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Lessons of the 2004 Election

Well, a second term for George W. Bush it is. Not a smashing victory for him: he took the popular vote by a 51-48 margin and gained two new states (IA and NM) by 50-49 margins, while losing one old state (NH) by a 50-49 margin.

What are the lessons Democrats can draw from Bush's victory? How was Bush able to hang onto power despite the poor economy, Iraq, the health care crisis and so on?

1. The limits of mobilization. Democrats put great stock in mobilization and the ground game. And Kerry did do better in many areas where there was intensive mobilization. For example, in Ohio, Kerry carried Franklin county (Columbus) by 41,000 votes, compared to Gore's margin of just 4,000 last election, and carried Cuyahoga county (Cleveland) by 218,000 voters, compared to Gore's margin of 166,000 in '00. But these gains were mostly cancelled out by Republican mobilization in conservative rural and exurban areas, so Ohio, in the end, was only slightly closer (2.5 percentage points) than it was in 2000 (3.5 points).

As another example, the exit polls indicate that 23 percent of voters this year were minorites, up from 19 percent in 2000. So Democrats were reasonably successful in getting minorities to the polls But these data indicate that hispanics only supported Kerry 53-44, a dramatic compression from Gore's 62-35 margin among the same group in 2000. And--much more consequential for the election--the exit polls say that Bush widened his margin among white voters to 17 points (58-41), up from a 12 point margin (54-42) in 2000. Weakened support among hispanics and, especially, a bigger deficit among whites (still 77 percent of voters) was more than enough to cancel out the effect of more minority voters going to the polls.

2. The limits of anti-Bushism. Kerry had much to say that was very critical of Bush and certainly there was much to criticize in the areas of the economy, tax cuts, Iraq, health care, energy policy and so on. These criticisms were directed at genuine weak points in Bush's record and there is good evidence that most voters shared at least some of these criticisms. Bush was not, and is not, a particularly popular incumbent, so attacking his record was an inevitable and important part of Kerry’s campaign.

The problem, however, was that Kerry never managed to convince many of the same voters who shared his criticisms of the Bush administration that he could and would do a better job in the areas he criticized. To cite just one example from the exit poll, voters were asked if they trusted Bush to handle the economy: 51 percent said no and 49 percent said yes. Not so good for an incumbent. But voters rated Kerry even worse: 53 percent said they didn’t trust him to handle the economy, compared to just 45 percent who said they did.

And all through the campaign, up to the very end, there was abundant evidence that voters did not think he had a clear plan for Iraq or, for that matter, for the country in general. His campaign was notable for lacking signature themes and proposals that typical voters could easily grasp and identify with. Does anyone seriously believe that many voters knew or understood Kerry’s plan for Iraq? For health care? For the economy? How many voters knew the one or two thematic phrases (if they existed) that summarized what John Kerry stood for?

Let’s face it: not many. I worried about this all through the campaign, but hoped, toward the end, that voters were interested enough in getting rid of Bush that they would cut him slack on these specifics. That did not turn out to be the case.

3. The need for white working class support. The last three elections (2000, 2002, 2004) have all had strong ‘culture war’ components that have severely depressed white working class support for Democrats. Recall that Bill Clinton actually carried the white working class (whites without a four year college degree) by a point in both his election bids. But in 2000, Al Gore lost these voters by 17 points; in 2002, Democratic congressional candidates lost this group by 18 points and this year, the situation appears to have worsened further. That is implied (though not proved) by the finding, cited above, that Democrats lost whites as a whole by 5 points more than 2000 and another exit poll finding that Democrats’ slippage by education group was concentrated entirely among the non-college educated. (Kerry split the college-educated evenly with Bush, just as Gore did in 2000, but, where Gore lost the non-college educated by just 2 (49-47), Kerry lost them by 6 (53-47).)

The fact of the matter is that Democrats cannot win when they do so badly among this very large constituency. John Judis and I always believed that the trends we described in The Emerging Democratic Majority could underpin a majority coalition given reasonable (not majoritarian, but competitive) performance among white working class voters. Alas, this does not qualify as reasonable performance.

Democrats’ difficulties with this group surely have a great deal to do with these voters’ sense of cultural alienation from the national Democratic party and its relatively cosmopolitan values around religion, family, guns and other social institutions/practices. Even the war on terror has increasingly become more a cultural issue linked to patriotism than a true foreign policy issue for many of these voters.

Given this sense of cultural alienation, it must be questioned whether candidates like Gore or Kerry can ever really be viable with these voters. Democrats may have to choose candidates in the future who do not so easily evoke this sense of cultural alienation and who can connect in a genuine fashion with these voters. I come to this conclusion reluctantly because I had hoped that an effective campaign could overcome this obstacle by, in effect, using wedge Democratic issues like health care or jobs to build support among this group. But the messenger appears to matter a great deal, just as having a message does (see point number two, above). The Democrats in the future will have to pay attention to both, I think.

Comments

Post could be titled: "Kerry not a 'good old boy'"

So wither the emerging majority?

Ruy,
I concur. Although I felt that they would have made good presidents neither Kerry nor Gore were ideal candidates.
Who do you have in mind, a southerner who can get his message across in simple phrases like Edwards' with his 'Two Americas'? and who connects with the working class? Bill Clinton again? Howard Dean? Dick Gephardt? A more politically seasoned Wes Clark?
How do we win on social issues without playing the same cynical game Republicans have been playing? Do we present ourselves as being for health care and the working man but make a big show of being against gay marriage and abortion?
The Republicans have cynically exploited these cultural issues while pushing a corporate agenda that is tearing apart rural and working class America. It's going to be a tough fight, to rewin this cultural war. Wouldn't it be nice to see a John Edwards actively working with a progressive evangelical group like 'Sojourners'? A group that really does do Christ's work (helping the poor and the downtrodden instead of bashing science and gays) Or how about a pro-life Democrat who's tolerant or liberal on most other issues like ex-PA Gov. Bob Casey. Those might be the kind of guys and organizations that could crack this nut.

I think we are left with the question of delineating our core beliefs and a way to frame a populist Democratic platform in the post-cold war, post McCarthy era, after the entire language of the populist left was wiped out as evil. When the Democrats owned the South, we had a populist base in there-BUT a racist base. When that broke off to become Republican, we lost our connection to the South.

To blame this on Northern Liberalism I think misses the point. The language has to change. The smugness about our stands on social issues has to change. The style has to change. But the content does not. Clinton won by less than a majority, it was on the basis of his personality, and in the long term I think he sold out in such a way as to harm the party in the long run.

The progressive ideals of the Democratic party do not have to change, ever. I honestly think that the problem is one of a combination of semantics post cold war, and being waylaid by social issues at the expense of being able to clearly enunciate core beliefs that the working and middle class of this country share.

I don't think we can make many inroads into the fundamentalist right, but I do think there is a whole group of people who share the conservative social values of that group, but are open to a discussion of class, their position in this society, the family values that do get shared by most of us, etc. I think we can reach those people by working over the next few years on specific sets of issues that concern them, not getting sidetracked with the social issues, and using some of the wonderful sense of community we have gained in this election to reach into these groups, one person, by one person, by one person. We need to un-demonize ourselves. We kind of need to find a way back to becoming Roosevelt Democrats, I think, or at least, Lyndon Johnson (minus Vietnam) Democrats.

The other thing is, I think this administration is destructive on a global level, to the environment, to the people of the world, to our econonic viability, and this may just have to play itself out until the vast gulf between what they say and what they do becomes apparent to everyone. They will, in fact, do themselves in at some point. We need to be translating the difference between what they say and do, constantly and visibly for the next few years. We need to keep an eye on the media, and make ourselves heard as efficiently as we have during this campaign.

Great summary, Tex. My own take is that a lot of voters were not crazy about Bush but that Kerry failed to close the sale even though they were inclined towards Kerry on economic issues and at least accepting on the cultural issues. In particular, Bush's smears about Kerry on defense and the war on terror planted enough doubt that Kerry never overcame. I think that in the future the Democratic candidate must give the voters a comfort level about defense/security--this does not mean approving Bush's actions in Iraq, for instance--so that he/she can then close the deal on economic and social issues. Being the automatic "anti-war" party is a recipe for disaster; it took the Democratic party 20 years to recover from McGovern and I'm not sure that I have enough years left that I want to relive that experience.

The notion of cultural alienation is a bit too chic for me. My basic question is how has the DNC attempted to attract the white working class in various regions between elections. Secondly, the stength and quality of state and local Democratic groups, etc.
I simply do not accept that the issue is the so called message, cultural wars, etc. In the short term it appears more productive to focus on a "structure" in those regions to deliver the message of whomever the messenger may be.
I suspect that a review of voting data in Nevada and Louisiana, senate race,(areas I am familiar with) compared to where resources was spent may produce some telling correlations; i.e., their are limits to urban turnout regardless of mobilization. In sum I do not believe that effective attention was paid to rural and small town areas in too many states; the object is to offset the urban areas in the short term and to hopefully gain solid support in the long term. Clark County in Nevada and Orleans Parish in Louisiana cannot do what has been suggested when numerous smaller areas are voting 20% to 30% Democratic; i.e., 35% to %40 in one half of these areas would go a very long way to help change the landscape. ENOUGH!

I think there is a way to generate more white working-class support -- it's by actually having bold stances on health care and jobs. Pretend for a moment that we're working within a rational actor model. These voters care about both cultural issues and the economy, trusting the Republicans more on the former and the Democrats on the latter. But I suspect they see bigger differences between the parties on cultural issues than on economic issues. For instance, perhaps they subconsciously give Republicans an A and Democrats a D on values, and Republicans a C and Democrats a B- on the economy. If that's the case, it makes perfect sense that they'd vote Republican. We just haven't offered them enough economically to outweigh their moral concerns.

My conclusion, then, is we need to make economic issues more salient by committing strongly to economic populism, especially on issues like trade, a living wage, and perhaps health care. Will that alienate a few suburbanites? Maybe. But working-class whites hate NAFTA a lot more than suburbanites love it. So I think we'll gain a lot more than we'll lose.

We should be careful not to read too much into Kerry's loss. Beating a an incumbent President is always a difficult task, Kerry came very close. True, I thought the irregularities of 2000, along with the crappy 1st term, would lead to democratic victory, but that doesn't mean Kerry didn't connect. Bush isn't a particularly gifted President, however, he does have an amazing political machine backing him.

I think Democrats beat ourselves up too much over the issues, getting stuck on substance. National politics isn't substance, it's image and emotion. The Republicans have used media effectively to condition their base to turn out. I see the main problem the dems have is that they have no good way to reach their base, if they even have one.

Democrats need to consolidate, that's what I think is most important. We aren't winning as it stands, so why try to be all things to all people, we need to identify our base, our values, and define a longterm strategy to sell our principles. Let's start by cutting off this holy rolling stuff...I just about puked when I heard Kerry talking about his "faith." People that speak of faith as important, already have their party. When we put out war heroes, it simply doesn't matter, the military is conservative. We need to regroup and appeal to our people!

Progressives have much to fight for and offer...health insurance craddle to grave, free college education, increased min wage, shorter work weeks, more SS and medicare benefits, environment, minority rights, gay rights, anti-gun.

WE HAVE THE POPULATION!!!!! WE HAVE THE CITIES. WE NEED TO STOP THE CLINTON/DLC republican-lite strategy! It worked for Clinton, but he was crucified for it, and it's led to 8 years or more of Bush and GOP control. Return to progressivism.

I have followed this site closely for about a year now. Even though I haven't always commented, I have visited frequently. Donkey Rising has been one of my Internet "homes." A place that I came to to make sense of the world.

I haven't always agreed with Ruy: before the primaries I was a staunch Dean supporter. After Dean's demise, I supported Edwards. I feared Kerry's vulnerabilities: Mass liberal, upper- class, flip-flopper, stiff, boring, emotionally distant. I take no comfort in saying, "I told you so." I would have loved to have been wrong. Would Dean or Edwards have been any better? We will never know.

Despite my differences with Ruy, I want to thank you for all the work you have put into this site. I respect your opinions, and I value your analysis.

However, I believe that your credibility would be improved if you would directly acknowledge that much of your poll analysis was in error. I think it is important that we don't "spin" ourselves. I have told my teenage daughter that the only thing worse than lieing, is lieing to ourselves. Because when we lie to ourself, we set ourself up for failure and we short-circuit our ability to learn from our mistakes.

As Democrats, we need to be brutely honest about our failures, in order to develop a plan for the future with the highest chance of success. I believe in the basic premises of your book. But I believe that it is based on certain assumptions and we need to openly discuss those assumptions in light of what happened last night.

I appreciate your current post, but it frustrates me that you have an instant analysis of "what went wrong", when for months, you have been saying that everything was "hunky-dorry" and that Kerry was going to win because of the underlying structure of the race. Kerry did not win. Bush got more than 50%, inspite of his approval ratings and the "right track, wrong track" numbers. I don't want to be spun. I want to have an honest discussion about how we rebuild a successful Democratic majority.

