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John Belisarius

How Big A Role Did Fraud, Ballot Theft and Suppression of the Vote Play in The Election? »

Solving the Paradox of 2004

Or, as the subtitle of Democracy Corps' new memo on their postelection poll puts it, "Why America Wanted Change But Voted for Continuity". (You can find the full topline here and an extensive chartpack from the poll here.)

The memo gives as good an account of this paradoxical result as we have so far. Here are some relevant excerpts, but I urge you to read the memo in full and consult the extensive supporting material:

...The president and his campaign acted boldly to create an election dynamic that enabled Bush to escape the consequences of his incumbency and the public’s desire for change. That included a contrast on character and leadership, though that would not have saved the president. More important was the attack on Kerry on abortion and gay marriage and the extreme cultural polarization of the country. That proved effective at the end because the president was able to keep the election centered on safety (the terrorist threat) and values, rather than on Iraq and the stagnant economy. Bush asked people to vote their beliefs and feelings, rather than to judge his performance or ideas for the future.

That is why George Bush’s vote on Election Day exceeded his pre-election job approval and exceeded his final poll numbers.

...John Kerry and his campaign were in a position to win the presidency, falling short at the end. While Kerry crossed the threshold on security, he was weighed down by doubts about his convictions and authenticity and cultural baggage that left him short with rural, many blue collar, non-college educated and union voters, and Hispanics. In the end, Kerry was unable to make the economy a central point of choice and change or break through with his vision for creating better jobs with more affordable health care. When that became apparent in the last week, large sections of downscale America shifted, opting to vote their values, rather than their economic worries. That produced a cultural surge at the end, an intensified polarization that took down many Democrats in rural states and the South, that diminished their blue collar support generally and that allowed George Bush to get a national majority from red America.

...A sizeable majority felt the country was headed in the wrong direction; their top issues remained the economy and jobs and Iraq, along with the war on terrorism. Indeed, many more voters said they wanted an election about the economy and health care, rather than about how to keep America safe (52 to 41 percent).

...The answer [to the question of why a change electorate re-elected the incumbent] lies in the success of the Bush campaign in defining John Kerry and in keeping the campaign centered on safety and values to the end. It also lies in the inability of the Democrats to make the economy and their vision for the country compelling for the electorate, particularly those most hurt by current changes. Together, that gave us the cultural polarization of the 2004 election.

...[T]he very late deciders, either broke evenly or more for Kerry, as one would expect in an incumbent election. But...that was swamped by the shift of downscale voters in the final week and a half, as values trumped the undeveloped economic concerns. In that period, the vote broke for Bush by 55 to 44 percent.

...Many of these downscale voters were concerned about economic problems as well as moral decline. They mostly hung back from Bush, many providing him with less support than in 2000, until the final 10
days of the election. This pattern was most evident for the following groups:

• Among white rural voters – key to what happened in so many battleground states and in so many U.S. Senate races – Bush’s vote was at only 57 percent, 6 points below where Bush stood in 2000. But about 10 days out, they broke, ultimately giving Bush what he achieved four years earlier.

• Among white older non-college educated women, Bush’s vote had fallen
to 45 percent, 5 points below his 2000 level, though the vote started to break 10 days out and moved to Bush in the final weekend, ultimately reaching 58 percent.

• The white older non-college educated men also lagged for Bush. In the last week, Bush’s vote stood at 52 percent, 6 points below the 2000 level, but they broke Bush on Election Day.

• White seniors were lagging for Bush right to the end, with Bush 4 points below the 2000 level. But with few material issues being debated in 2004 – no “lock box” – seniors voted their moral concerns, giving Bush a stunning 59 percent. (In The Two Americas, Greenberg highlighted how seniors have always given Republicans about 60 percent of their votes before seniors issues were contested, starting in 1992.)

...In this final phase, unfortunately, the economic issues slipped away for the Democrats. After the debates, voters preferred Kerry over Bush on the economy by up to 7 points, but in the final week that slipped to just 2 points. More importantly, the issue focus moved away from the economy and to Iraq. Both during the debates and on Election Day, a third of the voters said terrorism was their top voting issue. Iraq grew in importance through the final weeks – up from 19 to 26 percent – but at the expense of the economy and jobs, which dropped from 35 to 28 percent. This election moved away from the Democrats’ key issues and choice in the final phase of voter decision-making.

