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Strategy Notes:
John Belisarius

The Democrats Didn’t Lose in this Election, They Won

That’s right, they won.

And they won big.

No, it’s not just that Dems came within 3% of winning a very tough election. That alone is a very real and important accomplishment, but it’s not the key.

The real point is that if the Democrats are serious about the long-tem goal of building a broad and enduring democratic majority then getting 51% of the vote is not always the right test of a particular campaign’s success. Sometimes you have to lose an election to build the foundation for later victory.

Just ask the Conservative Republicans. They can recite you this lesson by heart. In every glowing account they write of their gradual rise to power they always point to Barry Goldwater’s unsuccessful 1964 campaign and Ronald Reagan’s 1976 bid for the Presidency (which did not get beyond the Republican primaries) as the pivotal campaigns that laid the foundations for all their subsequent victories.

And when you look at it from this point of view, the true scope, the genuinely impressive magnitude of the Democrats’ success this year can be expressed in a single sentence: In 2004 the Dems accomplished in 8 months what it took the Goldwater-Reagan conservative movement over a decade to achieve.

Last December, the Democratic party was internally divided, unsure about its message, uncertain how to talk about war and foreign affairs, financially dependent on donations from corporations and affluent donors and only beginning to build a grass-roots voter mobilization campaign. There was great anger and energy among the party’s core supporters, but it seemed extremely unlikely that the party as a whole would be able to agree upon a message, unite around a candidate and mount a serious challenge to a personally popular wartime president whose approval ratings hovered close to 60%.

Yet, by the time John Kerry addressed the Democratic convention in July, he was leading a political party that had become firmly united, was supported by new and powerful grass-roots mechanisms for fund raising and internet organizing (pioneered by Howard Dean and his supporters) and which was building a new voter mobilization network that was reconnecting the party with its political base.

Kerry and Edwards then provided the Democratic Party with a politically viable moderate-progressive message - one that had been eluding the party for years. In foreign affairs it combined basic patriotism and support for the troops with brutally sharp and honest criticism of the Administration’s disastrous foreign policy. In domestic affairs, it combined a cautious but sincere economic populism with greater fiscal responsibility then the Republican administration.

This political platform was sufficiently compelling to convince a large majority of those who watched the presidential debates that Kerry, not Bush, had been the victor of all three exchanges and to win him the support of a substantial majority of moderate and independent voters as well as his Democratic base.

Had the 2004 campaign halted at this point, the Kerry-Edwards campaign would have already accomplished more then the Goldwater-Reagan Republicans did from 1964 to 1976, but the campaign then pushed on to come within 3% of victory and a solid majority.

Sure, it was disappointing not to be able to snag those last few points, and the disappointment was compounded by the widespread feeling of optimism that lasted until the very last moments of election night.

But there is a vast difference between a vibrant and compelling campaign that doesn’t quite make it over the top and a campaign that is fundamentally a failure. The Dems have had more then a few of the latter kind, but 2004 wasn’t one of them.

“But we did worse then we did in 2000” people say, “We’re going backward, not forward”.

Nonsense. The truth is that in presidential elections the Democrats have basically been a minority party since 1968, when George Wallace cut deeply into the Dems blue-collar support in Michigan and the other industrial states as well as the South. In 1972, when the Republicans played the “Real Majority” vs. the “Elitists” game against the Dems for the first time, Nixon got 60% of the vote to McGovern’s 37%. Carter won a narrow victory in 1976 but look at the record since then.

1980Jimmy Carter41% vs. Reagan+Anderson57%
1984Walter Mondale41% vs. Reagan59%
1988Michael Dukakis46% vs. Bush Sr.53%
1992Bill Clinton43% vs Bush+Perot56%

Democrats never got anywhere even close to 50% of the vote until Clinton’s reelection campaign in 1996 (Clinton 49%, Dole/Perot 49%) and Gore’s 2000 run (Gore 48%, Bush 48%).

But in both of these latter campaigns the Democrats were running as incumbents or former Vice-Presidents, not as challengers. 2004 was the first time a Democrat ran as a challenger in more then a decade and Kerry faced a President who had, at the outset, high approval ratings, the patriotic fervor of an apparently successful war behind him, the overt support of one of the major TV networks, and the most extensive grass-roots voter mobilization the Republican Party had ever fielded.

And yet Kerry and Edwards came closer to unseating their opponent and closer to winning 50% of the vote then had any Democratic challengers in the last three decades.

A campaign like this simply can’t be considered a failure even by narrow electoral standards and the intangible benefits make it even less so. This political campaign made rank and file Democrats from every section of the party feel proud to be Democrats in a way they have not felt in decades. It displayed Democratic candidates who were decent, thoughtful and honorable men and offered a set of policies and positions that a wide range of Americans could accept as a solid framework and point of departure for the future. It showcased a political party that was systematically building the foundations for its future victory.

So shake off the disappointment and feel the sense of pride and accomplishment you deserve to feel instead.

The Dems lost an election. OK, it happens.

But the Dems haven’t been defeated, not at all.

They’ve just been slowed down.

Comments

I think you're right to try drawing parallels with Goldwater (National Review did it months ago, wondering if they'd regret the cover asking for Dean to be nominated), but I'm not so sure that things have gotten as far as you say.

I am left with one big undecided question: Did the Democrats unite for Kerry, or did they merely unite against Bush? Obviously there's a big difference between the two.

Electoral strength doesn't prove ideological unity. That's why I'm watching the discussion over the next DNC and Senate caucus leaders with great interest.

I see no reason that, with Bush off the ballot in 2008, the activist left of the party can't bolt to the Greens again if they don't like what they see from the Democrats in the next four years.

Sigh.

Nice try John, but, sorry, we don't buy it. Maybe if *Howard Dean* had come within 3% of winning, I would feel different about it. But the bottom line is this President Bush is every bit as pathetic as his father, except (and this admittedly makes an enormous difference-) he is wildly popular with social conservatives. He was bogged down by the Iraq mess, millions of jobs lost, soaring budget deficits and other things.

One has to wonder if Kerry would have fared better than Mondale or Dukakis, when the incumbent president's poor track record is factored in. Certainly, if Arkansas gov. Bill Clinton were ten years younger and on the ballot, he would have won this election quite easily.


MARCU$

The Democrats lost an election to someone who is arguably, after Richard Nixon, the worst President of the 20th century. At the same time, they also lost seats in the House and Senate (where they are now 10 seats down). For God's sake, how can this be thought of as anything but an absolutely enervating and demoralizing defeat??

Oh, joy, a "Massachusetts liberal" got 48% of the vote! Halleleujah!

How about asking a few hard questions instead of proclaiming a moral victory for ourselves:

1) Why did John Kerry, who I would argue added almost no votes over generic "Democrat X [aka "Not Bush"]" get the nomination in the first place? While he may have been palatable to many, I know of not a single soul who was excited by his nomination. How did it happen that such an uninspiring candidate got nominated? You can't have a Goldwater moment with the 2004 retread of Michael Dukakis.