In particular, I would like to discuss the ideas in "Moral Politics" and in "What's the Matter with Kansas." I suspect that the way foward lies in a mix of economic populism, combined with learning to talk about values in a way that resonates better with working-class and rural voters. I fear that the DLC types will use the election results as an excuse to say we should move even farther to the right and suck-up harder to corporate power.

Again, inspite of my crticisms, I hope that you know how much I appreciate your site, and how important I believe these discussions are to the future of our party.

Ruy:

What of the alternate lesson - searching for members of the Bush coaliton who are alienated by the "values" agenda which drove the GOP mobilization? The increase in white vote for the GOP was clearly a result of this - why can we not we this as an opportunity to peel back some white voters there? This means, frankly, less concentration on the white working class and more on educated white collar whites.

does that kiss of the South? Mebbe, but gains in the West and Midwest can be made.

Frankly, the coalition you envision always eemed to me to implicitly write off the South for now - and I think that works. The NE and the Left coast are clearly no longer available to the GOp. some marginal gains in those areas and voila the New Democratic Majority! Heh.

I'm a strong liberal democrat and never really felt excitement for Kerry. He never captured my imagination or presented a clear vision for the future, like Reagon for the Repub's or Clinton 12 years ago. I agree that the criticism of Bush only went so far and that a clear vision and message was necessary for victory.

In the coming months, I hold out with sincere hope for a change of leadership at the DNC and a change in they way the Dem's frame the debate.

In analyzing the election, at some point it would behoove analysts concerned about democracy to look at the justifying of the lying systematically throughout the mass media regarding the flipflop spin and the Bai distortion, especially the systematic 'hound that didn't bark' silences.
These issues I have raised in numerous posts, often with detailed evidence showing the patterns. This is what determined the election outcome, it is how you engineer a victory for an incumbent when solid majorities think the country is moving in the wrong direction

Much as it is a very unpleasant read, I would recommend people get a copy of "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thonas Frank, and give it a very carful read. I think he nails the reasons for the white working class alienation from the Democratic Party, and while tradition and details may differ state to state, it is part of why so many parts of the country are currently lost to us.

In some ways I think it is a little less culture, and a lot more life experiences. I suspect if we want to be taken seriously on Public Education, we need candidates who actually attended public schools, and made them work for them. This, in essence was part of what made Clinton work -- for while he got Georgetown and all -- you could still see the Public School kid in him. Somehow it is easier to "trust" someone if you recognize the shared life experiences.

Another thing we are missing is the parallel organizations that identify with the Democratic Party, but are not officially part of it. Labor Unions are so much weaker these days, and they have not been replaced by anything that advocates for the welfare of hard working folk in the way the old CIO did years back. You need both a healthy party and independent organizations -- they need to feed off each other, and also offer up, at times, a bit of healthy tension. The Party needs to be mostly candidate development and election work -- the outside independent organizations more about advocacy. We've moved much too close to a merger.

In the Blog world, we need to comprehend the problem -- Politics is geographical, and as Tip O'Neil said, "Always Local". We've got to find ways to both localize blogs and keep them fairly universal, and that goes for the kind of analysis that survey research enables. Yea -- there are national trends -- but are they reproduced in the local arena? If I offer up a reading of how things are sorting out in Minnesota -- something similar may be happening elsewhere -- but it may be quite different too. Blogs can lead us to overgeneralize, and miss the critical cultural and local symbols. You only have to look at how the "sin" of Daschle buying a DC house played against him in this election to sense how symbols play in various milue.

Things are looking pretty bleak right now -- particularly since the GOP has an almost filibuster proof supermajority in the Senate as well. We can now expect a brutal and organized attack on the fundamental pillars of the Democratic electorate, including tax cuts, tort reform, anti-union initiatives, gradual social policy privatization, the appointment of conservative judges etc..

The only dim points of light in all this darkness is at least Kerry & the Dems won't be blamed for all the bad things that likely will happen in 2005-08 now.

Kerry is also the best performing loser in the history of failed liberal candidates (really). Faint praise indeed, but I think he generally did a competent job despite some serious structural deficiencies that simply could not be overcome (maybe everything would be different if Abu Ghraib et al. had happened four months later though). The only positive personal thing Kerry really had going for him was his Vietnam medals. Despite this, he was no McGovern, Mondale or Dukakis. He gave "Shrub" all he could handle during the debates too.

What really scares the shit out of me is the fact Karl Rove's strategy WORKED, albeit barely. Is the secular/progressive/moderate part of America now so weak a Republican incumbent with a so-so track record can win nationwide elections simply by pandering to business interests and social conservative voters...? Rove essentially conceded the political middle to Kerry/Edwards, who frantically tried to woo centrist voters. The Democratic party also remained united despite this, far more so than in the 2000 elections. And yet the good guys lost this election by 3.5 million votes+!

Regarding "cultural issues" white voters, I guess Kerry worked as hard to woo them as he could. I do think the other leading candidates (Edwards and Gen. Wesley Clark) might have been able to better capitalize on this segment of the population. In particular, an Edwards/Kerry campaign (as opposed to Kerry/Edwards!) would have been less sensitive to the "flip-flop!" charge. I also don't think Edwards' inexperience would have been such a major issue considering "Shrub" only had six years of political experience as Texas governor. This of course assumes the presence of credible Cheney-like experienced politician as Democratic VP candidate (Kerry or Clark would have been better suited for this, IMHO). Edwards' somewhat simplistic brand of economic populism would have worked better as well. It was harder to figure out what Kerry really stood for. I would like to think the liberal senator from Massachusetts could still have won a few hundred thousand additional votes in Ohio & Florida, if only he had been able to convey a clear, coherent and consistent message about his policies to voters about Iraq and other things.


MARCU$

My initial response to the idea of trying to get more white working class votes was that those who are ignorant and jingoistic aren't going to go for the "Lite" version even if we could stomach offering it up to them without losing our own base (and I say this as someone who fought tooth and nail against nominating Howard Dean; I voted for Edwards in the primary).

But poring over the very interesting CNN exit poll results, there are obviously a lot of ways to slice and dice the data. And I am fully ready and willing to do so (I hate to be a kiss-ass, but I read EDM from cover to cover and slurped up every last regional and demographic statistic).

But to my surprise, one of the strongest correlations in the data was in an area that has been considered passe, almost a historical relic: income. Kerry's strongest group: those earning less than $15K a year. Bush's strongest cohort is those earning more than $200K. And it's a fairly continuous progression in between. CNN also helpfully displays this category in two less stratified, more composite breakdowns, neither of which contradict this basic "rich/poor" dichotomy. The 45 percent of Americans who make less than $50K went 55-44 Kerry. The 55% that make more than that went 56-43 Bush. And finally, the 82% of the public that makes less than $100K went narrowly for Kerry, 50-49, but the other 18%, who are basically rich, gave Bush a lopsided 58-41 margin.

So maybe it comes down to old fashioned class warfare after all...

One other thing about those exit polls. What are 13% of self-described liberals doing voting for Bush?!?

"Democrats may have to choose candidates in the future who do not so easily evoke this sense of cultural alienation and who can connect in a genuine fashion with these voters."

Calling John Edwards. Calling Mark Warner.

You guys wanna win? Simple but you won't believe it. Grow a set and kick out all the fringe freaks that you have hijacking your party. As long as Michael Moore, Revered Al, Jesse Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Al Frankin et al are the visable faces of your party, you won't win. Think about it, can you see JFK (the real one) hanging around with these dips? Of course you dont have the guts to tell them no and in a couple of months they will have you convinced you didnt swing left far enough. So whos next, Hillary? think guys, think.

I would also like to point out voter registration trends. From 2000 to 2003 the GOP according to Pew Research have gone from 27 percent of registered voters to 30 percent of registered voters. The Dems have dropped from 33 percent to 31 percent. A six point lead has gone down to 1 percent.

Given high voter turnouts for both parties in 2004 this shift towards the GOP goes a long way towards explaining what happened on election day. Both parties had 37 percent of the vote and the traditional 3-5 point advantage of Dems disappeared.

Mobilization worked well for the Dems this year but there simply were less of us and more of them as opposed to 4 years ago and the GOP turned out the vote just as well as we did.

The Democratic Party really needs to work on its image over the next four years while making a humongous effort to recruit and register new voters.

The Democratic Party may never be able to get back to the 30 point lead we had in 1977 but I definitely think we can get back to the 6 point advantage we held in 2000.

In order to do this the Democratic Party needs to revise its message so that we do not continue to alienate so much of the moderate mainstream of America. At the same time the party needs to find new messengers (leaders) to convey this revised message to the American electorate. The big questions though are (1) just exactly what that message should be and (2) who should the messengers be.

What should the Democratic Party stand for in 2006 and 2008? Can we revise our message and still hold onto our base while increasing our membership as a whole? And who do we want our messengers/leaders to be over the next four years?

I am not sure about the message. Some serious consideration is required before a successful revised multi-faceted message can be achieved.

As to future party leaders I personally think we need to focus on Southern Democrats because we have to become competitive in the South again, especially as a long term strategy. As examples, Governor Warner of Virginia and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina both seem worthy of serious consideration.

I wanted to thank you for your thoughs on our deep loss yesterday.

Your analysis is the first I’ve heard that addresses one of the major problems of a dying Democratic party, namely, a lack of a viable candidate. Bill Clinton was successful (and hated by the Right – and even some in the Left!!!) because he has charisma and charm. I watched his speech in New Mexico and I couldn’t help feeling that he not only made a better case for a Kerry presidency than Kerry did, but he did it with more style. And less anyone think that I favored any of the candidates presented to us in the primaries, let me say that they all lacked stage presence. As every good director knows, having a good script is not enough (in this case, though, even the script was bad), you also need the right person for the role.

This country is very conservative, and has been for more that half a century. In order for a progressive program to win over the hearts and minds of the voting public it first must reassure them that it will not attack perceived cultural values (morals?), and that these values (and/or morals) can fit within a larger set of social morals – like a war on poverty for example.

The voting conservative public has been traumatized and angered by what it perceives as a hedonistic attitude within the popular culture, and by a turn, the Democratic Party. We are losing this propaganda war. The “right wing nuts” have successfully painted Liberalism as a dirty word – much as radical Republicans painted Democrats as “Copperheads” during the Civil War. I have heard many reasonable people complain about the “vast wasteland” that they see in our society every day.

But the party’s problems go even deeper than that. We have become the “me too” party – following the Republican lead in almost everything and doing it so damn meekly! It bothers me that democratic elite are as deep in bed with the special interests (and their dirty money) as the conservative elite. And I’m not the only one. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911” was as critical of Democratic Party cowardliness as it was of Bush’s arrogance.

Corruption comes in many forms and we have just witnessed the results on both sides of the aisle. So, I feel, in order to return to a powerful, majority party we must rid ourselves of special interest money, find and promote violable candidates, abandon the British model of social welfare (and return to our roots intellectually of smaller government and individualism), and develop a practical ideology that the working class of this country can accept. If we do not, we risk the possibility of one party rule.

As a European I liked Kerry, but also thought to myself: Americans won't like him. America and Europe are very different. In many countries in Europe you can run on the issues, in America - it seems to me - you must run on your values and personality.

I think the Democrats must concentrate on their base and then try to broaden it. There is passion in Democratic ideals and you should be proud of them. Your values will sell, more so than the Republican's.

basic contradiction:

are the party of community or our we the party of individualism.

in other words are we primarily "progressive" on economic and ecoligical issues or are we primarily "progressive" on soical/cultrual isues?

on one hand, we emphasize community on stands such as national health care, keeping social security public, rolling back tax cuts, strong enviro regualtion of biz., pulbic health and welfare, education, energy conservation.

on the other hand, we emphasize the individual in our stands on sexual orientation, free expression, school discipline, civil liberties, repealing the Patriot Act, criminal justice, prisoner's rights, prison expansion, supporting the police.

which is our theme: community and responsibility, on one hand, or individual rights, on the other?

I happen to believe that the Dems do best when they emphasize the first set of themes; remember: "what can i do for my country."

What is more important, though, is to recognize that there is a contradiction and try to then resolve it.


more on this theme later.

mike

typos:

should have said:

are we the party of community or are we the party of individualism?

I believe you are largely right, but:

The issues wasn't what mattered in this election. Nothing would have been won by Kerry articulating his plans more clearly.

Values did. Values, values, values. We must give up on gay marriage, at least for another 20 years until people get used to homosexual relationships. America is not ready. Pro-choice is fine, anti-assault weapons is fine, pro-gay marriage is not ok. State amendments would help us since they remove the issue from the table - we just say "let the people in the state decide, we do not support a federal marriage amendment, this issue is decided on a state-level".

With economic recession, job losses, US imperialism, corporate fraud, environmental deregulations etc etc gay marriage is nothing.