When the economy slipped away as an issue in this final phase, Bush was in a strong position to consolidate these voters on their worries about terrorist and safety and their worries about John Kerry on the cultural issues and his values. That led to the late shift of white rural, blue collar, and senior voters to Bush. That gave Bush his narrow national majority.

So there you have it: a very plausible description of how Bush managed to win this election--a description that adds a great deal of important detail to the generally superficial newspaper accounts of Bush's victory. Lacking, however, is much of an explanation for why this cultural surge at the end of the campaign took place and what, if anything, Democrats could have done to forestall it.

That's a tough one--and one we're all going to have to think about.

Comments

Didn't the bin Laden tape come out ten days before the election? That surely might have helped Bush to "consolidate these voters on their worries about terrorist [sic] and safety"....

IT IS POSITIVELY SHOCKING and indicative that this site doesn't even MENTION the issues raised by Palast at TomPaine.com, nor by Thom Hartmann at Commondreams, nor the enormous amount of material to be found at Wikipedia questioning the election results. After all, the study of the election results, indifferent to the enormous controversy (except perhaps to dutifully dismiss their importance without seriously examining the evidence, as Corn at the Nation does) ends up spinning and justifying fraud. I have long argued that a machine agenda which included the Democrats' AND the media's systematic hound that didn't bark silence on key issues -- a point made long before the election as a better predictor than the polls -- was decisive. It was neither Bush's popularity nor an upsurge of religious voters. Even so, it appears that an extra thumb on the scale was probably necessary to reinstall Bush.
The spirit of this website, not even giving serious consideration to the mountains of evidence that the exit polls (prior to being tainted by including the tabulated election results) were RIGHT.
This site is crawling with poll experts and observers. Well -- what about Dick Morris's point that exit polls (untainted) are rarely wrong, let alone systematically over a number of states.

Another hound that didn't bark. But of course, while it didn't bark either before the election, there was plenty of spinning. We need a Democratic Party that WILL BARK instead of spinning, which is why the so-called "New" Democrats need replacing with DEMOCRATIC Democrats.

My question - how much of this was set up by Karl Rove and how much was based on other people or things?

In response to your question of "why" this late break toward Bush, I think the answer lies in cognitive dissonance. Since the 1988 campaign the Republican party has developed the rhetoric to divide the nation based on cultural issues. They have been extremely successful with this message and it trumps economic and foreign policy issues.

Here is a good location -- where it was clear that a strong potential mandate to vote Bush out was there, to address the failure to address the flipflop spin and the matt bai spin (the latter echoing and influencing millions who never heard of matt bai and never read the new york times magazine). It would also be worthwhile to honestly study just what impact the Osama video AND THE PRESS COVERAGE AND NONRESPONSE TO ACCUSATIONS THAT OSAMA WAS TRYING TO HELP KERRY, a presswide syndrome.
The polls showed almost 60% thought Kerry flipflopped and it was the central theme of the Republican campaign. Yet all these comments have ignored my point just as the Democrats and media ignored it until some paltry mention after the Republican convention.

"[This is] A description that adds a great deal of important detail to the generally superficial newspaper accounts of Bush's victory. Lacking, however, is much of an explanation for why this cultural surge at the end of the campaign took place and what, if anything, Democrats could have done to forestall it."

If people thought Democrats offered them enough on the economy, there would have been no cultural surge at the end. Duh! People defaulted to values because they don't see much difference between the parties on the economy.

Severe suger-coating in here of the Kerry's campaign's fatal mistakes. Economic issues did not 'slip away' from the Democrats - Kerry deliberately chose to focus his rhetoric on Iraq and terrorism for the past few weeks of the campaign instead of on domestic issues, despite the advice of all of his advisors (including Carville). Kerry ran away from the issues that could have won him the election. He took a gamble that he could beat Bush on Bush's strongest ground, national security, and he blew it, plain and simple.