2) How did the Democrats lose the Senate seat in Oklahoma to a Mengele-lite? If we can't beat someone who was revealed to have sterilized poor women against their will, perhaps it is less than wholly truthful to say we are "building the foundations for future victory"?

3) How about a little recognition that if people want a Republican policy, they'll probably vote for a Republican? Does anyone really believe Kerry opposed gay marriage? I know I don't. Just maybe, for once, a party leader could be worthy of the name and actually LEAD? Why not fess up that, yes, Democrats believe in equal rights for all...and EXPLAIN why it's important? That is, why not lead, instead of following, public opinion? Might that not at least have made the loss a bit more bearable -- knowing that we lost on principles instead of being out-gay-bashed?

4) On a related note, how could we nominate a candidate who opposed the first Gulf War and then voted in favor of this one -- yet accused Bush of being unable to admit mistakes!! These votes were completely incoherent. The first war theoretically represented everything Kerry says is a necessary pre-condition to war, yet he opposed it. With that vote on his record, trying to deny that when he voted to give Bush carte blanche in Fall 2002 he thought the blessing would be used cautiously is nothing more than a blantant lie. Why not just admit, "Hey, I made a mistake with that vote"? In what way is such intransigence and bald-faced lying an improvement over Bush?

5) Finally, how about blaming the party leadership for this disaster and demanding that everyone from Terry McAuliffe to Nancy Pelosi step aside to allow new leadership to try to reorganize the party for 2006 and beyond? We lost in 2000. We lost in 2002. And now we've lost in 2004. Please explain why we shouldn't hold the party leadership responsible for this?

If the "Emerging Democratic Majority" is ever going to be more than a punchline, then perhaps it's time to stop waiting for the emergence to spontaneously begin on its own and to start figuring out why it hasn't happened already so we can give it a kick in the pants to get it going. Because I, for one, am sick of waiting for it.

Amen, EDM staff.

You know, you're right. In a way. The presidential election was pretty close, in a way. Actually, I don't think it matters that much who is in the White House.

But what about the Senate? How about Senators from the 13 Southern states? My favorite factoid from this election: in 1980, of the 26 Senators from the south, 20 were Democrats. After this election, 4 are Democrats.

What happened? Did the Dems just write off the South? How about the West where a similar trend is taking place?

And in the West and elsewhere, Hispanics are coming into the picture in a big way, and they don't vote the same way African-Americans do. They split between parties.

I think the Dems need to start thinking of ways to connect their message and values to people who live in the maligned flyover land. And stop sneering at the people who live there. I keep saying this, and I heard several liberal commentators say this today: lose Michael Moore, lose Hollywood, embrace the heartland, the South and the West. Or be prepared to lose future elections.

I suggested this to a friend, who was appalled. "But what if we have to compromise?" she said. I answered, "What's worse, compromising or losing?"

I have great respect for the way you frame your argument, but this is total nonsense.

First, there is nothing magical about a popular vote that exceeds 50%. It will happen in all elections when there is no viable third candidate, and it is unlikely to happen in any election when there is.

Second, why do we have this obsession about consoling ourselves that we fought the good fight and gave it our all? Maybe we did. But second best in our system means you are OUT OF POWER. Our opponents are very happy when they see us patting ourselves on the back for giving it the ol' college try. It makes it easier for them to roll us.

Third, you're ignoring the vote percentages we got that Bush gave to us. That fear-and-divisiveness strategy he used worked both ways -- many of our new voters will only come back the next time they fear that the Republican candidate will turn them into a radioactive cinder. In '06 and '08, we won't have that -- I doubt in my lifetime we'll see a more perfect target in an opponent.

Which leads to my final point -- the long game strategy worked for the hard right because they had a consistent message: Christian America, or drowning the federal government in a bathtub, or frictionless free markets. What, exactly, is the coherent long game message of the Democratic party?

When was the last time a prominent Democrat talked about ending poverty? And I mean ENDING poverty, not "warring" on it, or ameliorating it, or having a plan for improving welfare. When have we said, "we invented a nuclear bomb in four years; surely we can switch ENTIRELY to renewable energy in forty." When have we said, "go to the college of your choice, because an educated America is a strong America."

The closest we've come is expansion of health coverage, and both times the plan never got through to Americans. They're going to tar us as socialists anyway, so why not just say, "vote for us, and we'll pay for your health care." Sure, it's expensive, but we're ALREADY the tax-and-spend liberals. Why should WE be the only ones who must balance our budgets?

Or if you MUST, then just say, "we'll raise the taxes of everyone over the Social Security contribution cutoff of $87,000 as far as it takes to do it." Sure, it's a class war -- but we're not starting a class war, we've been IN a class war. Their side has been carpet bombing since 1980, and our side is so thoroughly eviscerated we're too timid to even mention it. When they started suddenly accusing us of class war last year, why do you suppose they did that? Because IT'S OUR WINNING ISSUE. And the Democrats once again proved that they slept through Clausewitz 101.

It comes down to this. Where is our New Deal, our Great Society? THOSE are Democratic visions that are resounding enough to have a meaning so long as there are Americans to study American history. If you think these ideas are "too liberal" for the modern Democratic party, choose your own. Be my guest. But just make them something vast, something sweeping, something that will take forty years to accomplish, and above all, something that will make the word Democrat be synonymous with something visionary. Because if you don't think that word presently means whatever the Atwater/Rove/Fox machine wants it to mean for their own purposes, then all I can say is that Tuesday was STILL not enough to shock you back to reality.

Respectfully,
Jeff Porten

Ruy could do us all a service by debunking this:

http://ustogether.org/Florida_Election.htm

Otherwise, John Zogby's apology seems a bit inappropriate. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...don't get fooled again.

There is possibly some truth to this. Certainly on some issues the future looks bright. Eventually, for example, the republicans won't be able to split the country apart on the issue of gay marriage. Younger Americans in large numbers agree with democrats on this issue. But I'm terrified of what is going to happen in the interim between now and when (if?) we get our country back. Will republicans create such a mess with the budget that we are plunged into an Argentine style debt crisis? Will they so isolate American and drag our name through the mud internationally so much that moral American leadership will be an impossibilty? What kind of damage might these people do to institutions of our democracy at home? There are errie suggestions already about how a 51% majority gives Bush the mandate to change rules of governance now. What's to stop him? Democrats might have built a foundation for future victories in this election (though it's pushing it to say that is the same thing as a win), but that doesn't offset the tragedy of what might happen in the mean time. Tuesday's reults don't fill me with anxiety because the fortell some kind of permanent minority status for democrats. They scare me because I'm now more moried about the future of my country than I have ever been in my lifetime. I'd gladly let Cheney and Bush and the rest of the spolied brats running our country gloat and prance around to their hearts content from now til doomsday if they would just let someone else, someone with a modicum of responsibilty, govern.

the problem is...we ACTUALLY won. No talk of emerging majority. This election was stolen, rigged, jiggered. The feeling of groundswell and rejection of this Bush mentality was correct. The vote counting was corrupted all over the country. The donkey has already risen and is strong.