Find what the 35-40% red-staters who are STILL Democrats think, and put it in bottles and sell that.

Seriously, how could we have been blinded to the fact that other than Ohio and Florida, the "battleground" was our turf? We can't have two thirds of the states not even worth campaigning in and survive.

So the place this has to start with is to listen to the ideas of Democrats in places like Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska and figure out how to get a real presence there. Montana just elected a Democratic governor. What's up with that? We ought to find out.

Howard Dean's finest moment came when he said he wanted the votes of the guys in the South with Confederate flags on their pickups. He said they ought to be voting Democratic that Democrats stood for their interests. He got hammered for saying that by the other Democrats. But now, in hindsight, was it so good to write all these guys off as the enemy and otherwise ignore them?

I doubt that Dean could have pulled it off, but it is now our job to start to engage the people we can't even talk to anymore. Not by trimming to their issues but by putting our issues in front of them. For that, we need to start hearing what Red-state Democrats tell their friends.

One good side-effect of so much of the country turning red is that the if the Dems want to pick a candidate who's not "culturally alienated", it no longer has to be a Southerner.

55.4 million voters were not alienated by Michael Moore, Revered Al, Jesse Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Al Frankin et al. That comment is off the mark. Our organization was strong. Our message needed a little work, but I not convinced that any of these reasons given by Ruy or anyone else is necessairly correct. I think instant post mortem is a mistake. I beleive its more important to think about it for a while and at the same time to begin to prepare for the next round. What's really happening with the post mortom is jocking by the different factions for who is right and who is wrong in their approach. It doesn't serve us well. What we need to do is stick together by finding commom ground. When Mark Penn comes out and says its the liberals fault, you should have listened to the DLC, its nonsense.

The only point I will offer (and it is not the main reason we lost) is we needed people like Joe Lockhart nd Mike McCurry earlier after Kerry wrapped up the primairies. There was a difference in Kerry's message coherence before and after this event. It didn't make us, but it kept us from being broken. Message framing is important. We let too many unspoken assumptions go unchallenged by the GOP message machine. Its part of their us v. them tactics. We need to challenge those unspoken assumptions when we hesar them and stay on message (which is difficult). What we do is ignore them and stay on message.

the real reason for this loss is a simple one: "God, guns and gays." "Red" america has swallowed this rhetoric along with propaganda touting bush's role as leader of the american christian church.

the electorate rejected arguably the most qualified candidate for the office in decades. so what if his religious faith was more genuine, it still wasn't going to withstand the bush assault. BUT the campaign of sneers, smears and whispers failed to uncover any moral failings in John Kerry.

now bush says that the way to unite the country is for us to join him. sorry, goerge bush's america is not a vision I want for the future.

In the months to come we need to take a heavy dose of George Lakoff and the RockRidge Institute,
in order to care of business in 2006.
www.rockridgeinstitute.org

J Paul Parker: I agree, although I think I would say it differently. Here in the heartland, the Dems look shrill and smug, angry and unattractive. If I were the GOP, I would have linked Michael Moore with the party directly. He is awful. Even if I agree with him, he's still alienating. Lose him.

There are lots of people who go to work everyday, church on Sunday, who care about theie neighbors, worry about finances. They work hard to make ends meet. But where is the place for them in the Democratic party of Barbra Streisand and "Vote or Die" and Al Sharpton and the rest of those dopes from Hollywood? The regular people who do most of the voting don't find a home in a party whose spokespeople are Howard Dean supporters in facepaint and Birkenstocks.

If the Dems tack left, and embrace income resdistribution, gay marriage, abortion on demand, etc. the party is doomed. For example, most people are appalled at late term abortion--even pro choice types.

And most important, I think Democrats have to bridge racial gaps. The party needs to stand for issues that can be embraced by blue-collar whites and urban blacks, and rural whites, and suburbanites. This potential coalition fell apart in the mid1960s and the party has not figured out how to put it back together.

I would love to see a Democratic party that is healthy and appealing to a broad base. Now is the time.

The election was stolen in Ohio and Florida. The numbers coming out of those states defy belief as to voting counts in repuglican and democratic counties.

Let us not pretend that it wasn't and that we have the wrong message.

Our job for the next two years is to focus on getting and unimpeachable voting system so we can have confidence that our votes really do count. Only then will any future president have legitimacy

Tex,
I think your synopsys is dead on. However, we cannot spend too much time wound-licking or assigning blame. There is much work to do:
1) We have to define the core-values of progressive politics. This must be: a) palatable to the working-class (i.e. not radical, but rational), b) framed in a more folksy, less cosmopolitan manner. Let's face it, we progressives truly think we are right and that everyone should just see it our way. Well, they don't necessarily do so.
2) We need a candidate who is committed to these principals and can convey the message. Pretty much everyone, even the pundits on Fox, will concede the debates to Kerry. However, debating skills are not what matters to the bulk of the electorate in the red states. They need someone who can convey a message in terms they appreciate.
3) We need to take a rational, cogent stand on morality. The exit polling tells us that this was a major concern amongst the electorate (although most of us would agree that there are FAR more pressing issues). However, the Repubs have taken the high ground here and we are fighting an uphill battle. We must stake our own claim, and not allow the fringe left to define this issue for us.

In the end, while I think Kerry had a more rational, thoughtful plan for the future, it was often difficult for me to unravel the intracaies of his vision. Certainly, Bush did no better at this as his record shows but he decisively won the elction and we need to move on. It will take time to rebuild, and we must view this as a rebuilding process and not be reactionary. Only thoughtful, rational debate and the right messenger will reverse this loss and the conservative trend in the US. We have 4 years, we need to start now.

Re: the question 'are we the party of community or our we the party of individualism.'

Remember - the Republican party also lives with the tension between individual freedom and communal responsibilty. They want no communal control over the economy, environment, the right to bear arms etc. but are generally willing to submit to communal control in other areas (free speech and affiliation, sexual mores etc). Though libertarians should feel uncomfortable in both parties they've generally identified as Republicans. Communitarians have done the opposite.

I agree that we can profit by stressing our communitarian commitments. They are genuine and passionate and can be framed in a way that gains us much needed ground in the culture and values wars. However, let's not throw all our commitments to individual freedom out the window for strategic gain, especially where those commitments are liberal/moral as opposed to merely libertine.

Capturing the Imagination

Electing a president is a funny thing.

A presidential candidate needs to speak to local concerns, bread and butter issues, and always will need to.

However, a presidential candidate also needs to capture the imagination, and appeal to what Paul Kurtz calls the “transcendental temptation.” Bush appeals to this through an implicit invitation to join him in battling terrorists and gays, defending America, family and our children against these villains. And Bush closely and convincingly identifies himself with God, one cannot be more transcendental than that.

For many Americans (and let’s be frank these people do not exactly employ rational analysis, they react on a visceral, emotional level) the battles Bush invites them to join does capture their imagination.

Kerry just could not reach people in these realms. Part of it was a deficiency in message and counterattack. He could have so easily taken on the gay bashing and said:

“And with all due respect, Mr. Bush, it’s time for you and this manufactured diversion from what really matters to take a rest. I promise to provide real leadership and representation for the rights and security and the sacred promise of a bright future for all Americans. We never get anywhere by bashing each other and hating each other. And I ask Americans to join me in defending American’s right to be who they are!” That’s a fight people can join. Instead Kerry was wishy/washy and defensive. How to you think Barack Obama would have handled that issue?

And part of it was a lack of personal charisma. [nothing against Kerry, I happen to like the guy a lot)

What we need to do is think of ways to capture the imagination, and we need to consciously pick a charismatic individual to deliver these appeals to the imagination, and make people see the stars.

###

One other thing about those exit polls. What are 13% of self-described liberals doing voting for Bush?!?

They're the "pro-war left"; liberal internationalists who think that opposition to Islamofascism trumps all domestic issues. Christopher Hitchens et al.

In general, I think this degree of soul-searching is not proportionate to a two-point (ex-Nader) loss in the popular vote. I don't understand why Ruy thinks that these were "terrible" conditions for the incumbent; a khaki election could be expected to favour the incumbent (particularly among the white working class), and Ray Fair's model certainly didn't think that the economy was a negative for Bush. There is a serious danger that the leftist echo-chamber effect, which was useful when it was generating propaganda, has begun to believe its own publicity.

The Labour Party in the UK had a serious problem when it was polling in the low 30s and not winning an election for 23 years. The Democrats don't have anything like the same order of problem. The gap between the parties is still of the same order as the percentage of people who might be expected to change their minds for no particular reason on any given day.

Although I thought from the polling and blogs like this one that we would win a narrow victory, one could see the real problem a long way off. The Republicans have been gaining momentum for their ideology for some time now.

Notice that Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan were MUCH closer this time. Even Illinois was closer than the polling. Unless something major is done by 4 years from now all those states will be red and we'll be looking at a Reaganesque landslide election.

The problem was capsulated for me by a NYT article quote from a Kenntucky woman whose husband had been unemployed for more than 1 year, who was unable to find affordable health care for her family, who was worried about losing her job and their only source of income. She was voting for Bush (as a sizable majority did in that state). After listing cultural issues as reasons she paused -- aware of the contradiction between her economic principles and her vote.

And then she shrugged, "If the Democrats were really going to do something about health care, they would have done it under Clinton."

That about sums it up. Democrats can't have a candidate that supports neo-liberal economic policies that devastate working class America and expect to win. We offer nothing in return. The Republicans offer faith based politics. We are never going to be able to compete on the basis of becoming the party of religious conservatism.
Democrats appear to these people as arrogant and elitist and unconcerned. Worse, as hypocites.

As proof of that statement, I offer the experiences of many Democratic Congressional candidates in the South in recent elections. The Democrats for years now have been offering candidates in the South that differ only marginally from Republicans on moral issues (this time some were even opposed to abortion and for the gay-marriage amendment). The Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina Senate races come to mind. We lost all of those races because putting the label "Democratic" in front of anyone in those states is a losing proposition.

Take Kenntucky for example. Did the voters really think Jim Bunning was the better candidate? If he'd been a Democratic incumbent he'd have lost by 30 points. The Republican party label carried him through.

What to do about this? Only aggressive unionizing and grass-roots organizing will do it. Of course, this will be doubly difficult in the face of the power of the Republican machine both in Washington and the states.

But people in other countries manage in the face of much greater difficulties than ours, and in countries much more culturally conservative than ours. At the same time that we were losing our election here's what was happening in latin America: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=20&ItemID=6555

"While Uruguay's leftist coalition scored a historic triumph Sunday, left-wing parties and centre-left alliances made huge strides in regional and municipal elections in Venezuela and Chile. [also Brazil]"

Rember that in these countries labor/ peasant and community workers organizers are routinely assasinated. What's our excuse?

The election was stolen again, and I'm surprised some of you numbers wonks are not on the case.

Folks, the projections of total voters based upon exit data was 120-130 million, not 115 million.

Don't we have any sleuths who are crunching numbers instead of offering half-baked political analysis?

Look at the boxes in Florida. Compare the Dems registered to the votes Bush got.

Look at the exit polls in Ohio and Florida and how they supposedly did, versus non battleground states.

Look for the anomalies, the way you always do. You will find them, and they will point to computer manipulation of vote totals.

You know an operation like this had to leave some suspicious vapor trails. Go find them.

I don't have to see the skunk to know it's there.

Go find that skunk, and tell us what you found.

THIS site is about numbers analysis, and that is what it should be doing now, not buying into the notion that we didn't sell our message to the public.

Is there any reason to believe Bush didn't or wouldn't cheat to win?

I was working the campaign the day we heard about the Watergate break-in. This smells exactly the same.

Rove's Republican Party has formed an alliance with white Christian fundamentalists that the left/center obviously now cannot defeat at the federal level.

With great sadness, I doubt there will be a Democratic Majority emerging anytime soon. What is emerging, quite clearly, is an American Taliban.

Having read all the eloquent posts written above, the Monday morning quarterbacking, the micro-rationalization, I find it amazing that you folks haven't put your fingers squarely on the pulse of what it's going to take to get the white working clas voters back to our side:
Trust.
That's all it is.. a simple matter of trust.
The white working class folks who delivered the next 4 years to W did so, in large part, because they didn't trust John Kerry. Why? Because his message wasn't simplistic enough.

We need to find candidates on the congressional and national levels that
1). Step up the populist attacks and continue to paint the GOP as the party of the rich who could truly care less about the under and middle class voters.
2). Frame our arguments about health, war, the environment, jobs in such a way that we cause doubt to creep into the minds of those voters. I am appalled that we didn't try hard enough to convince the voters that Bush would have been waging this war in Iraq even if 9/11 hadn't happened. We never caused voters to doubt his true motives for the war. But he sure did a great job in creating doubt in their minds about Kerry's position on the war, didn't he?
3.) We really have to take a close look at social issues and either figure out how to use them to, again, instill distrust in our target voters or to hone the message so that we can't be painted as "outside the mainstream." Gay marriage? Abortion? We need to stop allowing those issues to become part of the national dialogue and our pat answer needs to be: "It's a local and state issue." Simplistic? Sure. But, we were sucked into the dialogue on a national level and as a result, Karl Rove's 3 million evangelicals were mobilized and they came out and delivered Bush.