Ruy,

There are some who questioned Kerry running with the missing explosives issue in the final week, again spouting that tired adage of when Terrorism is the subject, Bush benefits.

So, I guess we should expect that recrimination somewhere in this Comment thread?

He and his campaign did what everyone would do. He was solid on jobs/economy and had bested Bush on Iraq/Nat'l Security in the first debate. Go for it!

The American Voters lied that jobs, economy and health care were just (or more) important than Iraq and Security. What moved the polls over than the two Convention bounces? Swift Boat Vets.

The Conservative Echo Chamber controlled and dictated the 'message' throughout this campaign, Kerry had no choice but to allow his message filtered through it.

Bill Maher said this weekend, given the choice, American voters will choose fear over hope, every time. That means Swift Boat over economic issues. A vote for Kerry took intelligence, concern for more than yourself and a leap of faith.

Does that sound like a member of the Bush Majority?

http://ThatColoredFellasweblog.Bloghorn.com

For goodness sake STOP ALL THIS! All this analysis is nothing more than self-flagulation. It is verbose prose, full of supositions, and cherry picked statistics. The election was stolen people. PERIOD. Nothing complicated or sophisticated.

Kerry was an excellent candidate..still is.

The ONLY way that Bush could have won this election was to have it stolen (through the DieBold election machines) And that is EXACTLY what happened. The so called Evangelical vote was/is a ruse put out by Rove to justify Bush's extrodinaryly unlikely win, given all other historical patterns that pointed to a Kerry victory (not to mention the exit polls that also gave Gore and Kerry the win). Rove et al would have you believe that these exit polls were also wong (how come they were only wrong in Ohio and Florida?!) and they have a ready argument for the ever complient press as well.

The Gallop polls were I believe deliberately kept close, to support a Bush win so as not to arouse suspisions when he was declaired the "winner". Gallop was bought in 1990 by a Houstan Texas man who is a declaird Republican. Did you realise that they only poll out of California, Nebraska and Texas? Anyone not wanting to go there has got blinkers on!

Forget the therapy sessions, get out there and demand a paper receipt after voting. The paper receipt needs to match the electronic voting numbers. All this anlysis gets us nowhere. We must face what our true competition is and go after it. Come on!

Why did rural voters think Bush would do a better job on safety/terrorism?

I do not think Kerry or any candidate had the power to make this election about the economy, but I thought that Kerry was convincing that he would be better on safety/terrorism. Why did the majority think otherwise?

For the democratic majority to emerge, I believe that the Democrats need to win on national security. Democrats do not really think they are weaker on national security do they? They aren't weaker, are they? Why does the majority still think so?

At a fundamental level, national security is the most important thing our national government does. Health, education, welfare, transportation and crime can all be addressed by the states or municipalities--I'm not saying that they should be or that doing so is the most effective or fair way to attack those problems, but local governments can address those problems. National security must be addressed by the federal government. Shouldn't the national Democratic party win the national security debate first, the move on to other priorities?

Passed the threshold on security? Well no, he didn't. I mean, it looked like he would, given the other factors, but we got swamped on security. To ignore that, as Greenberg does, is well, to play ostrich.

Call me a simpleton. But 9/11 drove Bush's numbers to 91% and three plus years weren't enough to drive him down to a Diebold proof 45%. That was what I suggested it would take a year ago and it proved to be so. Bush stuck at 47% and slung enough dollars and mud at Kerry that JFK couldn't drive those numbers down.

9/11 may not have "changed everything" but it certainly altered the political calculus. To suggest that knocking 40 points off of a war-time President was not enough to validate our overall position seems strange.

Ruy just needs to re-read his book.

I'm going to try and give this one more shot. If this is in fact a site made up of serious thinkers, can we please dispense with the paranoid conspiracy theories and get on with the task of actually being a national party? We are in danger of ripping ourselves apart. The irrational hatred and fear of all things Bush and Rove remind me of the many arguments I had with those on the right who insisted that President Clinton was secretly plotting the deaths of his rivals and the subversion of the Constitution.

Doug, you're absolutely right about national security. It has become an argument for Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Although there has been no attack since September 11, my guess is that the majority of Americans still feel as if more attacks are likely. And like it or not, until safety needs are addressed, other domestic issues will look to most people as being secondary. And Democrats have done a poor job convincing Americans that we will protect the Union as vociferously as the Republicans.