This is nonsense. The democrats' opponent this time around was walking wounded as a result of the disastrous decisions he's made, and this had far more impact on his popular support than any measures the democrats took. Under those circumstances, anything less than a romping, runaway win is a disappointment, and this defeat is just stupefying.

Totally agree. Glad you wrote it. Let's get over it and move on to the upcoming local and state elections. There is a lot of work to be done.

I agree.

I remember what it was like in 1972 and 1984, and we are in a lot better shape to be the loyal opposition now than we were back then.

We were decimated in 1972, and we came back to win in 1976. We were destroyed in 1984, and we came back to lay the groundwork in 1985-1986 for the emergence of the Clinton candidacy.

This election has replenished the ranks of the party faithful. We now have committed young people who will be with us a lifetime.

We have been within a state or two winning the presidential election the past two times, and any way you slice it, that is a close, close finish.

Now we pick ourselves up, we dust off the dirt, and we get busy winning the House in 2006. The House is where we can target 25 or so Republicans, and start working to get good candidates and fund them.

Thank you, great piece, hopeful.

On to 2006.

Let's stay united, push our message, and for God's sakes, no more tangents to the right.

All of this is very rah-rah and encouraging, but

the Democratic message this election was almost exclusively defined by relation to the Republican message.

Part of that is because an election is always defined by the incumbent, but the fact remains, the Democrats need a message of their own. "We would do things better than Bush" is not good enough.

It is important that any Democratic person in the media remind the world that virtually half of the country did not vote Republican

Please, please, don't make the mistake of trying to spin a defeat into a victory. We lost. And we lost for a very clear reason - for the same reason that we have failed to break the 50% mark since 1976. The democratic party has failed to find a message that is easily understood and compelling. The last way I would characterize the Kerry campaign is as furthering “a politically viable moderate-progressive message”. There was no message in the campaign. There were many policies and plans, but there was no message. In contrast, the Republicans have a very clear, consistent message of conservative values and aggressive foreign policy. Democrats can win every policy debate, debunk every administration exaggeration, point out every fallacy in logic and solve every problem on paper and still never win another election. The message of this election and indeed the last 25 years is clear: Madison Avenue beats the ivory tower every time.

Election 2004 is not the Democrat’s 1964 or even 1976. Had we nominated Howard Dean to further bold new ideas and go down in flaming glory, it would be 1964. We did not. There was nothing in the Kerry campaign to inspire a new movement. Sure, there were some policy changes, but his candidacy came down to executing Bush’s war with more competence, softening, not eliminating Bush’s tax cuts and proposing, which is not the same as implementing, some reform of health insurance. No question these are good ideas and good policies and Kerry is a good man to get the job done, but this is not the substance of a progressive revolution ala Goldwater and Reagan.

Read Robert Reich’s essay in yesterday’s Slate. He nails the issue extremely well with the arguments for a Democratic party with values; consistent values that are clearly understandable at the gut level, and that we are proud of, not apologizing for as we run to the right in our race to outflank the median of the electorate. We have gone from MLK’s “I have a dream” to Kerry’s “I have a plan”. This is not an inspiration, these are not values and there is no message.

I appreciate your optimism, and the analysis you've provided to bolster it. However, when you strip away the math, and get right down to common sense, this is what I see happening:

IF the economy improves
IF we have no more terrorist attacks in country
IF we start bringing troops home from Iraq

all by 2006,

then I believe many more voters are going to move from the 55 million on our side of the ledger to the 59 million on their side of the ledger. We will lose any ability we have in the legislature to obstruct the conservatives from jamming their policies and beliefs right down our throats. And, their anger has been festering for about 40 years. When the door is opened a crack, they will kick it in, and this country, this world, will be a very intolerant and dangerous place.

We lost so much more on Tuesday than you folks can even imagine.

Thanks for the math, and thanks for a persuasive, logical approach to all this.

But, my gut and my heart tell me that 2006 is going to be the end for the Democratic party, IF certain things fall into place.

Losing is for losers. Winning means winning. So how about saying the Democrats came close to winning and are well positioned to win in 2008.

Let's count the other times we've won by losing.

1968 - because we passed the Civil Rights Acts
1972 - because we forced Nixon to get out of 'Nam
1980 - because we established human rights
1984 - because we had the courage to get creamed
1988 - because we had the courage not to get creamed
2000 - because Nader showed the left can't be taken for granted.
2004 - because we advanced the cause of gay rights.

Everything else in the article I agree with. Yes - there are sound reasons for hope. But when Bush barely wins, he still governs from the right so PLEASE don't call it winning. Losing is for losers.

It scares me that some take the lesson from Tuesday that we should have nominated someone like Dean. This country is fundamentally pretty conservative. We have some southern and western governors (Warner - VA, Schweitzer - MT, Richardson - NM) who may help us to figure out how to find common ground on core issues.

I think it's really important that the Dems start standing for more than just anti-GOP. We're going to see tax cuts and privatized Social Security now. The Democrats are going to articulate counter-proposals that will fill up paragraphs of detail but won't be easily understood in sound bites. I think that's the biggest problem between now and the '06 elections -- how to articulate good policies in pithy messages that people get.

Excellent analyss Rudy to which I would only add a point you made right here a few posts back, one that Ed Kilgore took up at New Democrats on line that ours is a problem of message to a degree. Kerry never managed what Bush did from the start - a clear clean easy to understand message which resonated well in the hearts of his main demographic..religious voters and white workign class males.


You can only do so much, go only so far in trying to break the GOP's grip on the culturallly conservative, militarist, religious right dominated Red States.

We cannot be pleased to have lost in the face of such a disatrious Bush first term. We cannot be pleased at the propsect that bush will push even more extreme policies while our party is essentialy powerless to stop him or that the US media having fallen to quiessence evea as governemtnal power has fallen away from the Party.

Keeping our wits about us and maximizing what few reouurces available toward getting our message heard is the first task.

No we can't be pleased that the Party is approximately in the same position we were four years ago.


But this time we can build on the very real strides we have made in this cycle.

We need to find a wedge issue with which to divide the unholy alliance of fundamentalists from the corporatists. Because these fundamentalists are unmoved by any incompetence or malfeasance on the part of their elected officials as long as they mouth their anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-feminist agendas, they are unreachable. The only reasonable reaction to these voters is LEGAL suppression. They must be made to see that they are being played for fools. They must choose to sit out elections rather than vote.