It begins now. We need to start convincing the 59 million people who are somehow convinced that gay marriage and a woman's right to choose are more important than dead soldiers, decaying schools, lost jobs, and inadequate health care that they made a mistake. We need to instill in them a sense that their judgements were wrong and that, in the few seconds it took for them to take their eye off the issues that truly impact THEIR personal quality of life because they were more concerned about the personal lives of gays and pregnant women, they made a horrible mistake that is going to have ramifications for years to come.

We need to question not just Bush and his cronies, but we really need to make those working class whites to take a deep look at their "values" and make them question their own judgement.

Every issue was on our side except the war on terror, and even then we tried to craft an argument that, I think, was persuadable enough to lead people to question Bush's leadership in that area.

But, we put forth a messenger that voters just couldn't trust overall. And in the end, because they weren't sure who to trust on the real issues, they went with their guts and voted based on their moral convictions, and we lost big.

It's time for us to win the "trust us, doubt them" wars. And it begins today because we only have 2 years to protect what little turf we have left.

Ruy,

I agree with your tactful and analytical assessment of the GOP victory. However, as a pragmatist, I am compelled to state what you have implied: without using the spoken word (or code word, as the case may be), the GOP has managed to manipulate the racial fears of the very white working class that the Democrats need to retun to power. The Southern Strategy worked for Nixon; it worked for Reagan; and it continues to work for Bush. Ominously, it will work successfully forever, as long as the power brokers place winning as more important than country. After many years observations, I am sad to say racial self-interst trumps all of the other self-interests combined.

Out on a limb, I believe that a main factor in Kerry's defeat, especially in Ohio but in Iowa and even Florida, was the Massachusetts gay marriage issue. It worked against him with Hispanics. Without the MA court decision, 11 anti-gay marriage measures probably would not have been on ballots. The issue would not have been able to play into pulpit and direct mail campaigns.

It didn't matter that Kerry thinks marriage is between a man and a woman. I don't know how he could have played this better without completely reversing his stand against "Defense of Marriage" (which Clinton signed) and coming out in favor of the Constitutional ban.

I say these things as a Massachusetts Democrat who is to the left of the Party on economic issues (against NAFTA, in favor of removing the FICA contribution cap entirely and extending the individual contribution portion to capital gains, in favor of a Dean-style tax cut rollback to pay for health care, etc.) On the other hand, I'm in favor of the compromise Constitutional amendment in MA to limit marriage to a man and a woman but allow civil unions for gays. Like most of America, I'm only moderately pro-choice.

Can we do the following?

1. Hold professionally designed and moderated listening sessions all over the Mid- and Southwest to find out what folks there really believe. Don't use polls, and don't try to skew anything either way in the open-ended questions.

2. Stop talking about gay marriage itself as a civil right and address the real issues (inheritance, joint adoption, hospital visitation, insurance etc.) facing committed gay couples.

We came a long way in this election. Interest group politics took a back seat to national issues. We now have to extend this trend and open a Democratic "big tent".

Working class white voting will never become Democratic barring a major downturn in the economy. There is no possiblity of an "emegent democratic majority" as long as the white lower middle class types see the Democrats as the party of gays, blacks, and intellectuals. The problem is one of education and the media and cultural millieu. As long as American workers don't know that Europeans have mandated 6 week vacation for all workers, that they don't know that we spend almost 15% of our GNP on medical care vs 7-11 percent for other OECD countries, that massive imprisonment of minorities is not the most efficient anti-poverty plan, and that there is an evironmental crisis out there then they will vote their prejudices. The Democratic party is nothing but a legal entity mandated by law since other political parties, as a practical matter, are not allowed to compete. If the Democratice wants to find a vigorous identity it has to tirelessly, over the next two decades, focus all efforts on educating voters and wooing them back to reality.

I don't think this will happen though. We have nothing in common with most working class whites. Those of us who believe in progressive or rational politics need to change the culture of the country by showing that knowledge and compassion are not weakness. Just for starters, how about being sincere and authentic about what we believe and tell the American people that yes, peace is better than war and yes socialized medicine is demonstrably better than our system.

One exit poll question tells the whole story.

"Governments do more to solve problems?"

46% Yes
49% No

Liberals will continue to lose unless they change this attitude. Republicans can point to the failure of their own policies to reenforce the heart of their message:

"Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem."

Living as I do in the rural Midwest I am feeling quite alienated and alone this week. The gloating and smugness of Republicans is palpable.

I have some comments on the so called "cultural alienation" mentioned by Ruy in his comments.

First, it must be made very clear that there is no contradiction between "Democratic values" and these "Christian values." We simply do not know how to respond. I reject the notion that the problem was with either Kerry or Gore. Both were religious men who simply failed to make a point of saying so as has been the habit of all of us. The Republicans are incredibly vulnerable on these "cultural issues" but we fail to make even the most meek response. They are liars but worse, they take one's most personal posession, our spiritual values, and try to use that for political gain. It is shameful but so is our failure to respond!

For example, in the Indiana 9th District Democrat Barron Hill was defeated by Republican Sodrell. The RNC ran poisonous, negative ads against Hill and an "outside group" put up enormous black and white billboards saying that Hill was trying to "remove God" from pubic life. This was complete nonsense but we failed to say ANYTHING about it in response! Hill lost in a blizzard of "cultural" lies and their are apparently registered votes who now believe he is some sort of "evangelical athiest!" All lies, but we don't defend ourselves!

Furthermore at the national level voters are still responding to appeals about abortion! All we need to point out is that abortions declined an average of 28,000 procedures per year from 1990-2000. Due to Bush's mismanagment of the economy, they have increased an average of 25,000 each year he was in office! And with Republicans since 1980 "PROMISING" to do something about abortion, why doesn't someone point out that they have done nothing. The so called "pro lifers' have been played for fools in return for their votes. And they keep falling for it!

Clearly, we can not "out demagogue" the likes of Karl Rove. On the other hand, we can't sit back and allow absurd and false "cultural issues" to go unanswered when the Republicans have no record of accomplishment on anything of the sort and no intention to do so. If we can hammer home to these "cultural radicals" how little in "results" the GOP delivers for them over the next two years, we can perhaps force a rift between real Republicans and radical right-wingers that ultimately might result in the kooks forming their own third party. Now, that would be a dream come true!

But above all, we need to communicate loud and clear that Democrats and liberals as much as Republicans and conservatives can be found in churches, synagogues, and mosques all over the United States. And our political agenda is largly the result of moral and ethical ideals as much as the GOP agenda is. We must not allow Republicans to make their political agenda look like it was handed down from God almighty. In responding to such nonsense, we not only provide a more correct and accurate portrayal of who we are but also provide moral support for people like me who are feeling like lost sheep in a land full of vicious wolves.

THE PROBLEM IS NOT GOING TO BE SOLVED JUST BY FINDING A "GOOD OLE BOY" SOUTHERN CANDIDATE AGAIN! They will try to destroy and smear anyone and everyone we put forward (look what they did to Max Cleland!). Instead we must respond and beat them at their own game rather than assuming their "moral" and "cultural" issues are distortions and lies (which they are) and that the public can be trusted to realize that!

By the way, I go to church nearly every Sunday, have a strong Christian commitment and am also the most liberal Democrat you are likely to find anywhere. I see no contraditions between my views and church teaching. Somehow we Democrats need to tell the world that there are millions of others just like me. God is not a Republican. We need to make the point that those who use religion for political gain aren't Christians trying to change the country. They are instead Republicans who have used and perverted the church for their own greed and gain. It is shameful and we must communicate that to our country!

Somehow I find the concept that the Democrats can win easily if they would only nominate white Christian Southern Republicans not very reassuring. This says to me that any emerging Democratic majority is a long way off; any increase in non-whites will be more than made up by loss of whites caused by the increase. No different message or anything else will work with single-issue voters.

Geez, who is screening your posts?

What happened to mine suggesting that studying boxes in Florida might lead you to a different conclusion other than "the exit polls were wrong."

It's rather disingeniuous to think the Bushes would contrive polls but not manipulate voting outcomes.

Are you professionals at studying numbers? YES.

Do you know policy analysis? NO.

Why don't you try working on the things you know how to do, and stop accepting as true the vote totals?

Or are you all talk here about being on the cutting edge of Dem politics?

This is like losing the World Series in seven games in the last at bat. You don't start trading players and rebuilding the team, you look at why you lost first. And you cannot discount the umpiring.

We knew going in that Ohio and Florida had Bush backers firmly in control of the election process. We knew that they opposed paper ballots and paper trails. We knew that the voting machines are controlled by a major Bush backer who vowed in 2003 to deliver Ohio.

Wake up, EDM. You guys should be following that trail, instead you're chasing your tails. Accept as a possibility that the election was stolen. It shouldn't take long to find whether the numbers in Ohio and Florida are anomalous with those of other states.

I think we need to do a fast and agile conversion to 'act locally' politics -- starting right now. If we can work to identify and seed as many local 'anchor points' in targeted communities as possible, a national candidate can use them to make inroads and work the message at critical moments. Of course, we also need a viable presidential candidate (whatever that turns out to be) with a clear message. But we need *both* ingredients to make this recipe work.

A vast patchwork of community partners will offer us the opportunity to counter the in-the-home, face-to-face message machine the conservative right has built. Whether in churches -- permanent broadcast centers -- or talk radio or whatever the means of message delivery, the right has accomplished a near cult-like indoctrination by diseminating pure, undiluted doses of misinformation about us: the value-less, out of touch, liberal/democrat, northern/bi-coastal, arrogant elitist urbanites. We need a viable strategy to counter this and we better get it worked out within a few months so we can get it going in time for the mid-term elections.

The local-national coalition connections we've made in the last few months must be nurtured, developed, and consolidated NOW, so we have a reliable and tested structure in place for 2006. We made connections between local community members and national groups everywhere in the last few months. Not to mention the internet phenomenon. This is an opportunity that the DNC must capitalize on now, while this defeat is fresh and while we still feel the energy of meeting each other and working together.

Another critical benefit of working the connection of local community members and national coalition partners will be the trust that's built when we ask for votes in vulnerable communities and then we actually stick around to help them out with their daily needs. We have to check in with our base voters, work for their issues and local candidates, send money and volunteers and we must do it regularly. I worked a community precinct in Florida on Tuesday, and I want the great people I saw and met there to be remembered by us. (There's still plenty of voter registration clean up work to do, by the way!)

We desperately need a strong central strategy and concomitant message that articulate OUR values at the national level. At the same time it's critical that we identify local entry points to seep that message -- relentlessly -- into conservative working class and urban marginal communities, as well as in our power base, across the country.

And one more thing. I think we need to get organized to be very aggressive about making our legislators stand up to the Bush agenda right from the get go. We can't afford any more spinelessness.

Just one more thing. I think we did ourselves tremendous harm by succumbing to the temptation to ridicule President Bush. We fooled ourselves into underestimating him. We also failed to recognize and give respect to the people to whom he appealed. We lost votes -- unnecessarily -- to him because we failed to understand and speak authentically to the aspects of conservative registered democrats that Bush connects with.

Strengthen local and state party apparatus so we're not out there just every 4 or 6 years.

In the end, yes, we still placed too much faith in rationality.

I think the '08 Presidential campaign may start even earlier, because Dem candidates will need the extra time geographically. And maybe the primary calendar will change.

Regarding 'What's the matter with Kansas', nothing is in the 3rd Congress. Dist. Dennis Moore, a Democrat won reelection with the biggest margin he's had in a district that was Republican from 1960-1998.
Dennis wins because:
1. Ex Prosecutor-hard to attack on crime
2. Engages the business community- even if he votes against what they want
3. Has strong support from mainline moderate church members
Dennis carried the GOP suburbs of Kansas City this time and didn't have to survive by getting a lot of votes from Dem stronghold of Kansas City KS.
The GOP made his district tougher for him through redistricting. Don't despair, Dem's can win.

So much for the 'Emerging Democratic Majority'. Evidently it stayed home and middle-America spoke and was heard.

The majority of the voters in this country are values based of the traditional kind. They don't want to be told that two men can have the same quality marriage that they do. They don't want their guns taken away. They want to take care of themselves and not have the government take care of them. They want to keep their money rather than give it to the government to take care of others. They believe that others should take care of themselves.

So long as the hatred and vitriol flies from the left rather than facts, ideas, and solutions, it will be a sinking minority rather than an emerging majority.
So long as the left attempts to hoist their immorality on middle-America, it will be a sinking minority rather than an emerging majority.
So long as the left is totally intolerant of any viewpoint that opposes their own (while preaching tolerance) it will be a sinking minority rather than an emerging majority.

