Since I have the dubious honor of being the official first inductee into the 2K club, I put on my intellectual's dunce cap and outline what I think needs to be done in order for the Democrats to win the next election. 1) The Democratic Party is a *much* less reactionary, and general more proactive party than the Republican, so it needs a much more inspiring candidate than the Republicans, who run on a much "safer" platform, do. Â Oh, and if that candidate is from NY, MA, or CA, you may as well forget the whole thing. 2) The Democratic Party needs to stop allowing Republicans to decide the agenda. Â The War or Iraq and moral issues are both clear winners for Bush because 1) Kerry's position cannot, at this point, be substantively different from Bush's without being *really* far left, and 2) Most Americans are pretty morally conservative. Â Instead, Democrats need to focus on their strengths: social programs, which affect rural as well as urban constituents. Â Ironically, the south used to be predominantly blue states until they adopted abortion and gay rights and other "liberal" moral stances. Â To get the south back, they need to appeal to those in favor of social programs and reforms and shift the emphasis from the purely "moral" issues. Â Also, stop letting the Republicans call you "tax and spenders". Â The fiscal policies are pretty similar in either party. 3) Forget the "youth" vote. Â This is a chimera that is chased every election by the Democrats. Â Truth is, most youth don't care, and those that do (enough to vote) are predominantly Republican (especially men). Â Focus on women and the lower middle class instead. Number 1 is most important. Â
At your request, here are my $.02 on the Democrats. It is inherently more difficult for a Democratic candidate to win the presidency than a Republican for two basic reasons. Â The first is diversity of constituency. Â While the Republicans are nominally made up of different subgroups such as religious conservatives, middle Americans, the business community, and libertarians, in reality they are fairly homogenous. Â All Republicans believe in lower taxes, smaller government, and a strong national defense -- in the past to fight Communism, now to fight terrorism. Â These three principles will form the core of the Republican platform regardless of who the specific candidate is; in this sense, I would describe their platform as "unifying" rather than "safer." Â (I am not claiming that the rhetoric always matches the reality.) Â In order to cobble together a winning coalition, by contrast, Democrats need the support of several groups -- including minorities, single women, organized labor, liberal intellectuals, and working-class whites -- that often have disparate and conflicting interests. Â On any major issue you can think of, any position that a Democratic candidate takes will offend someone in his or her constituency. Â That situation leaves the Democratic candidate very susceptible to attacks by so-called "wedge" issues, such as gay marriage in the recent election, that peel away parts of his or her base. Â The second problem of message is related to the first. Â It is a cliche to say that Republicans view the world in black and white while Democrats see shades of gray, but it is by in large true. Â The Republican message of lower taxes, smaller government, and strong national defense, is simple and easy to understand; it can be placed on a bumper sticker or in a 30-second ad. Â Even better, these messages can be grouped neatly under the rubric of "personal responsibility." Â The Democratic message is generally full of nuance and detail that does not work well in a soundbite world. Â Compounding the problem is the aforementioned diversity of constituency, which forces the Democratic candidate to take various positions in an attempt to satisfy everyone. Â The result is a hodgepodge with no central theme that that ends up satisfying no one. Â Witness Kerry's assertion that he didn't vote for the authority to use force, only for the authority to threaten to use force, and his oft-ridiculed statement that "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it." The genius of Bill Clinton is that he was able to overcome both of these obstacles. Â First, he neutralized the wedge issues. Â He was comfortable taking about spiritual issues and attending black churches, and took religion off the table. Â He took time off from the campaign to supervise the execution of a retarded death-row inmate, and took crime off the table. Â And he denounced gangsta rapper Sista Souljah, and took culture off the table. Â This tactic is anathema to many hard-core liberals, but it has to be done. Even more importantly, Clinton produced a thematic message entitled "Putting People First" that had widespread appeal to Democrats, independents, and likely quite a few Republicans. Â Sure, it was a lot of the same old same old (and its cornerstone, the middle-class tax cut, was not enacted), but it was packaged brilliantly as "rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules." Â This is what the Democrats need to do -- show in an easy to understand way how their policies will be better for the average American. Â Just promoting social programs is not good enough.