Rule number one:

When evaluating the party, DO NOT listen to the other side.

The current post mortem is a bit out of proportion. We lost 2 seats in the House, after the worst Gerrymandering since Mr. Gerry last put quill to paper. We lost 4 seats in the Senate, and one was Zell Miller.

We lost the presidency by the slimmest of margins.

There is a lesson, alright. The lesson is that we have to get back in there and put up House candidates and Senate Candidates that have a shot next time. If the conditions are right politically, we make back our losses and then some in 2006.

When you've been doing this as long as I have, it's not an election, it's just another battle in THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR - AMERICA.

We are in better shape than we were in 2000, in spite of what naysayers think. It's like a team in the midst of rebuilding, and the new team is doing well.

The pendulum will swing back in 06 or 08, and then all the TV talking heads will be clacking away about how the Dems did it. And they will just wrong as they are now.

Maybe the GOP won because they have a better machine in place? Maybe they work harder for the vote? I am willing to concede that the GOP rigged some votes, but so have the Dems in the past. (Think 1960, JFK and Chicago). However, in the end, I think they beat us fair and square.

The GOP is a party of activists. They don't sit around splitting hairs like the left routinely does year after year over who is "liberal" or "Republican lite." They are united around their message, messenger and get out the vote like it is a life and death struggle for the soul of America.

That is why so many Republicans end up running election sites in Democratic wards in swing states. They show up to run the polls, when Democrats sit back, don't volunteer on the local level, and hope for the 'best' based on some idea that a rational candidate (Kerry) will win out over a charismatic candidate (Bush). No wonder they win. Meanwhile, Dems thinks about joining the Greens after losing by 3% of the vote. How predictable. Until we emerge out of own echo chambers, support Dems that can relate to both middle America and progressives, we are doomed to be a party on the retreat fighting an internecine conflict.

You're kidding - We won?

We got beat. We lost the Presidency, the Senate, the House and coming ujp the Supreme Court.

This website was wrong about what was coming in this election, as was I. The Republicans did better than the polls this year, and two years ago.

Now it's possible that a state or two were stolen. It happened here in 2000 and in Mexico under Salinas. But not really probable - and we know darn sure that 3 million votes total in the nation weren't stolen. So, overrall possible, but not probable.

There is a possible Democratic majority out there, but it won't come into existence by itself. There has to be a party that they want to buy. And we don't have it. There are lots of strong social democratic parties in the world now - but not here. Because frankly the reason that the flip flopper label worked is because there's a kernel of truth. The democrats have been spine less in arguing their moral and policy positions.

There is a huge amount of work to be done, and rationalizing that it really wasn't that bad is not the place to start. Denial is the stage we have to get beyond.

No, Ruy, the Democrats did not just lose an election. They lost a crusade, one made after an enormous "big push" like the one's made on the Western Front which gained 100 yards of shell-plowed terrain at the cost of 100,000 casualties. Those generals could not explain why they were so inept, but they had military discipline to keep their troops in line.

The Democratic Party leaders do not enjoy that advantage. The party leadership needs to explain how it suffered a debacle up and down the ticket. It wasn't just any particular candidate. It was the entire slate at the national level virtually everywhere, when the voters (including those who voted for the other guy) agreed with the Democratic Party positions in most instances. How do you go about turning lemonade into lemons? Somehow, we've managed to do it.

The only thing I disagree with is the assertion that we "really" won. No, we lost. But the rest of the post is dead on accurate. Here's the thing, folks. We knew coming in that this was going to be a close election. We knew because no matter what bad news came out of Iraq and the economy, Bush's approval ratings never sunk below the high 40's, which meant that a solid near-majority of the public was going to vote for him no matter what. And the very definition of a "close" election is that you lose half the time. So we lost. We got out-GOTV'ed in one state by about 2 points. So be it.

I passionately disagree with those above who lament that this was a lost opportunity because Bush was so unpopular. That he had screwed up so badly. That's certainly true for us. But among the electorate at large it is not true. My hope is that, at long, long last, my fellow liberals will cast aside the blinders that allow them to assume that a majority of the electorate "really" (if they just thought it through) agrees with us. It's our blind spot, and has been for many years. This is why the right wing (for once accurately) refers to us as arrogant and elitist. We truly don't get that much of the electorate just thinks differently than us. And more importantly, that the themes that motivate us don't move the voters we need to move. If I see one more TV ad from our candidate about health care or job losses, I'm going to throw up. Swing voters simply don't believe government has much to do with those things, and don't vote on them.

So the original poster is right. We built something potentially powerful this time out. And we need it because, until those moderate, socially liberal Republicans start voting Democratic in larger numbers, we are in the minority. Accept that, understand that, roll around with it for a while and let it motivate you. It's been the truth for some time, but it doesn't mean that we can't win. Just look at Ronald Reagan, who won despite the opposite being true.

If you want to get mad, do it for the right reasons. We did not "blow it." We got beat by a party working just as hard and believing just as much that they are right. What we have to do now is continue building for the next round. We'll get there. Trust me.

Folks,

I agree with Ruy's assesment. There is a lot of good that comes out of this election while losing. As far as losing Senate seats, hey.....they were in the South and the South is the equivalent of Cryptonite to Dems as the North East, North Central and West Coasts are for the GOP. This election was basically a re-run of 2000 with just 3 states changing hands from 2000.

The truth is that unless the dems find a cohesive counter argument to the GOP on their perverted "values/morals" and use of religion, we will keep losing big in stron dixie states rather than narrowly. I am proud we ran close race for Kerry against a "War President" when in 2001-2002 he as tought to be just invinsible. Kerry made them sweat and thats a lot to ask for.

Now, lets take the good out of this and build on it and find ways to consistently counter the GOP's perversion of "values".

CM

Out "divided culture" is a recipe for disaster. We're like Oliver Cromwell's England. That means that "reaching out" is naive as a tactic. It's patronizing and pandering to do so, and, it won't work.

Why? Because the divide in this country -- largely rural vs. urban -- is nearly as wide as the divide between Palestinians and Israelis. It's old, long standing and with fundamentalist religious underpinning on the right, a secular worldview and social tolerance on the left. It goes as far back as our Founding Fathers. Worst, it has been fired and stoked by some very clever demagogues.

Someone with the leadership qualities of an FDR, Churchill or Lincoln might be able to bridge the gap, but I don't see anyone of that quality in either party. The usual suspects -- Hillary, Lieberman, et al, isn’t going to do it.

On an ancillary matter, I've seen circumstantial, but no hard evidence of vote jigging to date, but won't be shocked, shocked like Claude Raines if someone finds irrefutable proof of it on the part of GOPers.