My take is that there is too much handwringing over Kerry's campaign and what the party needs to do in terms of retooling the issues.

But maybe a good part of the dilemma is purely a failure to present the proper appeal to the two swing states. Look at it this way. In the last two elections the Democrats had 235 electoral votes come from states which produced spreads of four percent (or more) For the Republicans that figure is 231 EV.

That leaves 75 electoral votes in only 7 states, states that are better classified as white states than red or blue ones. These white states are those we'd be familiar with-- and it yields a simple fact. The party that takes both Ohio and Florida is already over the top. If they split, then WI, IA, NM, NH, and NV will tell the tale.

Or let's look at it another way. Karl Rove blathers on and on about 1896, but doesn't seem to realize that the current GOP "majority" is made up of the states that were-- whether speaking culturally, geographically or whatever-- the same ones that comprised the Bryan MINORITY of that era. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Republicans of that era both developed and maintained that majority by offering a candidate from Ohio or New York (the other swing state of that era) in EVERY election between 1868 and 1920. (Benjamin Harrison was from IN, but was born in OH and-- perhaps interestingly-- never won a plurality of the popular vote.

Isn't it possible that a John Kerry from Ohio or Florida, a person with precisely the same issue stands (but perhaps a way of presenting these stands that is more convivial to these swing states). Isn't it probable? Of course, we need to find a candidate from one of those states to fill the bill.

Anyway, where back to where started the campaign. Everyting is Ohio and Florida-- and that's true in more ways than we ever suspected.

So--are people here willing to concede that perhaps John Edwards (who I supported) would have done a better job than Kerry? While we can talk about the "white working class," "moral values," etc., the first thing we need to fix is the people in charge of the Democratic party. You don't win elections by nominating whoever you like best in the primary, and then trying to fix them in the general election. You start at the bottom and breed candidates who can win.

A few basic rules for the next time:

1. Likeability trumps all.
2. The Northeast is not the center of the country. Do not nominate a candidate from that part of the country.
3. Class still matters. Democrats have to be seen as the party of working people.

In other words, DO NOT nominate Hillary in 2008. She would lose in a Reagan-style landslide to whoever the Republicans put up. People hate her. It's irrational, but they do.

The most important question to ask at this point is: Do Democrats want to win? If they do, they'll be willing to do what it takes to win, which means nominating better candidates and abandoning those issues that hurt them (i.e., no more Hollywood parties). If they don't, I don't think the Democrats can win, and that we'll have to wait until enough people get sick of it and start a new party.

Everyone, the election was lost at the polls in the no receipt voting machines! Kerry was an excellent candidate but the Bush machine had all it's sources in place ie FOX News, all the right wing radion talk shows ( I do not have a liberal station to listen to in my area only right wing ones and on election day as I was driving the van around for ACT I found three different stations, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and someone else urging voters to get to the polls unless they wanted Gays "running the country" or taxes to go through the roof etc. They were screaming, threatening, begging. They actually sounded scared and I took some solice from that!

It is so sad but this is what we have. We have to go through our mourning and then we must regroup, run for office, run for the school board, run for mayor etc. Thats what the Republicans did 20 years ago, together with their ever increasing and overt embrace of (radical to me) religious fundimentalism that has resulted in Bush winning against all odds, a second term. We all wanted a kinder more egalitarian country, we wanted to hold our heads up in the world but we still won't be able to. Those of us that travel know full well that we will not get contracts, will not be able to compete with any viable competition outside of the US. This is the reality. America might just go bankrupt as a result of this election. Teach your children well! They are the generation that will bring democracy back to this country. For them gay marriage is a non issue!

> How do we win on social issues without playing the
> same cynical game Republicans have been playing?
[...]
> The Republicans have cynically exploited these
> cultural issues while pushing a corporate agenda that
> is tearing apart rural and working class America. It's
> going to be a tough fight, to rewin this cultural war.


I have never really understood why social/cultural issues have to be an either/or proposition. Wouldn't it be possible to have it both ways by stating that each STATE should be free to implement its own gun/abortion/affirmative action/gay marriage etc. policy -- not the federal government or supreme court...?
---
The 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision strikes me as a particularly bad decision in this regard. Although I am pro-choice myself, it was politically stupid of the Warren(?) court to impose it on every single state. Social conservatism has been able to exploit the simmering rage against this decision for decades. With gay marriage, it seems the same dynamic prevailed again. It did not matter that Kerry said each state should be free to decide wheras Bush is in favor of imposing a certain moral viewpoint on everyone from Vermont to Alaska. Social conservatives still won because they were able to exploit fears the supreme court would sooner or later force all states to grant full legal benefits to same-sex couples married in Massachusetts. There is a common perception that "unelected liberal judges" and tax-and-spend liberal politicians are forcing the vast "real American majority" in the South and West to do all kinds of un-American things...
---
On the other hand, if Democrats were perceived to be the party of "minimal federal government" / champions of states rights, wouldn't this automatically make libertarians or moderate Republicans more likely to vote for Democratic candidates?


MARCU$

An interesting and positive counter point might be Barak
Obama's victory over Alan Keyes in Illinois. This may be largely a result of Keyes being an outsider to Illinois and extremely conservative in a state where successful Republicans must generally play a moderate, pragmatic game. Nevertheless it seemed to me that he was quite sucessful in taking his message to the working class. That also contributed to his large margin of victory. I'm enormously glad to see him in the Senate. What can we learn from this?

I agree, Democrats need to do a better job addressing cultural issues. We need to identify them early and be PROACTIVE. Kerry using the word lesbian in the debate did not help him.

A better answer:
The Democratic Party is strongly committed to the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment to practice your religion as you see fit.

No matter who you are, there are Americans that disagree with your religious beliefs. The Democratic Party will always fight for your right to practice your religion in your place of worship as you and your fellow believers see fit, regardless of what others might think. This includes the right of your religion to set standards for marriage or other sacraments. The government should not interfere with the practice of religion in America. To make America a place where everyone can freely practice their own religion, we encourage all Americans to show curtesy to those who hold religious beliefs that differ from their own.


This puts everyone in the same boat.
Religious voters often feel their beliefs are threatened.
We are all committed to the First Amendment.
Religious beliefs are best protected in a climate of tolerance for all beliefs.

I agree with Ruy and with Martin Johnson (above). We need candidates who can speak to white working-class people in border states, and in Southern regions of border states. (In other words: you guessed it-- Ohio and Florida.) Kerry spoke to me, but he didn't speak to the guys with the pickup trucks; it's not clear that they could have heard him, given his manner, his background, his habits, and the way he came across on TV. Could Edwards have done it? Could Clark have done it? Maybe. Could Kerry have done it with no hate amendment, no "lesbian" gaffe, no "real job" gaffe, a better response to the Swift Boats? Quite possibly-- but he started out at a serious disadvantage, because he is and was and sounds like a liberal from the Northeast. (He sounds secular, too, though of course he's really devout.) Let's not dig ourselves that kind of hole next time. Edwards or Clark or Mark Warner or Mike Easley or somebody else with a southern accent '08!

By the way, will the Dem advantage among the youngest voters hold as those voters grow older?

"So--are people here willing to concede that perhaps John Edwards (who I supported)"

as did i.

"would have done a better job than Kerry?"

you betcha.

Southerner - Northerner

Populist - Massachusetts liberal label

younger - older

more charismatic - less charismatic

I guess Iowa went with Kerry because of his military experience, but that's like trying to erode Bush's solid strong point and not play to our strengths. Americans just don't think we're very good at blowing things up, but they already know we're better at running the economy.

to gabby

I personally sent into the DNC our own numbers for Palm Beach county on Tuesday. Palm Beach has the ATM machines. We counted our own votes as people entered the polling place. These were not Theresa LePore's numbers. We knew that in certain precincts from our own numbers that they were not high enough. It was the same numbers as percentage wise as 2000. In the panhandle and the western coast and interior their numbers went up and they did not have electronic machines.

As long as the Democratic party is not able to emerge from the old stereotypes, he is doomed. I like Texeira, but here, he sets a few too many. here are a few reality calls:

- Kerry did better than Gore among the moderates as well as the liberals. Rove turned out more conservatives than in 2000.

- If kerry did one major errors, it is that he followed the party too much, even when he did not believe it, and that more than otherwise, the party made bad choices:
. choices of Edwards : this has to be the worst choice since Dan Quayle. Once his nomination was acquired, he disappeared. He did not get the rural areas he was supposed to campaign for. He did neither attack Bush nor defend Kerry effectively. And he clearly was useless in the South where he could not even help a Democrat to be elected in his seat.

. decision not to fight on the war or on terrorism. This was definitively an error as well. It prevented Kerry to use his best assets: defense policy.

. decision not to speak about his senate record or about his issues like gay marriage. I am so relieved that he refused to embrace FMA as Clinton suggested him to do.

In addition, it was always doubtful that the other Democrats supported him (except for a handful like Biden, Kennedy, or Vilsack. There has been too much handwringing, unfortunately. The last thing we need to do is to lose our values. What Dean and Kerry started was talking about values. This is what we need to do, but not for six months during an election season, but all the time. This is how we will get the white working class, not by pandering to racist, proguns lobbies.

What we also need is to find a way to talk to the media. Kerry spoke about his programs throughout the campaign. He soon realized that the message was not carried out by the media and that the only message that passed was the antiBush message.

In addition, you rely a lot too much on exit polls, which is surprising. It is absolutely worthless if you dont look at them at a microscopic basis. Where do we lose white workers (everywhere, in the South, in the Midwest???). As long as we dont have a full study, we will not know.

In addition, if you are to believe in the exit polls, you would know that the main reason why this happens is that Bush turned out a full crowd of conservatives (31 %), which is a lot more than in 2000. Who do you think this crowd is : probably the same poor white workers who do not know better and see all the year long Bushlite democrats that simply dont help them.

I have to agree with Mady and Phil about what needs to be done.

The Republicans do not represent the values and beliefs of most Americans. However, the 50 million Americans who just voted for Bush BELIEVE the Republicans represent their values. I think most Americans are with the Democrats on their values. But we have lost the language battle and we have not effectively conveyed those values.

Let's face it, the Republicans have spent millions developing a way to speak and a way to convey their message that allows them to peddle racism, imperialism, fiscal irresponsibility, and a whole host of abhorent policy as patriotic American Values.

We know that Bill Clinton was far more fiscally responsible than Reagan or Bush, more patriotic and tolerant, and was able to capture majorities. He is no less "liberal" than Kerry. In fact, one could argue he was more liberal. But he was able to use language well. He was a Rhodes Scholar who could talk to someone in a trailer park in Arkansas. Why do you think the Republicans hated him so much? They are afraid that we will catch on to their game.

We must develop the language necessary to make our progressive values Patriotic and palatable to the angry white males in the South. I believe they're with us but don't know it. I believe they will follow those who present the issues to them in a way that squares with what is in front of them on a daily basis. You can't use the same language in Manhattan as you do in Arkansas....

Until this changes there is no chance for the Democrats.

Atrios had a posting in November 2 about a Gary Tuchman story based on Diebold machines. The story essentially said that a woman voted for Kerry but in the final summary it showed a vote for Bush. It talks about the screen freezing and the woman demanding a different machine to vote. I also read about a similar incident in Austin, Texas in early voting.

Is it possible that the same things could have happened with other voters where they thought they voted for Kerry but ended up voting for Bush. If the exit polls showed a 3% Kerry lead but the popular vote went for Bush by 3% we are talking about a 6% swing? Can the exit polls be that wrong? What incentives would the voters have to lie?

My advice for the Democratic Party:

1) Put a lot of effort into winning governorships. This can succeed as early as 2006. Notice that even if Kerry had taken Ohio and won the election, we'd still be looking at something like 29 red states and 21 blue states. I'm not entirely comfortable with the Dems being the urban party and the Reps being the rural party-- and Dems are now splitting the suburbs btw-- but I think this will be a hard thing to change. That doesn't hurt us while seeking the presidency and only hurts a little in the House, but it's going to keep killing us in the Senate. The best way to elect Dem Senators from red states is to have plenty of ex-Governors from red states, which isn't that hard. Also, the best presidential candidates are usually governors.

2) Come to a national party consensus on health care, preferably a plan that would attract some bipartisan support. And it must be relatively easy to explain to people. I favor Gephardt's approach of tax-shifting, increasing taxes on the rich and and giving a tax credit to corporations for more of their health care costs. That should stimulate job growth for low-income people. But, the important thing is to agree on the basics of a specific plan during the next year and then offer it during 2006.

3) Always talk about broad-based tax fairness. Edwards gave this a bit of a try, at least. Republicans act as if the income tax is everything, but we know that the middle class and poor people shoulder the burden of other payroll taxes sales taxes. Point out over and over that the social security tax cap at about $100K and the lack of these payroll taxes on unearned income means that rich people are paying less than their fair share. Make payroll taxes a flat tax!