For me the election comes down to an argument between one half of the country who believes we must fight Islamic Fascism aggressively and the other half who believe that the fight has been trumped up by the Administration. Wailing about stolen elections ignores the fundamental argument.

I agree with those posters above who want to see some nod of the head towards the many reports of voting irregularities. The 'been there-done that' attitude of many in the press and the blogosphere is self-defeating. Why does the 'usual suspect' syndrome not apply in this circumstance? The last election was very, very doubtful - this one should be viewed with even more suspicion, not less.

Interesting analysis. What's interesting to me is not so much that values-driven voters either "appeared" or veered toward Bush in the last week. Those voters have always existed, albeit never in as frenzied and organized a way as now. They themselves are not a majority. What's interesting to me is the platform upon which the majority in this election was built. That platform is made up of fiscal conservatives and traditional foreign policy hawks, who are NOT social conservatives. They are old-time Republicans, and so far at least, they continue to vote that way, even though this crew of Republicans really doesn't agree with them on anything of significance. Why?

Remember, the current conservative revolution began in 1964, but conservative Democrats didn't begin voting Republican in large numbers until 1980, 16 years later, and that was mostly because of Reagan's personal appeal. The real tectonic shift didn't begin until 1994, and didn't really become permanent and final until 2004. That's 40 years, a whole generation. Bush and Rove have built a coalition that can make it to 50%. But several of its pillars are, in the long run, shaky. Whether they will collapse in the next 2 years, next 4 years, or it will take longer than that, I don't know. But it almost HAS to happen.

A couple of thoughts on the numbers:

Bush haters cited Iraq because it's an obvious failure. Bush lovers cited terrorism because, in their eyes, it's an obvious success. As far as the polls go, they could be combined into one issue to get a more fair read on people's priorities. Separately, they don't really say that much.

"Moral values" is the big concern, of course, but the conclusions are misleading. Greenberg and Carville point out that the top concern of Bush waverers was moral values, as opposed to the Certain Bush voters who were more likely to have national security among their top 2 picks. But 50% of the certain Bush voters had "moral" in their top 2, as opposed to just 36% of the waverers.

The big problem with gaining any information from these questions is we don't know what side these people fall on. We tend to assume that most of the 36% of Bush waverers who picked moral values were anti-choice homophobes (or a nicer way to put that), but perhaps they viewed him as strong on terror but wavered because they're not hateful people.

I don't think we'll ever get the certain Bush folks on our side. But we need to find out what the waverers were thinking, because that will tell us where we failed.

As much as I want to, I just cannot dimiss the notion that this election was stolen.
Why don't we have our electronic machines print out paper receipts? The democrats would be fools to contest any further elections without verifiable voting.
The Diebold machines don't pass the laugh test.

Responding to the article and some of the preceding posts.

1. We can and should explore both the possibility of voter fraud and the more substantive reasons we lost.

2. Those who wish to focus on fraud, should, and those who wish to focus on things we need to do different should.

3. Both groups should stop sniping at the other.

Don't make Daddy pull the car over and bust everyone's butt!

Now how about everyone give everyone else a hug, and I'll buy yall some hot chocolate?

We cannot win with fraticide.

Lakoff's discussion in "Don't Think of an Elephant" is important for all Democrats to read who are interested in winning elections at any level of politics. It's about honestly reframing issues that are important to Democrats in ways that are persuasive to independents and conservatives.

Suzanne, I don't completely discount voting maching manipulation. But it is sadly far more likely that we simply live in a country with an enormous number of poorly educated, poorly travelled white bigots who will respond, as they always have, to xenophobic and racist appeals thinly disguised as churchly appeals to moral virtue.

Sorry to be so blunt -- and sorry to play into the "elitist liberal" thing -- but at some point we have to face facts. The Emerging Democratic Majority may never emerge simply because they are breeding faster than we are and now outnumber us. These are things to contemplate, just as readily as we must contemplate voting machine integrity.