If that happens, then it raises the specter of future elections of becoming pro forma if the ruling party keeps itself in office through vote manipulation. Stalin said it's not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.
Add a compliant, "Sovietized" press -- witness Fox and CNN’s Fox Lite -- and we may be doomed as the world's oldest democracy.

This probably deserves it's own thread, but anyway: why do democrats get tangled up in marginal political issues that are not their strength?

Are the democrats bigger supporters of gay rights than the gay themselves? The election says "yes" -- 23% of gays voted for Bush vs 11% of democrats.

Why can Florida (read "Florida republicans") capitalize on a sensible minimum wage ballot measure, a traditional democrat idea, approved by 71%, but this issue was never brought to the table strongly enough in the presidential elections? Would not a similar measure in Ohio motivate and strenghten the democrat turnout?

At the end, what do the democrat stand for and why are those issues not central to their campaign?

I disagree about the 1992 race. Clinton's number after Perot withdrew but before he reentered were in the mid 50's. If Perot had not comeback Clinton would have had a majority back then. I think that is a testament to his special gifts as a politician rather the the policies per se that he espoused.

But while I love this site, undue optimism can be a hindrance; and we must recognize that the institutional advantages of one party government, that the Repub's will use ruthlessly, can and will severely impact our ability to keep our message out there. 527's can be outlawed or eviscerated. the filibuster could be gone. they can and already have created a majority out of what was initially a minority in this country. The push to pass social security privatization is not just a fiscal nightmare but can undermine the ties that bind people to the Democratic party. If Clinton has passed health care we would still be a large governing party. That is what the New Deal reforms created; a constituency who understood what this party and its principles had achieved for them. And you did not address the gains they made in the Hispanic community in which we are banking much of our hopes for an emerging Democratic majority.

Those caveats said I agree about our unity and resolve in this election and without gay marriage we would have won.

Ruy - Time to pull your head out of the sand. A defeat is not a victory. And no spin is going to turn it into one.

Take a look at this breakdown of exactly who voted for whom in this election: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=41&ItemID=6571

"By income, not surprisingly Kerry got fewer votes the wealthier the constituency and Bush got correspondingly more votes the wealthier the constituency. Of the 45% of voters who earn less than $50,000 a year, Kerry won 56% to 43%. (Of course, a big question is, what caused 43% to vote so explicitly against their own material interests?) On the other hand, of the 55% of voters who earn over $50,000 per year, Bush won 55% to 44%. Kerry also won 51% to 48% among the 82% of voters who earn $100,000 or less. But for the 18% who earn above $100,000, Bush won 57% to 41%. If more people went to the polls, which would have meant that more lower income people went to the polls, Kerry would have won the election. Likewise, had voters who earn under $50,000 or under $100,000 for that matter, voted for Kerry proportionate to the real material interests they had, he would have won."

So the question is: why didn't more lower income people go to the polls? And why did the ones who did go vote against their own interests?

Answer: They they're not stupid. They saw that the Democratic party does not stand up for them. Does not explicitly appeal to their interests. Most of all, they don't TRUST Democrats. They're rightly cynical of politicians who promise something and then nothing really changes. Thus, the only way to mobilize such people is from the bottom up. And until we do it we will continue to lose.
You can't show up at election time and just appear and say "vote for me" when there's no track record of advocacy during the interval.
Just as Democrats lost consistently during the 1920s.

I won't even go into the advantages we had this time that we won't next. We will never face a President this vulnerable again. Bush could easily have appealed to the middle after 9-11, in which case he would have won in a landslide to make Reagan's look like a cliff-hanger. He CHOSE to govern from the extreme right and thumb his nose at anyone who criticised or tried to warn him. And he got away with it.

If we can't beat Bush this time we must face the necessity for a fundamental re-ordering of our approach, akin to the conservatives in 1964.

Now we have to explicitly organize and adopt policies that will appeal directly to those people making less than $100,000 and especially making less than $50,000. This means populism. Just as Franklin Roosevelt won by mobilizing conservative religious farmers and workers in a nation FAR more conservative and religious than it is today, we can do the same.

But we have to abandon the effort to position ourselves 1% to the left of the Republicans and mobilize our natural constituencies in their own defense. Unless we are willing to do this we might as well resign ourselves to being a permanent minority party.

Ruy,

Although I understand where you are coming from, I have to disagree. We should not have lost to a president with such a terrible record. 48% is not good enough. We allow the Republicans to hoodwink the American people. We have failed the American people in this election. What is even more terrible is the horrible way we lost ground in congress, especially the senate. We failed to communicate to the American people what we really stand for. American people voted for the Republicans because they believed their lies. We must explain ourselves better in simpler terms. That's what works. I'm afriad that at this moment in our history, most of America will never understand the "nuanced" policy positions that Kerry spoke about. We must refine our positions into simple and clear but honest messages. We must not lose more ground in 2006.

If this Democratic Coalition is going to remain viable over the next couple of years, we are going to have to support all parts of it as Bush's legislative agenda becomes clear.

2004 was not expected to be good year for Democratic pick-ups in the Senate. But 2006 is quite a different story, there are a number of potential Democratic pick-ups if good candidates are recruited, prepared, properly funded and all.

But getting the House back is going to depend on Democrats using the next couple of years to control more state legislatures and statehouses so as to be players in redistricting in 2010.

It's hard to take positives from this result.

From a grand strategic viewpoint it probably means the Dems will have a very good chance in 2008, but I wouldn't credit this campaign with laying the groundwork for that. I'd say that's based more on the likelihood Bush will have created even more of a mess by then - one that stains the Republicans' reputation enough to lead to a convincing Democrats landslide (or at least one where the likes of Ohio and Florida definitely shift).

The sad thing about that is what it will mean for the country and world in the meantime. Obviously, if I had a choice, I'd much rather take a Bush administration that changes course dramatically towards the center over the next four years, than a 'more of the same' scenario, even if it would boost the Dems electoral chances. Sadly, if I had to bet, my money would be on the latter occurring.

For all the 'How could anyone lose to Bush' sentiment, I have to say that the campaign dynamics were against the Democrats in 2004. The Republicans were willing and able to play the fear card that they were given post-9/11, and to throw in a number of wedge social issues that got the Christian Far Right out in droves. I'm sure they'll have things up their sleeves in 2008 (and the '06 midterms), but I doubt they'll have the same potency, whatever they are.

I do think Kerry ran a good campaign, even if I can't find real positives in the aftermath of the election result. There wasn't a great deal more he could do. I think the Democrats perhaps ultimately paid dearly for equivocating in the lead up to Iraq. There was a definite meekness in supporting Bush at that stage, something that aided the packaging of Iraq with the 'War on Terror' (which has been important for them in defraying the massive damage Iraq should have done to Bush's re-election chances).

In terms of the campaign itself, the lull post-Democratic Convention up until the Republican Convention was damaging.