4) Yes, gay marriage and phony patriotism led to a huge turnout of social conservatives. Fine. Republicans, for years, put out progressively more subtle racist messages during elections, positioning themselves as the party of white people. I think Clinton's welfare reforms really put the nail in the coffin on that one. So, they've shifted from gays to blacks. Personally, I'm ready to step up the crusade: no peace for bigots, no compromise with evil. But let congressional candidates tailor their message on gays to their district. Note, though, that Bush apparently won a slim majority of those favor civil unions, as opposed to full marriage or no legal rights. The center has shifted on this issue. Dems should stake out individual positions on this issue and act proud of their stance. But focus on health care and taxes.

Bush will have two choices with the next Supreme Court nominee: choose someone who will overturn Roe or else screw over his base.

One last thought...

As a historian it is painful for me to read these posts – especially the ones shouting about a stolen election. Everyone seems to want to ignore the painful facts. As a people’s economic/personal situation becomes more dire, more painful they tend to move towards a conservative philosophy to rescue them. The Nazis knew this. They prayed the German economy would tank. The communists also knew this [and yes, the Soviet’s were quite fascists in their beliefs and their rule].

Anyone who believes that the public will turn to a liberal party for answers in hard times have misread historical revolutions.

Yet one man did save this country from turning fascist in the 1930s: FDR. He beat Hoover in a landslide [both PV & EC]. How did he pull it off? Remember, the country at the time was very Republican and very, very conservative – with a great deal of racism. Al Smith lost badly to Hoover in 1928, but AS was no FDR. For poor Al lacked everything FDR had – command of a populist rhetoric, charisma and yes – a certain something intangible that drew people to him. He had great appeal across party lines.

The Republicans hated FDR with an emotion, with a passion that would make their relationship to Bill Clinton look like pious adoration. Ask a Re-pub today about FDR and watch their face turn red and watch them begin to rant about the “New Deal”. They hate him so much because the people loved him.

Interview someone who lived through the depression, as I’ve done, someone who was very conservative, church-going and all the rest, and you’ll find they not only loved the man they agreed with his policies!

My point is that in order for a progressive movement to survive in times like this we need leaders who have tremendous stage presences – leaders who steal the scene whenever they walk into the room. We need leaders that people can trust. People deeply trusted FDR. They trusted him because he never wavered, never “appeared” to be indecisive. [Sound familiar?] People knew what they wanted out of him and what he wanted out of them. The words of his first inaugural address still echo to us: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Who could write that today? Who could think that today?

FDR didn’t need “spinmiesters”. People loved him because he tapped into the American psyche. He spoke for the yearnings and hopes that they couldn’t express themselves. Who today can do that? Who could create a cult of personality as strong as this one?

Don’t forget that the Republicans changed the Constitution [Presidential term limits] because of FDR’s popularity and appeal.

Every good actor needs a script. Every great statesman needs that “vision thing” to quote W’s pappy. Every great political movement needs a spark of fire, an almost sexual desire for an ideal.

If we really want to take back our country, then we must take back our great ideals. Ideals expressed by writers like Emerson, Thoreau and Mills. We must speak to a smaller government (like Thoreau). We must preach against the biggest military that the world has ever seen. We must speak to individualism the way that Emerson and Kerouac did. Most importantly, however, we can’t allow villains like Reagan to usurp the vision of America.

Finally, to quote Whitman, I hear America singing. I hear her singing softly the lyrics to an old rock tune: “Where is my John Wayne? Where is my Marlboro man? Where is my lone ranger?”

Can anyone out there in blogland tell me?

Perhaps this is really beside the point at this stage, but I really wish someone (other than the conspiracy theorists) would address the reasonableness of some of the key assumptions being made about the electorate, leading to predictions of a Kerry victory.

Among other things, is it now fair to say that we should no longer assume that late-deciding voters go disproportionately to the challenger?

I think we might be analyzing this to death. Bush won because even middle-of-the road voters came out in strenght in those 11 states, including Ohio, where there was an anti-gay marriage provision on the ballot.
This accounted for Bush's 51% and Ohio, where we lost by 300K votes. If this provision had not been on the ballots, we'd have won. Although Kery was not the greatest, he could and would have beaten Bush.
Once again, we were outplayed by Karl Rove. Its a smart strategy: add something to the ballot that will bring out the vote. Maybe next time, there'll be a "DON"T ALLOW THEM TO TAKE AWAY OUR GUNS" intitiative for all the key states!

With many relatives in the bible belt, again and again I've heard first hand stories of ministers who admonished their flock to vote for Bush. This was the biggest thing Bush had going for him. There ought to be a law, but wait ....

Firstly, I don't get why the Democrats need a Southern candidate to succeed. Secondly, the Republicans will face a similar problem in the coming years when they field their next candidate. Aside from Frist and Jeb (who isn't running in 2008), their bench comes from Northern and Western states.

This may be a minority opinion, but have you considered that Bush's victory could be an aberration?

It would be one thing if he had won and 9-11 hadn't occurred, another that he has won as a "wartime president," protecting the defenseless. Yes, Bush motivated his base to come out, but that alone wouldn't have been enough to give him a bare majority. For that, there had to be enough people worried about the alternative to back him, even if Kerry hadn't done anything to confirm those fears. Without the terrorism threat, Bush may well have been a goner.

He can't ride 9-11 for seven years; eventually, the fear tactics will wear thin. Too bad it didn't happen sooner rather than later.

Finally, consider this: We put the fear in them. They really thought they were going to lose until Tuesday night. That says something, that we are becoming adept at playing the expectations game. That's important, because Republicans have become experts at that game, and we may well be narrowing the gap.

The people who claim that the shrillness and vitriol only came from the left obviously haven't been reading the right's pamphlets or listening to their commercials. They have been pushing the "American families are under attack!" angle hard. Shrillness and vitriol were what turned out their base.

Another comment I would like to add is regarding the designation of "swing states." One must wonder how many states we took for granted might have changed dramatically had Sen Kerry or Sen Edwards campaigned there just once.

Kentucky has already been mentioned but I am certain that a little attention by the candidates or the party would have won that Senate seat from Bunning. In fact, had we campaigned in the Kentucky counties just south of Cincinnati, it would have served as a visit to both Kenticky and Ohio in media terms. Likewise in Indiana we lost a key Congressional district and the Governor's office by a relatively narrow margin. Just one visit by Kerry or Edwards could have made a big difference. But we weren't Ohio or Wisconsin so we got ignored.

If vast areas of the Midwest and South are to be given up to all campaigning and all campaign spending, then this "Red State-Blue State" nonsense will never change! And how many Congressmen, Governors, and Senate Seats will be lost as a result of this philosophy? It is as if we determine where we will campaign based on polls alone.

STOP WRITING ENTIRE REGIONS OFF!

I would imagine that we need to start looking to the future in a big way and start setting some goals for the development of the DEM party.

I think that the party needs to set about changing the negative connotations associated with being a "Liberal". The GOP uses that word with quite a bit of conviction and smears the word as being something really aweful.

They also need to put the prospective candidates on the table and start the review process. In this regard they have to determine quite early what they intend to do about Hillary, Edwards and Clarke. They cannot wait until 2 years before the elections to start shuffling the cards. They need to do it now.

The party needs agressive leadership. The current batch of leaders, while they may all be nice people, are too dead. There is no marketing, no real promotion of ideas and thoughts and party philosophy. The party needs a leadership that can galvanise the party affiliates and create an almost herd like mentality within the base.

The party needs to lead the directions for all campaigns and not allow the various candidates to sink or swim as is the case right now.

I am sure there other things which need to be done but these are the ones which stuck out during this campaign. Maybe others on this site will have some more pertinent needs which should be addressed. I really hope the executive of the DEMS will really start to manage the party better..

Cheers

Couple of points

-- John Edwards would have been killed on the security issue. Just creamed. Any other candidate would have had his or her own weaknessess. Kerry did a good job overall. I do believe he would probably have won without the SBVT (that probabyl caused a 2-3 % swing against him).
-- People talk about values and connecting to the average voter, but Arnie was very popular in the Republican convention. There's talk about his running for Prezident. This is a pro-life, pro-gun control, not particularly religious (that I know), pro-abortion, not anti-gay, Hollywood candiate known for groping women. So I think the whole issue of sharing voter values is a little overblown (or maybe Arnie is such a rarity - a Hollywood celebrity who is liberal !! that Republicans forgave him).

Democrats do need to right the message quite a bit. For instance, we were told continually that windsurfing is elitist (since when ?), and that jogging is mainstream (its pretty yuppie ?). We were taught about Bush's simple ranch (everyone has 1000 acre ranches in Texas, right), and no one mentioned the family estate in Maine. This is a remarkable achivement of branding -- if Bush and Kerry had had reversed bios, I can just imagine the hash the Repubs would have made out of it.

SO there are some main areas of improvement
-- Media. Liberal Blogs, Air America, other alternative sites need to spread the Dem view to counter Faux and Slimbaugh. We're making some progress here. Remember that 38 % of the country is scared of the Bush re-election. We need to increase that, but keep the base. And keep the fringes like Moore as well, the Republicans have their Bob Jones
--- Organization. We need a more organized GOTV ala the Repubs this time. We can;'t expect ACT each time. We need the sort of MLM organziation the Dems have.
--- Message. This needs to be retooled. The Dems managed to negatve the death sentence, I think Kerry did a reasonable job with gun control this time. Gay marriage will hopefully not be an issue next time. Abortion is the big battleground.
--- Economic issues: Be irresponsbile like the Republicans. Don't care about deficits.

I am no poll expert but I understand the statistical and sociologic principles they are based on. I was raised outside the religous box, which carrries the disadvantage of listening, year after year, to intelligent people quarter-backing campaigns while completely missing the underlying problem.

It's religion.

Being a Unitarian in a Trinitarian culture has the advantage of being able to see the society far more clearly than those who grew up in the trinitarian culture that are true to Jesus' teachings. They have yet to fully realize how twisted, organized and controling some of their fundamentalist counterparts have become.

The first political campaign that I had a distinct understanding of was '64. Despite my Repubican parents, I secretly admired LBJ much more than Goldwater.
In '88, my life circumstances allowed me to become involved in the political process.

And the first attempt was blocked by the religous infestation of the Alaska GOP. They refused to let me change my registration, as state law allowed, and kept me from participating in the caucus. I have been grateful for that ever since. Not only did I join and become an active Democrat the next evening, I found the people who had been watching and documenting the activities of the underground evangelical movement for over a decade. During a series of evening classes at a mainstream church, I learned a lot more about the growing evangelical right wing. Nothing underscored the lessons as much as the cartoon pamphlet depicting the Pope as the anti-Christ.

Over time, the super organized efforts of their church war rooms has brought us Rush Limbaugh, FOX news, Ann Coulter, Neoconservative think tanks, evangelical Republican office holders from the school boards to the presidency, and much, much more.
Democratic candidates have been unwilling to address the religion issue openly for fear of losing mainstream Christians. Just as the white males without a college education are voting against their own legitimate self interests, add the Catholics and Jews to the deluded Christians in this race.
Which leads us to:

It’s the media.

Ultimately, the capacity of informed individuals in this society to counter the message and the ignorance of the organized fundamentalist groups has been intentionally sabotaged by the neoconservative strangle hold on the media.

Having raised two bright and learning disabled children, as well as being a nurse for 27 years, I have a lot of trench experience in how people learn and how to teach complex concepts effectively to people with all levels of intelligence, ignorance and learning barriers. This type of education is essential to reaching voters and is completely missed by mainstream campaigning that emphasizes buttons, bumper stickers and uninformed GOTV drives. To turn the presidential caampaign into a Homecoming King election based on oversimplified policies and
plans is to give the evangelical movement exactly what they are seeking: the idea that the average person just can't understand anything deeper than slogans and superficial discussions of complex problems. Excuse me, I've worked with a huge cross section of Americans. They are quite competent to grasp far more difficult and abstract information than political campaign directors give them credit for. I honestly think some of the dislike and frurtration with the election process comes from the voters who feel like their intelligence is so underestimated, the parties think they can be persuaded by pablum.

If the PIPA report, as well as George Lakoff and Thomas Frank, have not made this clear, we really need to get our heads examined.

The larger problem we are facing can only be understood in the context of this period of history. Growing up in the cold war was a thought provoking time.

It's THE war.

By my late teens I had conceived the next major conflict of man. Since then I have integrated it with my father’s war of the haves and have nots.

The stage is now completely set for: religous fundamentalists in control of the superpower haves against the religous fundamentalist guerrilla leaders of the have nots.

“The war on terror is not a clash of civilizations, it is a clash of civilization against chaos, of the best hopes of humanity against dogmatic fears of progress and the future.'' John Kerry

The questions are: How much more tragedy will they bring to the six billion + who have no awareness or support for their war of ignorence and arrogence? How can we stop it?

First we have to stop focusing on the minor blemishes of any modern campaign and address the real parasitic threat to progress. That the idea the Bible should be part of our government and laws, is still openly verbalized with total conviction has to be the starting point in this fight.