I find especially alarming the fact that a majority of non-college educated, white men and women voted for Bush in 2004. It is perhaps even more alarming that in 2000, before 9/11, white working men voted for Bush over Gore by a narrow majority. The Democratic Party may like to think of itself as the party of working people, but many of them seem to be fleeing from it, and in ever greater numbers.

I find no consolation in the fact (reported elsewhere) that Americans with post-graduate degrees voted for Kerry. What good is the Democrats' superior message it if one requires a Ph.D. to understand it?

People think the country is going in the wrong direction because they think there is a decline in decency, and because there is a real lack of a sense of community. Unfortunately, the Republicans were successful in placing Democrats and liberal philosophy as the source of the problem. People want change, but not in the kinds of things they see as the current administration's responsibility.

Our Party is being destroyed from within. The DLC, The Third Way, give me a break. Our latest platform could have been Ronald Reagan's platform if you left out the pro-choice and health insurance. Now we have posters talking the "religious left?" We need to stop strategizing to win over conservatives and return to advocating for what WE stand for.

We are not the party of bible thumping or tax breaks for businesses, we are not the party of free-trade we are pro-union and workers rights. We are anti-gun. We are pro schools and support teachers even if when it means raising taxes. We don't see gov't as evil, rather we believe in the social compact, helping the poor, the sick and elderly. We believe in providing social security and know its not "in trouble." We are for Medicare and health insurance for everyone because every American deserves their health. We are against the war on drugs because we've seen how its applied to oppress minorities. We are against preemption internationally, and believe in cutting the military budget, not expanding it. We are pro gay rights. We believe in a woman's right to choose.

I am convinced that these are our values, and they are what makes us Democrats. Stop selling out our Party for corporate contributions. People who want a party that's pro-business and lectures on morality, already have a party, its called the GOP.

Please, please, please, come back to what we stand for.

51-48. What an eye catching opener to the DC Election poll!!!!! Kinda makes you want to swallow all that follows and leave hungry for more pearls from this the Other Dismal Science....


Trouble is, while not a Dewey/Truman moment for DC or in fact any of the pollsters and those of us who tend to get mezmerized by their efforts, most of the polls, whether considered individually or as part of some meta analysis, were wrong. The internal Kerry polls - wrong
The internal Bush polls, the best I can tell from anecdotal reports - wrong
The robo polls - wrong
The tracking polls - wrong

I re-read Ruy's post of "Stan Greenberg Speaks!", 10/28:

The Democracy Corps combined polls as of Friday showed that the undecided (prior to being pushed to a preference) leaned toward the Democrats by two-to-one and favored a significant change in direction over continuing Bush’s direction by 58 to 29 percent, also two-to-one.

The tracking for the Kerry campaign, conducted for the whole battleground and in key battleground states at the end of the week, including Friday night, show Kerry with a clear and stable lead.

Bottom line, amidst the intensity of campaign’s final days, it is important to keep one’s eye on the stability and structure of this race, with Bush still short of what he needs to win.

This isn't Dewey/Truman by any means but damn it I wanna hear why the pollsters screwed up, even if it means disclosing proprietary data, before I sit at their feet waiting for pearls to drop from you-know-where.

Excerpts from “Throw Them an Anchor”

[full text at www.ProgressiveDialogue.com]

It’s not the values, stupid! -- But conventional wisdom has seized on the “values gap” to explain why we couldn’t beat a man with one of the lowest approval ratings in modern history.

The Values Channel: all fear, all the time -- The grim truth is that the right wing’s goal is a permanent state of fear. And “values” are the Fox News channel of the right wing victim message.

We’ve been “framed” -- The current rush to talk values does nothing but reinforce the message to the right wing’s base that we “just don’t get it.” And we don’t.

The American lifeboat -- Your ship has been torpedoed and you find yourself in a lifeboat adrift in enemy waters, scared to death. The forward rowers try to explain to the others why they should all row together towards land, but nobody’s listening. What to do?

They’re not just “with us or against us” -- You may never get a right-winger to vote for a progressive candidate, but you may well get them to reduce their influence and support for right-wing candidates.

The pendulum has hit the wall -- The right wing may find that their support of Bush in 2004 - and over the next four years - will cost them the survival of their movement in 2008.