I think the key is to recognise that it was a close result, and that there shouldn't be infighting or overly-vehement recriminations. Half the country doesn't have any interest in adopting the Republican agenda.

It's a concern that the Dems are seemingly locked out of large swathes of the nation, but there doesn't need to be a massive shift in party values for the Dems to succeed, rather a focus on supplementing urban strength with a concerted push into the suburban vote. Easier said than done perhaps, but these are voters that could be swayed if there's a strong campaign on economic issues, especially if they can be parted from this ridiculous War-on-Terror-inspired Republican safety blanket.

On Stragey for 2008:

we need to hit on all cyliners starting right now.

i suggest a boycott of MSNBC.

1. its low viewership makes it suseptible to even a puny boycott.

2. give the knuckle dragers fox

3. cnn on the whole seemed quite balanced in the end

4. msnbc has real talent and good programs....unfortuantely they have one conservative demogaouge ..scarborugh and everything on his program is pro repub..

imagine if they had on air an anti-scarbourgh telling us(ad nauseum nigh after night) about an increase of 5 million young voters instead of...heh "they voted like they always do"..that would be a powerful tool for us. that would keep those +5 million for engaged for 4 years.

and the matthews line up for election coverage was slanted repubs(between balance of commentators and balance of guests)..as was matttews until he sniffed the wind Nov 1..but was right back to CW on Nov 3.

so i say boycott msnbc unitl they assure us of balance across.

its time for radical change in our thinking.

The good news and the bad news, demographically, is that the mobilization of younger voters is the key to the loss in 2004 and to potential wins in 2006, 2008, and later. Only 10% of the 18-24 age group voted in 2004. If 50% had voted, and had voted for Kerry in the same proportion as did the 18-29 age group, then Kerry would have had gained 5 million more votes than Bush from this group.

The following stats are from the L.A. Times:

Age group % of all voters Bush Kerry
18-29 20% 43% 55%
30-44 32% 52% 47%
45-64 36% 54% 45%
65 or older 12% 55% 45%

you could also look at it from the other perspective which is:despite being the worst president in history and campaigning while fighting a war that is unnecessary, the majority of the country still voted for Bush. Kerry would have been fine in my opinion as a leader, but he did NOTHING during the campaign to clearly display to the public what he was about. That is what cost him. he basically ran as "anyone but Bush" and middle america did not know what he stood for-unlike bush who hammers home the same points and ideals time and again. The Dems need to push someone in'08 who the whole country knows very well.

Please. No. We didn't win. We lost. Just because the other side is defining a 21st century version of Orwellianism doesn't mean we should do so.

I agree there was a lot of great work that went on in connection with this campaign, the sort of work we can and must build on to regain power. As usual, Josh Marshall was right on target, I believe, when he advised progressives/liberals to pick an institution that they believe is helping to build a better progressive future and support it. It would be a disaster if all of the great work that has been done is allowed to peter out amidst the despair, frustration, and anger. He's right that energy and spirits flag with the ins and outs of election cycles--which is why we need institutions to sustain our efforts for the long haul.

I for one refuse to join any shooting circle. I believe a brutally honest, tough-minded look at what we need to do better to win is essential. Of course there is going to be lots of passion infused into the arguments of those whose interpretations and views on what we need to do to move forward differ.

My nighttime reading starting a couple of days before the election was George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. I am not finished with it, but I believe he is definitely onto something when he speaks of the importance of frames and values in political communication. I am an example of one of those hyper-educated folks who tends reflexively to believe that having the facts on your side and making your case with logic and reason should suffice to win over a majority. Well, maybe it should. But Lakoff and some of the early reporting on why we lost are pushing me to the view that facts, logic and reason--by themselves--are not enough. I take it as part of my own personal challenge to expand my repertoire of thinking about how to win over more people to our side through more effective use of political language.

John Kerry ran an energetic and tough campaign. He acquitted himself well. I respect and admire him. He can hold his head up high for a heroic effort to slay a mighty dragon. I am proud to have supported him wholeheartedly.

This Election was stolen as the 1st one was and it will come to light. The machines were rigged...software by Diebold.

Agree with Sean Willett. BTW, the emergence of Dean shows indirectly the awful gap at the heart of the Dems' political strategy. Who was Howard Dean before? Why did it fall to him to give focus to the feelings and efforts of so many, who clearly knew very well what they had been thinking all along? Where were the "framers" of the party, including the Clintons? (Let's all remember, in 2007, what a shameless panderer she had been on the 2002 war resolution, too.)

Dean had the guts to oppose a war that should have been opposed by the entire party (sorry, I'll shed not tears over Daschle's defeat, however more estimable the man is than the smarmy a*e replacing him). But other than that, what was *his* message? Health care? But even "good public health care" cannot be *the* message, only one of its corollaries.

Why is it that it matters to us that working people can't really get decent health care? What is *unjust* about that? *That* would be our core message. Dean had precious little to say about that, except to say that he had balanced budgets. And why is that important? It can't be a technical explanation: no one cares, and Dick Cheney had the wisdom of pointing that out.

"For all the 'How could anyone lose to Bush' sentiment, I have to say that the campaign dynamics were against the Democrats in 2004. The Republicans were willing and able to play the fear card that they were given post-9/11, and to throw in a number of wedge social issues that got the Christian Far Right out in droves. I'm sure they'll have things up their sleeves in 2008 (and the '06 midterms), but I doubt they'll have the same potency, whatever they are.

"I do think Kerry ran a good campaign, even if I can't find real positives in the aftermath of the election result. There wasn't a great deal more he could do. I think the Democrats perhaps ultimately paid dearly for equivocating in the lead up to Iraq. There was a definite meekness in supporting Bush at that stage, something that aided the packaging of Iraq with the 'War on Terror' (which has been important for them in defraying the massive damage Iraq should have done to Bush's re-election chances)."

Thank you very much for that thoughtful analysis, Raja. In whatever strategy we move forward with we must remember: THE REPUBLICANS HAVE TAPPED OUT THEIR RESOURCES.

Maybe we did, too, but that remains to be seen. But I can say that as a leftist I was very surprised by the vigor of Kerry's campaign. Unlike Gore, he called it like it was. The Bushites went into this with their eyes wide open. Everything that follows is their fault.

Com...

Plete...

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While this article makes me temporarily less distressed but ultimately I agree with Prizer, we have gained very little.

OK, so we found out for the second time that a New England demo with liberal credentials could not get elected. Maybe we had to do the experiment twice to get the results down. So let's move on, and clue in the folks in Iowa and New Hampshire. Someone must win, someone must lose, this is the fact. I am no longer depressed, just committed to fixing it the next time.

What does bother me is the consolidation of power in the congress. This is going to be much more difficult to overcome because it means winning many elections in different states. Moreover, this is not a recent trend. GOP hold on congress has, except for a slight hiccup, been steadily gaining seats for a decade. Far more than the presidency, this bothers me.