“I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.” - Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

As always, humor is based on truth.

When does the National Election Pool release the data for independent analysis? The stuff that has gone public does not fully satisfy as we try to address the questions respondents have raised in this blog.

Something strikes me about this ongoing argument: mid-afternoon Tuesday, when the exit polls were showing a decisive Kerry win (hey, if 3% is decisive for Bush, it’s decisive for us), no one was saying Wow, what a surprise. It squared with late polls from both campaigns, as well as the overall gestalt (i.e., Bush mostly under 50% from April on). The networks began their coverage anticipating just such a Kerry win, and no one considered it a momentous event. Then, of course, the actual returns trickled in, and we had what is being seen as a margin-of-error reversal (if it were any larger, there might be serious suspicion of fraud), and suddenly it’s doomsday for the Democratic party. Isn’t than an awful lot of weight to put on a shift of 3%?

This was in no way a smashing victory for Bush. It only appears vaguely impressive next to his 2000 showing, and those early exit polls. 3% is the smallest victory margin for an incumbent since Wilson in ’16; even most winning challengers (and some open-seaters) have done better. And the Electoral College margin is beyond miniscule: even granting Iowa (not locked in stone), Bush would win 286-252 – a margin whose tininess is only exceeded in this century by, again, Wilson ’16, and W. himself four years ago (had Gore won the Florida standoff, his margin would have been 292-246). Wasn’t it just a decade or so back that the GOP was said to have an electoral lock? Here we have a situation where the Dem was cleanly beaten in the popular vote, but the reversal of about 75,000 votes in Ohio (1% there, .06% of the total vote) and Kerry’s president. Seems to me the GOP should be sweating that trend as much as we are.

The Wilson win, and the Truman ’48 affair, are useful touchstones for this election. In all three elections, the incumbent 1) had achieved office in murky circumstances (Wilson’s 41% win against the 1912 GOP Civil War, Truman’s ascension to office on FDR’s death, Bush – well, you remember; 2) had been faring borderline-poorly in pre-election surveys; and 3) trailed in early evening returns, but recovered to hold on to the office by about 3%. What these elections also shared, in Alan Lichtman’s Keys system, were incumbents at the brink of defeat but not quite over the line. We committed Dems may have seen Bush as a complete failure, but Lichtman’s system argues that Bush’s uncontested loyalty from party, his early success in Afghanistan, and the economy’s mild revival in the Spring gave him just enough positives to squeak out a victory. It was close, and ambiguous, but you couldn’t say Bush was a sure goner. So, any notion that Dems squandered a dead-shot (an argument also made, absurdly, in 1988) overstates the situation, and (typically) will lead to intra-party finger-pointing against our candidate/strategy. I think Kerry was a good candidate, and ran a good campaign. Bush simply performed at the top of his range.

For what it’s worth, both the Wilson and Truman wins were followed by landslide out-party victories.

The most troubling aspect of the election is, of course, this unexpected turnout of “moral values” voters. It seems clear at least a lot of them were mobilized by the same-sex debate; I don’t think abortion had the same pull (after all, that issue never hurt Clinton, and didn’t prevent Gore from winning the popular vote). If that army reappears in the next few elections, Dems are indeed in trouble in certain parts of the country. But can we at least wait and see if it’s a recurring phenomenon or a one-shot deal?

I agree with Armando above, that the South (apart from FL and AS, maybe VA) really can’t be counted upon as part of any Dem presidential majority. I also somewhat despair of Senate races – the last two cycles, Dems have fielded some quite good candidates (Ron Kirk, Alex Sanders, Inez Tenenbaum) and watched them go down to grisly defeat. Southern voters have finally begun voting almost exclusively for the GOP at the state level, the way they began voting presidentially 30-40 years ago. The problem for our side is, we are too early in the switch to have yet persuaded Dem-voting presidential voters in, say, PA or ME, that even a moderate Republican is less valuable to them in Congress than a Democrat. I don’t think the conversion process will take as long as it did in the South (that overturned a century’s loyalty), but it won’t happen overnight. Coupled with the natural GOP-gerrymander in the Senate (2 Senators for all those 3-4-5 point states the Reps always carry), it’s a wonder Dems aren’t further behind in the chamber.

As a "Red State" Democrat (and there are way more of us in most of the red states than the 33-40% figure that has been flung around), I do think the idea of listening to us might be useful. So listen to this: we DO need a clear message, about which see below. We DO NOT need more candidates from Massachusetts, a state I visit often and love but still find alien. For the average Midwesterner, it is both alien and threatening. That's unjust and irrational, but true. Kerry was never to going to win the trust of a great many moderate voters out here, including educated people like my parents and even some of my colleagues at the University of Missouri.

However, we also DO NOT need to have a good old-fashioned intraparty civil war after finally achieving a powerful degree of unity, especially after losing one of the closest presidential elections in history, measured in terms of percentage and EVs.

The fact is that no incumbent president who sought reelection has ever lost or even come this close to losing at a time when the public considered the US to be at war. (LBJ took himself out and all the eventual 1968 candidates supported the Vietnam War to one degree or another.) Many Americans, especially out here in the red states, just can't bring themselves to vote against a war even when it is going badly. Perhaps especially when it is going badly. For more on this, see http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/11/4/35654/9055 . We may not have able to win this.

Given these facts, it seems so self-defeating to insult and purge those who tried to help the Democrats during this campaign, as some of the posters above did and as I expect DLC types will continue to do as they fight to get their Clinton-era influence back. Every party has to have its beyond-the-mainstream activists and "nuts." These are the people who end up doing a lot of the work and donating a lot of the money and showing up at the events. In this campaign, the Deaniacs and Naderites and MoveOn people loyally worked a for a Democratic candidate far more conservative than they would have liked. We will need their work again, especially now that labor unions are so much less able to provide the ground support they once did. Electorally speaking, we will need left-leaning activists not to go off on more Nader-like tangents.

The current GOP electoral machine is built on energizing its "nuts." Do you really think all of mainstream America loves Jerry Falwell or Rush Limbaugh or the various rabid dogs on Faux News? (Hell, they don't even like Dick Cheney.) Yet these out-of-the-mainstream wingnuts play a vital role in the current Republican majority. They get the stories and ideas out that are too hot for the actual officials to handle. They take down Bush's enemies and respond to his critics in terms and ways that Bush himself or anyone in actual authority cannot. They energize the base.

The Democrats need people to play these roles, too. Granted, maybe Al Sharpton does not need to be treated like a great statesmen and should not be allowed to become the face of the party as he did at times on TV this fall, but Democrats do need some lively, two-fisted public spokespeople of their own. If we don't like the comedians and rockers and provocateurs we have, we had better find some new ones. Franken and Moore and others have simply filled a gap that the party itself has not been able to fill.

Regarding message problems, I agree much of my fellow Kansas native Thomas Frank's analysis. We do need to somehow bring economic issues back into political salience, but it cannot be in the form of the lame populism seen in the last two Democratic presidential campaigns, apparently under the influence of Shrum. I winced at the weakness and clumsiness of the "Help is on the way" and "I have a plan" mantras that Kerry used, coupled as they were with unclear proposals explained only in terms of too-good-to-be-true promises. Kerry's actual views were really quite moderate and consonant with most Americans' beliefs, but he presented them in ways that sounded like the stereotype of a pandering liberal politician: Goodies for everyone, and it won't cost you a dime!

Populism might work, but the policies that go with it need to be more clearly communicated and linked with larger moral-political values as Clinton did in 1992. Christianity properly understood, as seen in the Gospels especially, would be a great foundation for the Democratic values of tolerance, mercy, and egalitiarianism (not to mention peace). Constantly expressing Democratic values and policies in Christian terms might be a better way of reaching some working-class white Christian voters than me-tooish references to personal faith.

Finally, though lurching to the left in some general way would be a great mistake, Democrats do need to focus on and highlight core issue positions that enjoy the support of many of most Americans even in the red states.

A reasonable but powerfully expressed environmentalism is one area that both Kerry and incredibly, Gore, failed to exploit. This has to be done in terms of protecting things Americans love -- children, neighborhoods, national parks, personal health -- rather than sterotypical environmental abstractions and (as many see it) minutiae like obscure endangered species and distant wildife refuges. Even Republicans jog and go camping. Stewardship of the world God gave us could resonates with Christians. Keeping the air and water clean and the parks open and unspoiled are really motherhood issues that Democratic candidates could absolutely own but never seem to emphasize. This is one area where I suspect the closeness of current Democratic elites with the corporate lobbyist world may be hampering the party.

Another area Democrats should be able to make inroads is libertarianism. Especially among suburban & rural white men, a libertarian outlook is just as common as an evangelical Christian one. My wife heard lots of this canvassing the neighborhood this fall, from people who did not like a lot of Bush's policies but probably voted for him anyway. Kerry's overstated and unconvincing (even if accurate) attempts to look tough on terror led him to straddle on the issue of the Patriot Act and the various other shenanigans of the Ashcroft Justice Department. Unvarnished opposition to the Patriot Act and other invasions of privacy might have peeled off some suburban libertarians who otherwise were given relatively little reason not to go with their usual stereotypes about Big Gummint liberals.

OK, I need to quit writing now, but there is some advice from a red-state Democrat.

I'm hurting badly today folks.

I was angry after 2000 and 2002, but after 2004 I think the emotion that comes to mind is out and out depression.

I won't move to Canada or opt out of voting in the future, but this still hurts.

As for what we have to do...

1) Build the party up from the ground up.

We are getting killed in Congress. These people are the most corrupt I have ever seen, yet we never even mention it - much less challenge them in a meaningful way.

We need strong candidates and a strong message that resonates. Being against them is not enough.

We need to recruit and run solid candidates for governor.

We need to build in the Senate (obviously).

Over the last 10 years or so (since 1994) we have focused almost exclusively on the Presidency. In advertantly, we cede everything else. This needs to change.

2) Develop new policies.

We need think tanks and to open the process up to everyone. This means that some on the left will be offended by what some newbies say and propose, but we need to show respect to all ideas.

This does not mean that we should adopt a DLC-type "republican-lite" strategy. We need to be democrats, but we need to be more open minded as well.

3) Lose the celebrities and 527s.

We counted too much on them, and in the end they let us down.

4) Appeal to white working class voters.

We need not adopt homophobic or racist policies, but if we get this group (with all the gains we have made with independants and moderates over the past 5 years) we will be in a much better position.

Again, I don't mean only for President. I mean we must adopt their hopes and fears into our own philosophy. The Democratic Party must be the party of the poor again. Not of only special interests.

I think you left out a very important point: the Republicans' effective monopoly on religious values issues. Bush won on the strength of "values voters" who elevated that to the number one issue. That includes union voters who voted against their own economic self-interest in favor of values issues. Democrats need to be getting into the wrestling ring of spiritual ideas advocating a different viewpoint. After all, isn't "we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers" at the bottom of most progressive positions? Doesn't "love" mean giving people freedom? Doesn't "freedom" mean tolerating people who live lifestyles different from the Christian politically-correct norm? The Dems are never going to win back those religious union voters by asserting economic ideas and proposing complicated programs which bore these people. Progressive religious organizations need to be standing up for a new conception of what is righteous, and Democrats need to be asserting the basic spiritual values behind their proposals.

In my misery after the election, I searched out and found this site. While I believe most of the commentary to be on target, I wonder how long can we, as a party, afford to engage in this debate about what went wrong? Clearly, we need to know how to re-connect with the voters of this country, and to understand how to do this we need to know what went wrong. But, I'm very concerned that Rove and party are working right now on 2006 and 2008. We can't afford to dither for long. It seems to me that several things need to happen pretty quickly. 1. Clean out the DNC. Anyone, like the chairman, who has been running the party through these last 3 horrible elections needs to go, and go quickly. 2. Which Demo Senators are up in 2006, besides Hillary? We need to identify who they are, assess their potential for defeat, and begin working tomorrow on their re-election. Just 5 more seats and the Republicans will have a fillibuster proof majority, and the Democrats will become the Whig party. And 3, somehow the National party is going to have to learn how to bring some discipline to the state party operations. Why in the hell did the Louisianna party allow more than one Democratic candidate to run? Do you think the Republicans would have ever let that happen?

For crying out loud, we have a lot of work to do!!!

I seem to have been banned from posting here, but I wanted to ask Ruy a question which I guess will never get posted:

Will all these evangelicals who have such an intense personal bond with Bush come out for a different candidate in 2008? Or is this huge uptick in their numbers solely due to a cult of personality?

Thank you and I'm sorry I got myself banned.

Ruy,

Have you seen this?

http://ustogether.org/Florida_Election.htm

For example, in Union County FL, e-voting results show Republican votes 297.4% higher than expected, and Democratic votes 64.5% lower than expected.

Can't vouch for the accuracy but certainly merits a closer look.