Ryan Lizza's column in TNR provides some additional interesting insight --

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=%2FWAOQoLsGzQE5FcT6qGE0x%3D%3D

If TNR is to be believed, many Kerry aides feel the lack of a clear message was the campaign's major flaw. This started right at the top with the candidate itself, who had a habit of shooting himself in the foot ("I voted for the $87 billion bill before voting against it"). Bob Shrum and Mark Mellman favored a poll-driven approach, which resulted in a "message" consisting of a laundry list of policy proposals without a clear theme. Their anti-Bush strategy was also poorly focused. In contrast, Karl Rove largely managed to re-focus the debate on whose "values" and worldview were more compelling, while consistently defining Kerry as a liberal flip-flopper who could not be trusted. I (and most other EDM readers) thought it would not be enough, given the President's awful track record in 2003-04, but we were mistaken in the end.
---
I think the bottom line is the Democrats now have nominated poor campaigners (Gore, Kerry) in the last two elections. The Democratic message also got muddled up because of the poll-driven "campaign strategy by committee" approach.


MARCU$

I live abroad. In the run up to the election I spent a lot of time talking to every tourist and businessman I could to get the mood from across the country. The one thing that came up repeatedly from across the spectrum was "I just don't like Kerry" even if they were definitely going to vote for him. I wonder if this simple anecdote could explain a lot. How many people came to the ballot and then just decided thay couldn't vote for someone they didn't like? How many just stayed home.

I agree with other posts on this thread that we need to suspense with the conspiracy theories. The facts are that Bush won a narrow victory that was the result of many subtle themes that diverted attention away from his record. He used the values themes that not only resonated with evangelical voters, but also middle class voters in exurbia as David Brooks mentioned in his article. The security issue also resonated with mothers in these areas. There were cultural issues between urban and rural voters along with rhetoric about the lack of importance to vote in non-battleground states. Their control of the state houses, legislature and courthouses in Ohio and Florida allowed them to control voting process.
In order to counter these issues the Democratic Party must build on the infrastructure we have been developing over the last few years. We have come close but there is still work to do at the grass roots level. We must work on the state legislatures, courthouses and governership in Ohio and Florida, and work on a message the resonates
with rural and suburban voters. The events over the past 4 years in and out of the politcal world has given us plenty of issues to capitalize on . We must stay active.

*On the national security issue a couple of thoughts on how we might have done better and could perhaps do better in the future, as these issues are not going to go away:

1) Multilateralism was portrayed by Bush using the metaphor of the permission slip--as amounting to a foreign policy of vacillation. I did not hear the argument made that we defeated the threat of Soviet communism because we formed and *led* strong international alliances and initiatives--during the Truman Administration in particular--rather than choosing to go it alone.

2) Make the case that we are losing ground in the war on terror because of our flawed policies, not gaining ground. By saying late in the campaign Iraq has been a diversion from the war on terror Kerry walked up to this line but did not cross it. Of course if he'd said this, Kerry would have been villified for "giving aid and comfort to our adversaries". But he was attacked viciously for supposedly doing so anyway. We might as well make the stronger and true case. Kennedy placed himself symbolically to the right of Nixon--or at least not to Nixon's left--on national security in 1960 by proclaiming a "missile gap" with the Soviet Union. (The missile gap was non-existent but we can make our case staying true to the facts this time.) This stance crystallized Kennedy's positive resolve on national security issues and helped him gain a hearing on domestic issues more favorable to him. This may be more effective than attempts to show resolve by telling voters we're going to hunt down and kill (personally?) OBL.

*Gabby expressed my thought re the focus on improving and broadening our appeal on the one hand, and determining the extent of election fraud on the other, not being an "either/or" proposition. There is a need for both.

For those who believe it's enough to focus on fraud and how we might have been robbed this time around, ask yourself this question: if Kerry had won would he have gotten his health care plan through Congress? Personally, I doubt it.

For any who may want to write off taking seriously the fraud issue, ask yourself if we are likely to make the changes that are going to move us forward if, as is possible, the data upon which we're basing our decisions turns out to be inaccurate? And in any case to bolster our case for needed reforms of our election non-system, we are going to need to document powerfully, comprehensively, and compellingly the full extent of the problems.