I am astonished how you can continue to be so pollyanish. And I wish I knew about this tendency before I started reading this blog and ignorantly bought into the optimistic spin of the pre-election polls.

Frankly, I just don't see the parallels with this election and the previous ones, for the simple reason that there is no obvious, nascent movement afoot in the Democratic party. This party is adfrift. And the only positive thing I see coming from this year's results is that Bush and his cohorts will inevitably overreach, causing a natural backlash. I expect to pick up a healthy number of seats in 2006, and be decently positioned for 2008, but not because of any emerging movement, but just because of the Republicans' tendency to shoot themselves in the foot.

Right on except that Dean took his 'Net page from MoveON.

Next challenge: Reversing the '94 Contract with America take over of Congress. Less than 2 years til the '06 midterms. ...

I know everyone's sick of hearing about how "9/11 changed everything", but the fact is that it was only three years ago and is still fresh in just enough minds to tilt people to Bush. People just didn't want to change presidents yet.

However, we only lost 51/48. If you'd have told me that a year and half ago, I'd have taken it.

My problem with the GOP is that they really have been taken over by the Christian fundamentalists. And while I'm glad to see this topic finally on the front burner, we have to remember that they are just one voting bloc. Granted, the 22% who voted "moral values" would never vote for anyone with a "D" besides their name, but that leaves a
lot of other swing voters who are receptive to our message for the future.

Were it not for 9/11, we would have won. But without 9/11, Gore probably would have been the nominee.

2008 will be the first election since 1952 without an incumbent President or Vice President running(unless Cheney steps down) I have a feeling that it will be a completely different set of issues.

Let's be ready!

In politics, as in football, there are no moral victories. You either win or you lose.

So despite all the talk to the contrary, let's all face one salient fact: No matter what happens in the '06 congressional elections or the '08 presidential election, at least for the next two years Bush is going to have essentially dictatorial powers to do anything he wants.

And please keep in mind these are not the same Republicans we faced after 1972 or 1980 or 1984. For one thing, the Democrats still controlled Congress then. And for another thing, even Nixon and Reagan look moderate by today's standards.

Yes, the Democrats may get their act together and retake the White House in '08. But I shutter to think what America will look like by that time.

So, yes, we must regroup and figure a way to win next time. But let's not kid ourselves. This was our chance to save the America we love. And we blew it. May God help us now.

Losing is losing. We cannot congradulate ourselves for virtually anything that went on last Tuesday. We need to find a way to reach out, have a clear and consise message. Until we find that voice I fear we will continue to be speachless. Let's get to work.

Re: Irony

The irony of all the naysayers is that they don't get that this is what separates them from the Republicans. Not policy. Plain old fashion long term commitment to the long term movement. For them, it's a movement- for us its an election- Well for me its now a movement. I saw an excellent piece of NOW the other night about the guy who is the father of Republican direct marketing, and this guy has been at this since the 60s, and he is now finally seeing the fruition of his vision. Do you have that kind of commitment or is this about instant gratification?

"What does not kill me makes me stronger."

-- Friederic Neitzche

I am extremely gratified by the mood of Democrats of every stripe who, as the disappointment begins to dull a little and we stand back to survey the aftermath, find ourselves more than a little astounded by some of the things we have accomplished in this election cycle. Everywhere I look I see people eager to preserve and strengthen the remarkable things we have built and feeling a very healthy reluctance to turn on each other like a pack of rabid weasels and start tearing it all down the way we usually do. This bodes well for the future, I think.

PS: Did'ja know that in the ~150 years the Republican party has been in existence, New Hampshire has never before swung Democratic in a presidential election won by a Republican? I looked it up. They've gone with many the Republican loser but Democrats have won in NH only eight times since Lincoln was in office, only thrice since WWII, and never before when a Republican won nationally.

So that's kind of cool. Bush won solid Red states and most of the perrineal swing states but we did manage to pick off one of theirs.

Sorry to say this, but we were in fact defeated. Beaten fair and square. And enough talk about the election being stolen by the forces of evil.

We lost because for all our talk about democracy and every vote counting what comes out when we open are mouths to convince our opponents are contempt, elitism and, yes, bigotry.

First, contempt for anyone who just may see things different than we do. I grew up in a liberal household. We were Democrats, too. I put it that way because my family, I like to think, were made up of people who were liberal in the classic sense. They welcomed and listened to other viewpoints and when the arguments from the other side made sense to them, actually changed their minds. We were Democrats because we were also leftists. And not raving commie leftists either, just a Roosevelt/Truman/Kennedy family steeped in union politics and the belief in America as the last, best hope for humanity. Sorry to go all Republican on you there, but you get my drift. But something is rotten in the Democratic Party when we become so enamored of old dogma and worn out policy that we refuse to see others as maybe having a better idea. We have become like a party of 12-steppers who never, ever get better and don't want anybody else to get better, either.

The second reason we lost is that our candidate exemplified to most Americans the stereotypical limousine liberal. You see, we've always characterized Republicans as living in the party of the rich, never caring one iota for anybody outside the country club door. You know I'm right. But here's the kicker. We are just as enamored of blue bloods and celebrity as we accuse our Republican opponents (I will NOT say enemies. That sort of talk is truly un-Democratic and dangerous and somebody should tell the likes of Michael Moore and Eschaton and Daily Kos to shut their traps). Everybody loves to hang out with the rich and famous. But when our candidates do so often, it looks as if we have nothing to offer but another vacuous star telling us how stupid we are. We get enough of that from the rest of the world, we don't need it from our own people.

And while we're on the subject, who the hell advised Kerry that the way to rouse shell shocked voters was to tell them that the whole world was watching? I am convinced that at that precise moment about three million people decided to vote with their middle finger. I could go on about the whole European thing but you get the point. And no, I do not hate Europe. I adore Europe and the UK. My daughter goes to school at an international university in London with kids from all over the world, including the Continent and the Middle East. So don't go assuming that you're talking to some Europhobe.

Number three reason for losing: We're a big nasty bunch of fire-breathing cultural and political bigots. Just read a few of the Democratic post mortems. You don't even have to go to the crazies, look over Maureen Dowd or EJ Dionne or Krugman. Basically what all that they ahve to say is this: Every last person, if you could even call them people in those red states are ALL STUPID FAT NASCAR WATCHING COUSIN SCREWING MOBILE HOME LIVING IDIOTS. I saw some pictures from a protest in San Francisco. Not good pr, let me tell you. Oh, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth and "I'm moving to Canada" crap makes us look like a bunch of spoiled adolescents. It's us or them. NYT readers or Fox News watchers. Want to piss off more people? I don't know if it's possible.