DUMB! DUMB! DUMB!

I think that the gays doing their Gay Marriage bit in an election year was the decisive factor in Kerry's loss.

It put it on the ballot and on the Red States' radar, and you see what the result was.

I cannot think of a dumber time than an election year to have done it. If Nader gave us Bush's first term, then the gays and our SF Mayor Gavin Newsome gave us Bush's second term. Couldn't keep themselves under control until after the election. Result: Suppression of gay rights in 10 of 11 states (in some cases severely) and 4 more years of Dumya.

I am not a homophobe. I just think it was incredibly stupid. Yeah, there were long lines-- full of Right Wingers!

I am troubled by the fact that so many continue to hold a grudge against the president. I did not vote for Bill Clinton, either time. I stood behind him, however, whenever there was a question of our status in the world.
The world we live in, today, is more dangerous than it has ever been. This is simply because everything is so immediate. Politics aside, I expect ONE THING from our government. It isn't health care, retirement, unemployment insurance or any manner of government program. I expect them to defend this country. Period. Beyond that, everything else pales, by comparison.
There are people, in this world, who want nothing more than to kill us. They don't care if you're liberal, conservative, gay, straight, black, white,christian, Jew or agnostic. You are not one of 'them' and you should, therefore, die. No amount of foriegn aid, negotiation, appeasement or discussion will change this.
I believe that the vast majority of Americans want the same things. We simply disagree, AND SHOULD, on how to achieve them. This does not make the other side evil or dangerous.
If we do not unite, TODAY, those people, who wish to do us harm, will gain strength. We need to look within ourselves and decide that we will not be beaten. The alternative is simply too frightening to imagine.

We must be careful about reflexively reacting to Rove's successful Wedge strategy since the majority of his votes came to support the one-time gay marriage issue. In the next mid-term election he could just as easily use pro-choice Republicans to win. Look at Arnold and Rudy. Wildly popular Republicans with Democrat-like social values.
Where the Republicans are unified is in their economic priorities. They use values to win but they never legislate values. Why else would Bush and Arnold get along so well. A wink and a nod on values, then a focus on the real issue of maintaining and enhancing power to benefit themselves and their associates.

Democrats are being outfoxed. Fix it!

Sometimes I wonder if anybody in the Kerry campaign stopped long enough to ask themselves these basic questions:

What if 51% of the voters have decent jobs?

What if 51% of the voters have adequate health insurance, or think they don't really need it right now?

Let's face it, we didn't connect. The Democrats have ceded most of the white "moral middle" and it shows in a sea of red. Much -- if not most -- of this demographic is gone for good, permanently lost to the Religious Right. If we don't make some effort to reclaim the remainder before 2006, this nightmare could go on for...I don't want to think about it.

Thank you for this excellant article. Several questions do
come to mind.

1) How is it that all of the major polls gave Kerry a lead
in the Battleground States ?

2) On Nov. 1st & 2nd, most National polls had Kerry in a
lead. How ?

3) Several polls had Kerry winning the Electorial Colledge ?

While I agree with most of the items in the article, I would
think that the polsters would use this same information in
their polling to make predictions. If this be the case, how were the polls so far off for Kerry ?

The Southern Captivity of American politics needs to be decisively broken, or it will destroy the nation as we have known it since Roosevelt times.

When you shape your message, and your campaign, and your nominees, to suit Southern tastes and folkways, you will find yourself getting the rest of the Southern package:

Weak labor.
Weak public sector.
Low taxes.
Low social provision.

In other words, a moderate Republican.

Given a choice between a moderate Republican, and a conservative Republican, Republicans choose the conservative, and Democrats stay home.

And that's not a recipe for winning elections.

There are two mistakes Democrats can't make in the next four years and beyond.
Thing one: don't, to paraphrase Howard Dean, "try to be the candidate of guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks." The rural red-state whites aren't going to vote Democratic. If there's one thing George Bush is right about is that fundementalist fanatics can't be reasoned with.
What we have to do instead is peripheralize them. Make the shotgun-rack crowd look like the far-out fringe and not the American mainstream. You know, I saw somewhere that only 30 percent of Americans watch NASCAR, and I'm sure a good deal of them only casually. So why are we worried about getting the NASCAR vote?
It may sound mean, but that's what we have to do. We need to villify the "rurals" and not try to win them over. The Republicans didn't win by reaching out to social liberals.
Thing two: Unlike what senate minority leader heir apparent Harry Reid says, now is not the time to build unity and look for the common ground -- that's the trap we fell into after 9/11 and lost the congress in the last mid terms.
Since we're not going to get anything done for at least two years anyway, now is the time to stand on principle. We're not going to win. But we can go on record as being against all the polices the president and his new congress' are going to propose in the comming months and years, which we all know will only lead this country to economic ruin. When the bubble bursts, and don't fool yourself into thinking it won't, we need to be the ones standing over the scraps of rubber saying, "I told you so!"
That's what will get us back in power, just like it did in 1932.
Yeah they cheated, but they got away with it so it's a moot point. We lost the battle. All we can do now is make those who stood to be counted with the other side wish they hadn't.
...That is, if PATRIOT II allows us to hold another election ever again...

We need to expose the Christian Right for the kooks that they are. A lot of people just don't know that 40% of Americans believe the world was created in 7 days. 40%! That's astonishing and it probably matches the total in Pakistan. How many non-Evangelicals know about the Rapture and the infatuation with the end times? Non-evangelicals think that all they care about is "defending the family" and "lives of unborn children". Garbage. The Right ridicules us all the time to the point where the Democratic Party can't even adopt the language of progressivism. This is the time to expose for the large number of economic Republicans - especially in Western states like Nevada, Arizona and Colorado - that the Christian Right has completely taken over the Republican Party. Just as they talk about "Ted Kennedy Democrats" it's time for us to call even moderate Republicans "Jerry Falwell Republicans". After 2006 there should be no more Republicans in the blue states. We almost nailed Specter. Santorum is enemy number one. And it's time to get Chaffee to jump parties or Pat Kennedy will nail him. Gordon Smith must be marked for defeat. Maybe John Ensign too. Anyway, it's time to play hardball with the Christian Right. We can't ignore them anymore. And we'll never woo them to our side. We need to make them irrelevant by isolating them.

While the detailed analyses of demographics and socio-political patterns continues, it is apparent to me that the basis of the loss was strategic and tactical. The national Democrats played it safe when they needed to launch a relentless assault on Bush's policies and personality. Kerry had a 7 point lead in July; people were more than ready to dump Bush. The Dems let Bush define Kerry's image without responding to the flip-flopper and Swiftie charges. Kerry was a strong candidate muzzled by the national Dems. There was no creativity at all in this campaign, no fight, and no humor. Everyone I know had been waiting for years for the debates, to see the bark stripped off this little son-of-a-bitch, and the Dems made Kerry pull his punches.
He had 3 "emporer has no clothes" opportunities, and they didn't say it. Just as McCarthy collpased in the face of the "Have you no sense of decency?" comment, the debates were a chance for Bush to be stripped naked before the nation. The Dems didn't let Kerry do it.

Just as in football when the "prevent defense" invariably enables the other side to score, the national Dems practically handed the election to Bush. And if they can't beat the Republicans, how are they gonna beat Al-Qaeda?

"One other thing about those exit polls. What are 13% of self-described liberals doing voting for Bush?!?

Posted by SlackerInc at November 4, 2004 04:16 AM"

Visited lower Manhattan in the past three years, Slacker? Try reading Michael Totten or Roger Simon. For that matter, dig through the archives at LGF, and see what it was like there before 9/11. All those things you say Bush wants to do to gays and free thinkers? The folks who attacked us intend to do all that and worse.

Another huge problem y'all had was embracing the hard left in the form of 527 groups such as MoveOn and International ANSWER. As far as middle America is concerned, the hard left might as well be radioactive. The AFL-CIO is one thing, the "I-Double-Double-U" is quite another. Comparing the USA with Nazi Germany isn't going to go well with your typical patriotic blue collar worker. Burn a flag in front of a NYC steelworker, and he'll kick your butt just as throughly as if you'd burned one in front of a Marine. In point of fact, that steel worker may well have been a Marine before trading his k-pot for a hard hat.

Jeff Pasley wrote:

> Another area Democrats should be able to make
> inroads is libertarianism. Especially among suburban
> & rural white men, a libertarian outlook is just as
> common as an evangelical Christian one.


Do you think Howard Dean (balanced budget fiscal conservatism etc.) perhaps might have appealed to Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado voters?

MARCU$

Mustang, you may be correct that most Americans want a peaceful, secure nation and world, and only differ in how to achieve it. However, it is naive to suppose that Islamic fundamentalists simply want to kill all Americans and destroy Western civilization just because they are 'evil.' Their extreme mindset has been forged after decades of watching a US funded and protected Israel wage what looks to them like war against the Palestinians specifically, and Arabs and Islam in general. That is simply reality. Until a true peace plan is put on the table in that conflict, the middle east will remain a center for Islamic extremism, especially thanks to the intervention of the US in Iraq, which is now ground zero for the recruitment of fundamentalist zealots. There is no question that equivocating Christian fundamentalist 'values,'( ie that gay marriage represents a biblical evil) to 'a strong, decisive response against terrorism,' that pushed Bush over the edge in this incredibly close election. Your country now stands poised to become the only Western nation which has what they believe to be Gods' choice for leader. This 'moral majority' overwhelmingly believes that Iraq had WMD, and that they will be found; that Saddam was behind 9/11; the war in Iraq is being won by the Coalition; none of which are true. Talk about your blind faith. There is nothing pious about the refusal to face reality. It is utterly amazing to me that your country has been hijacked by the likes of Benny Hinn and other Chrisitan charlatans, who continue to convince millions of Americans that evolution is hogwash, abstinence is the only valid birth control, abortion is murder, homosexuality is evil, war is peace, death is life, lies are truth. If someone gains strength, values, peace of mind or comfort from religion, ANY religion, good for them. If that person is the leader of a nation, and uses that faith to govern, I can even live with that. If that same leader chooses to vindicate his political decisions by implying that God has sanctioned that decision, then I'm inclined to think that faith has been ill-served. Faith may be fine, but infallibility through faith only seems to represent the ability to evade responsiblility for your actions, as 'the bible tells me so,' can cleanse all sins. The Oval Office isn't a pulpit, no matter what Dubya and his supporters think. Good luck down there; you're sure gonna need it.

The problem with the democratic party is the message. Kerry was a great candidate with great policies.

Unfortunately the majority of Americans view the democratic party as anti-Christian. Are they right or are they just a bunch of dumbasses?

I think they are right.

This election wasn't about the South, Nascar, or an ignorant electorate. It's about God.

The only way to win on a national level is for Democrats to start running more Christian candidates. We have to take that issue off the table or we will continue to lose and the policies that can actually be legislated will never see the light of day.

If Christians represent a growing majority in the country why wouldn't a national party seek to represent those Christians? Do you really think Christians are blindly loyal to the Republican party with its policy to reward the wealthy and lie about war?

Didn't the Democratic party represent Christians when it controlled the House and the Senate for so many years?

Let some electable candidates emerge. Democrats can reenage with voters again on issues that we all care about: economic populism, reform, and a smart foreign policy.

I'm sorry, but Teixeira lost me when he said that he believes that a "reasonable" performance among white working class voters would be sufficient to "underpin a majority coalition" and in litereally the next breath labels 47% as "not qualify[ing] as reasonable performance."

What then, short of a majority, constitutes a "reasonable" performance?

As for the rest of it, the "Democrats may have to choose candidates ... who do not so easily evoke this sense of cultural alienation," how does that differ from the mantra that the Democrats have to be more like Republicans, a mantra that gets repeated no matter how many times it fails? Who would Teixeira suggest as personifying this strategy?

Yes, the messenger matters but the messenger also of necessity becomes part of the message. So what is the message being proposed here?

I think the message of the Democratic Party is very clear. The government should work for the people, not special interests and large corporations.

Think of the prescription drug differences. Bush had a completely indefensible position by not using the buying power of Medicare to get better prices for seniors. It just shows he's in the tank for large corporations, not the average american.

Part of the message must be that Democrats share the same values as most americans. Not just the value of a fair wage for a day's work, but cultural values. That is best displayed in the actual candidate. Northeast liberals are hitting a ceiling somewhere below 50%, so we need to put some more culturally acceptable candidates. They don't have to be from red states and speak with a drawl. They just have to have the kind of character that most americans are looking for.

This election was clearly stolen again. We are like a woman who comes home, finds hotel receipts in her husband's pocket, lipstick on his shirt and wonders if she's paranoid. All the exit polls were wrong? What a coincidence. voting machines owned by friends of Bush? What a coincidence. Massive voter "spoilage" in black and Hispanic counties. WE MUST WAKE UP OR THINGS WILL GET MUCH MUCH WORSE. Kerry was ahead in ALASKA for lord's sake. What else could that thing have been BUT a transmitter?