I fervently hope Congressional Dems will develop, propose, and talk up a voter protection reform bill to address obvious problems with our non-system of voting. The NYT had an editorial with an outline on what needs to be done a week or so that could serve as a point of departure. The Repubs won't allow a vote on anything we propose in Congress, of course. But having a tangible proposal we publicly support shows that we care about the integrity and fairness to all Americans of the voting process, that we want to help Americans who want to vote do so, and that we have positive ideas on how to improve the process (not just "whining" about how we were screwed even if it turns out we were). The Repub Contract on America countered any idea in 1994 that they were purely a party of opposition without any positive agenda of their own--a risk we run over the next 2 and 4 years.

*On the framing/values/"how we make ourselves more attractive to the persuadables out there?" front, anyone for a Center for the Advancement of Progressive American Values? George Soros, are you listening? George Lakoff--who is with a group now called the Rockledge Institute, I think--is just one of the folks putting out positive proposals on how we might more effectively frame our progressive message. As one product that ought to come out of the new Center, a progressive version of Frank Luntz's Rethug playbook, offering suggested terminology and frames for public presentation as a point of departure for progressives to steal from, would be a must.

*Not saying Tom Frank is saying this (haven't gotten to his book yet). But to the extent that there are some folks on our side who convey the message that rural, small town and exurban voters who went for Bush because of their views on "moral issues" (let's for the moment define these as largely code for views on abortion and homosexuality in particular) are in some way defective on that account, we are digging a political grave for ourselves with these folks. Any argument that voters somehow *should* vote for their economic interests over their moral values just exacerbates a sense among these voters that their side is the "party of moral values". The subtext for them is that progressives will sell out on moral issues to maybe get a few more bucks into peoples' pockets--and are proud of it! Let's stipulate most voters do not want to think of themselves as voting for immorality or a candidate they see as tolerating immoral policies.

A fair amount of what comes out of Hollywood and primetime TV portrays small town America as "backwards" or ignorant, in my view. Our candidates are prone to being tagged with having pro-"Hollywood" values even where that is not true. The Repubs want to wrap Hollywood around our necks. We may need to create a Sister Souljah-type moment as a way of showing where we differ with the stereotypical popular view of Hollywood morals.

What will also help will be sharpening the perceived advantages to these voters of what we are offering on economic and other issues, through some combination of beefing up our economic policies and our way of talking about them.

*Finally, an awful lot of out and out lies were propagated about what we believe in in small town, rural, and exurban communities--lies that seem not to have been called often and aggressively. The only way I see to counter that damage is for us to a) monitor what is going on in these communities and not think we can win just by getting out our heavily urban-centered vote (seems obvious enough) b) aggressively call those who are lying about us in these heavily Repub areas, far easier said than done, but an area where we need to encourage and support brave souls who live in these communities to tell others in their communities to stop lying, it's bad moral values.

"Our latest platform could have been Ronald Reagan's platform if you left out the pro-choice and health insurance."

I suggest you actually read Reagan's 2 platofrms before you say things like that. Kerry was not in favor of prayer in public schools, rolling back abortion access, and slashing captial gains taxes. All of which Reagan approved of heartily. And what about continued protection for civil rights? Reagan couldn't have cared less, but Kerry wanted to keep affirmative action and let the Patriot act expire. And where do you get the idea that our 2004 platform was in any way anti-union? The very suggestion is laughable. A party that is anti-union doesn't call for a raise in the minimum wage and an expansion of healthcare.

So I want to know: in what way, exactly, have we echoed Ronald Reagan? Cause I'm not seeing it.

For many good reasons, it matters deeply whether the recent election was stolen, not the least of which is that Democrats cannot know how to critique their own campaign if they don't know whether they truly lost. I, for one, am withholding judgement, but it is worth remembering that almost no one realized the depth and extent of the shenanigans surrounding Florida 2000 until Greg Palast and others did the digging to uncover it. Democratic Party operatives and "liberal" mainstream media outlets were almost entirely mute on the subject. We may be seeing a repeat performance.