In 2004, 84 percent of conservatives voted for George W. Bush and 85 percent of liberals voted for John Kerry.

Galston and Kamarck identify four "myths" that Democratic strategists believe—myths that ignore this basic arithmetic.

The myth of mobilization: that if you bring out the base in large enough numbers, you win. The Kerry campaign was based on this strategy, and it did an excellent job of bringing out the base. Kerry's popular vote was 16 percent higher than Al Gore's. Unfortunately for Kerry, the Republicans did a better job of bringing out their (larger) base: George W. Bush's 2004 popular vote was 23 percent higher than his popular vote in 2000. Maximizing turnout in black neighborhoods in central cities and in university towns is not enough to win. Black turnout as a percentage of eligibles in 2004 was nearly as high as white turnout: There is not much room for further gains.
The myth of language, Berkeley Prof. George Lakoff's argument that Democrats need to present their positions in more-attractive language. No, say Galston and Kamarck, substance is the problem.

"Democrats are in trouble today, not only because their candidates have lacked compelling 'narratives' that resonate with voters but because they lack a coherent approach to foreign policy, espouse positions on key social issues that strong majorities of the electorate reject, and lack compelling economic proposals that speak to the new economic challenges of the 21st century." Whew.

The myth of prescription drugs, the idea that Democrats can win by changing the subject from national security to domestic issues and promising voters some economic goodies. Rather, national security issues have become the drivers of party preference. "Attitudes on the efficacy of force and diplomacy, and on the obligations of Americans to fight for their country, are now by far the strongest predictors of whether a person is a Republican or a Democrat." There has been a Great Sorting Out, with many people changing party identification, and the winners from this process have been the Republicans: Galston and Kamarck show that 38 percent of Republicans say they used to think of themselves as Democrats, while 22 percent–a substantially smaller number—of Democrats say they used to think of themselves as Republicans.

Be sure to read the whole thing... heh.... indeed...


As I pointed out, we're not in Kansas anymore. 9/11 was a tectonic shift in politics and the reflexively anti-American Left has pulled the Democratic Party towards a position which does not sit well with most Americans. This is the issue that trumps all others - although given the fact that a majority of Americans reject the positions on social issues that Democrats espouse and it doesn't take much to see that the Dems are in serious trouble.

They need a Sistah Souljah moment...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler