Whither the Democrats?
Michael Barone said:
What do Democrats want? Many answers, or partial answers, can be found in the 90th anniversary issue of the New Republic, in the post-election issue of the American Prospect and in various other writings by smart Democrats unhappy with the defeat their party suffered in 2004.
These writers avoid the left blogosphere's wacky claims that the election was stolen. They understand that both parties played to win and tried really hard to win, and both parties made massive efforts to turn out their vote. John Kerry got 16 percent more votes than Al Gore. George W. Bush got 23 percent more votes in 2004 than in 2000.
Unfortunately, the Democrats still spew the line that the vote was rigged, people were disenfranchised, that the Republicans won by fraud. This only makes them look like sore losers and small children. And unfortunately for a lot of the "thinking" Democrats, they still tie themselves to the "base" - exactly what many in "flyover country" hold against them and their party.
There IS evidence of voter fraud, and the evidence points to both parties. The problem for the Democrats is that there is far more evidence of voter fraud committed on the part of Democrats and groups hired by Democrats than there is against Republicans. The election shenanigans in Washington State alone are enough to make many Americans disgusted with the Democratic Party. Factor in the readily visible but heavily denied bias of the "mainstream media", a host of failed dirty tricks, a poor candidate with a penchant of exaggeration, and no agenda, and you have the makings of a political debacle - exactly as we saw last November.
Mr. Barone again:
Most of these Democrats focus on domestic policy. New Republic editor Peter Beinart has called for purging those Democrats unwilling to robustly fight the war on terrorism. But that position has not elicited much response, except for calls to show more respect for the military and a certain quietness among vitriolic Bush critics after the Iraqi election.
We're in the middle of a war - a war every thinking person can readily acknowledge, but one the Democrats deny exists. This makes the Democratic Party position on foreign policy immediately suspect by a large percentage of Americans. John Kerry didn't make the Democrat's position any easier by his idiotic "global test" comment. As more and more information comes out about the perfidity of France, China, and Russia, as we learn more about the "Oil for Food" scandal, as we learn more about illicit arms deals to Hussein, as we discover more and more foreign "leaders" who were bribed by the Iraqi government, it's harder and harder to square intelligent US foreign policy with the words and actions of the members of the Democratic Party, or their candidates for high office. Relying on the United Nations for any useful foreign policy program is getting harder and harder to sell. The exact opposite is true - the average citizen of the United States is becoming quite concerned that we even continue to belong to, or support, this inept, corrupt, bungling, and useless bunch of bureaucrats and crooks.
Mr. Barone again:
On domestic policy, the Democrats' thrust is to expand government to help ordinary people.
"Ordinary people" have figured out that at best, government merely gets in the way, and at worst, deliberately makes things more difficult. The old addage, "the less government, the better" is beginning to become popular again. Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" program made welfare far worse than it was before. Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" placed restrictions on welfare, and people did better.
The problem with the Democrats isn't that they have no ideas, but that they have no NEW ideas. They're still fighting the "civil rights" battle, when it's mostly been won. They're still pushing "affirmative action", when it's been shown to be detrimental. Fighting programs pushed by Republicans that have shown success, arguing to turn back the clock, isn't a very good strategy for a national party.
The Democratic Party sees every problem as something that requires a government solution, whether that's the best solution or not. When one idea doesn't work, they insist another will. Government cannot be the answer for every problem - in fact, such an attitude is in itself a severe problem.
The New Republic's Martin Peretz takes a bleak view: Liberalism is "bookless," without serious intellectual underpinnings, as conservatism was 40 years ago. Back then, the liberal professoriate was churning out new policies, some of which became law. Today, the campuses provide liberals less guidance. The economics departments have become more respectful of markets and more dubious about government intervention. The social sciences have followed the humanities into the swamp of deconstruction. Peretz notices that liberals have no useful ideas about education. That overstates the case, but most reform ideas have come from the right, while most Democrats have focused on throwing more money at the teacher unions.
The biggest problem with the Democratic Party is that it cannot admit it had a bad idea. There are thousands of ideas that have been put forth by the Democrats over the last 60 or 70 years. Many of them have been good, an equal or even larger number have been bad. Rather than say "This isn't working, we need to do something else", the Democrats say "you're trying to destroy our legacy".
Hostile confrontation and stonewalling isn't helping the Democratic Party's perception, either. Instead of trying to work together to create the best possible solutions to today's problems, the Democrats act like spoiled children, "you have to do it our way or we'll pout". With more and more people becoming upset with the behavior of activist judges, the Democrats are destroying themselves by obstructing the appointment of eminently well-qualified, but non-activist judges proposed by President Bush.
Mr. Barone, again:
... Stanley Greenberg and James Carville ...lament that, ... voters don't think Democrats have new ideas for addressing the country's problems. By denying that Social Security has problems, "Democrats seem stuck in concrete."
The Democrats' problem is that they have proceeded for years with a goal of moving America some distance toward a Western European welfare state ... Judis looks at Europe and sees a failing model: high unemployment, stalled economies and the welfare state in retreat. Nor is raising taxes on the rich a sound strategy: Democrats did that in 1993, and Republicans won control of Congress in 1994.
Actually, I think voters think Democrats DO have ideas for addressing the nation's problems. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the people recognize that they're the same failed ideas that led to other problems in the past. The Democratic Party doesn't seem capable of learning from past mistakes - that unwillingness mentioned above to admit to error.
Democrats in power can make small, quiet moves toward redistribution, like the expansion of the earned income tax credit in the Clinton administration. Out of power, they can focus on policies for which arguments can be made by vivid anecdotes, like prescription drugs for seniors. Or they can obstruct change and wait for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to gobble up larger shares of the economy. But that will take time.
For now, Democrats are facing the fact that general arguments for a larger welfare state just doesn't seem attractive to most voters.
If this is indeed the Democratic strategy, it's the same disgusting strategy of wishing for failure in the Middle East. Forcing failure and then arguing that you're the only one that can save the US from it is not a workable hypothesis in the electronic age. There is no "gate" on information any more, as John Kerry found out in the last presidential election. You cannot convince enough people that a pig is a lion any longer. The truth will come out, sooner or later.
The Democratic Party has many problems. Here is a list of some of their most debilitating:
- The Democratic Party cannot, or will not, admit their own errors. Admitting error and correcting it is essential in the world of politics. The attempt to force President Bush to "admit mistakes" backfired during the last election.
- The Democratic Party cannot concieve of a solution to a problem that doesn't require a government agency or government intervention. Just as the McCain-Feingold "Campaign Reform Act" created more problems than it solved, so do most Democratic interventions.
- The Democratic Party is out of NEW ideas. They continue to fall back on failed solutions to non-problems as their only rallying cry. It's falling more and more on deaf ears.
- The entire "liberal establishment" is beginning to look more and more foolish, and "political correctness" is being recognized as the restriction on human behavior it's always been. The Democrats continue to try to push this stupidity, against greater and greater resistance. Events such as the Larry Summers incident, the Ward Churchill fiasco, and the Eason Jordan "Davos moment" have removed the blinders from many, including a large number of Democrats.
- The Democratic Party has no leadership. Why else would they consider Howard Dean as Party Chairman, and Hillary Clinton as their primary political contender for President? Why did they nominate a known flake with huge negative baggage as the presidential nominee in 2004?
- The Democratic Party has irrevocably attached itself to some ideas that a majority of Americans are finding uncomfortable, from abortion to gay rights, from gun bans to "political correctness", to affirmative action to judicial activism.
- The Democratic support from, and deference to, teachers' unions while American children are falling farther and farther behind in learning isn't a sterling selling point, either. Support for unions, especially unions of "professionals" such as teachers and government workers, is beginning to be a sore point for larger numbers of Americans each election cycle.
- Democratic voter fraud, becoming more and more obvious with each election cycle, gives the American citizenry the idea that the Democratic Party is nothing but a bunch of hacks and frauds that shouldn't be allowed near any position of power. The continued connection between the Democratic Party and groups such as Moveon.org, ACORN, and even the NAACP enhances the belief that the Democrats will do anything, legal or otherwise, to win, and that winning in and of itself is the only goal.
- The average American feels that there is a growing moral decay in this nation, and that it seeps out of places like Hollywood and our colleges and universities. They see the Democratic Party supporting and promoting these groups, partying and celebrating with them, and are disgusted with both. "Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas" has a growing following in the United States. The attacks on organized religion by groups such as the ACLU, PAW, and NAMBLA, with support from the Democratic Party, cements that view in the mind of the average American, and they want no part of it.
- The Democratic Party's cause belli for the last ten years is to obstruct, deny, and stop anything the Republican Party does, without providing a useful suggestion of other ways of doing what needs to be done. Obstructionism for the sake of obstructionism is destructive. No honest American wants to be a party to destructive behavior.
The Democratic Party is acting like a spoiled child. It's time for it to grow up, take a good look at its deepest roots - Jacksonian, Jeffersonian leadership - and return to those roots. Otherwise it will end up like the Whig party - just a forgotten bit of history.