I vividly remember when Reagan beat Carter in 1980. It was my first election and I couldn't wait to get out there and vote. I had been raised as such a political animal that just the act of voting, for me, was like having a new holiday. I was crushed when Carter lost. I thought the world would come to an end. Then when the Gipper trounced Fritz, I knew it was the end. Didn't all those idiots know what they've done? Reagan was going to lead us directly to Armageddon, no stops. Disaster would be visited upon our heads for such a transgression. The thing is, it never happened. We all lived. Why? Because the American system is built on the genius of the American people. But our politics have become more like sports. We just want our team to win. By the way, we're always right, they're always evil. I've been slack-jawed amazed to hear the same people who call Bush a simpleton tear into any Bush voter they find with the same kind of over simplistic rhetoric. It would be funny if I was a Republican. But it only distresses me.

What bothers me most is when our people talk about democracy and then when democracy happens, the want to take their ball and go home. And can we stop with the patently dumb polemics about gays being rounded up and women being forced to have babies? No one takes us seriously when we talk like that. I don't. So grow up, Junior.

In the interest of full disclosure, if you care and are still reading, I reregistered this year as an Independent as my form of protest. I will now turn back to the bosom of my party because I believe that abandoning it now would be cowardly. I don't know what I can do, but I will try whatever I can to save this beautiful, lively party from extinction. If you have any suggestions, I would welcome them.

One final thought, finally.

If we don't own the fact that we are locked in an existential struggle with Islamic fascism we are doomed. And no, George Bush is no more like Osama bin Laden than John Kerry is like Fidel Castro. Tell your boys and girls at the DNC to knock it off. People who go to church every Sunday and have a more fundamental view on abortion and gay marriage are not the enemy. The fascists who killed Theo Van Gogh are the enemy. Where's Michael Moore when a fellow moviemaker is murdered for telling the truth? Oh yeah. Hanging with Jimmy Carter. We have become twisted in our fevered desire to regain power.

We want a united country but are unable to unite even our party. Surely there is a leader out there who can articulate all this, no? Or at least someone who can read these words and pretend they understand them? Hey, it worked for the GOP. Let's hope after the wounds are healed we'll get down to being a national party. Because right now, from where I sit, it's getting a bit lonely.

This is from a letter I sent to the Moose. I'm sure he threw it out, too.

Folks,

Go see the raging blogfire in Dailykos. This is a sleeper issue that Blogs can kick around for a long time about voting irregularities, e-voting...

www.dailykos.com

The recomended diaries in the upper right hand corner are on fire......

CM

The article and all of these responses make for interesting reading, but I can't help but hear Tip O'Neill's maxim: "All politics is local." In my case, "local" is Ohio.

But for our party in this past election, Ohio was the nation.

We really don't have a well-organized Democratic party here. We have excellent Democratic parties in Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Columbus, etc. (Cincinnati, with its legions of Nazis, is a special case, of course). For this campaign, there was a concerted effort throughout the state--primarily through the unions and the Kerry campaign. But somebody dropped the ball and that's why we lost Ohio.

If we can't win Ohio-- in a year when unemployement here is so high--we have no hope of winning back the White House. Somebody ought to put 2 + 2 together and realize that Ohio needs a stronger state Democratic party.

So, I propse that the Democratic party "adopt" Ohio as a special project. When the most forceful, clearest message against the anti-gay amendment was a Republican (Voinovich), it says something about the disorganized nature of the party in this state. Ohio is the microcosm of the national party's problem. It seems the party (state and national) was stuck in some reflexive thinking: increase registration and get out the vote in Cleveland, Toledo, etc., and we can counterbalance the downstate vote. But this time it wasn't enough. The Republicans got more rural voters than, I guess, we believed they could. That's pretty narrow-minded politics on our part.

I live in a mainly rural district where a young candidate for Congress, totally unknown this summer, got 3,000 more votes than Kerry did. This candidate (and we who supported him) worked very hard. I hope he runs again in 2006. But will there be the kind of support from the state and national party that there was this year? Will they return to writing off this district?

Why didn't someone come to Ohio and talk about one of the core values of our party: that all God's children deserve respect. That the state amendment went way beyond denying gay marriage, and took civil rights away from not only gays but also heterosexual couples who weren't married? Why did we shy away from discussing one of our deepest values?

I have talked with several conservatives about their vote for the ant-gay amendment. None of them had read it; all of them simply did what their fundamentalist pastors told them to do. All of them expressed regret for their vote. We missed an opportunity to get them to think, and an opportunity to get their vote.

We cannot allow Ohio 2004 to happen again.

Democrats have to seize the moral high ground in a manner that is compelling to people in the middle of this country who believe there is only one moral option in American politics. There are two succinct messages I believe need to be expressed over the next couple of years.

1) Stop stealing from the people.

Advocate economic responsibility and hold the Republican party responsible for redistribiting wealth upwards.

2) Stop killing our children.

This message will sadly resonate with more people over the coming months as Iraq claims the lives of more troops. Again, holding the Republican party responsible for the war is crucial, and this rhetoric may be expanded to include anti-violence initiatives (such as reinstating the assault weapon ban) and environmental initiatives at home. We need to re-frame what Pro-Life means in American political discourse and use it to attack the other side.

For too long the Democrats have played defense on the culture wars, and it has killed the party in the south, the plains, and the interior west. Instead of defending mealy-mouthed responses to "abortion is murder!" and "homosexuals destroy marriage!" the proper response is to reframe the morals issue as an attack on Republican values. Who can argue that killing our children is wrong? That's the brilliance of the "Pro-Life" rhetoric -- any dissent is inherently defensive. Who can argue that stealing from the people is wrong? Republicans may scream "class war," but they will be put on the defensive -- in moral terms -- for their economic policies in a much more visceral way than has been attempted since the 1930s. Keep it simple, strong, and paint the people of this country as victims of the Republican agenda. Americans love seeing themselves as victims. That's how the Republicans amassed so much power over the past forty years. As more people slide into poverty, die in the war, and get sickened by environmental ills, there's ample reason to accuse the right of victimizing the nation.

Fight fire with fire. There's plenty of fuel.

This analysis fails badly in that it repeatedly refers to a message that progressive and centrist dems agreed on. One that will live on beyond the campaign as a galvanizing force. Of course, it does not quote the message--because it did not actually exist.

Kerry had no message, Gore had no message, even Clinton had the "vison thing" problem. All DLC candidates. Coincidence?

Don't get me wrong, I am as practical as the next guy and was pretty much in the anybody but Dean camp. BUt at the end of the day we have to show some real leadership and it isn't happening.

There is no comparison to Goldwater here. Kerry stood for nothing more than an amalgamation of Bush critques.

I sincerely hope the Democratic hierarchy has learned it's lesson. NEVER, NEVER nominate a Yankee at the top of the ticket. According to the electoral map of 2004, it does not play well. After the debacles of '84 & '88, you would think the primary voters got a wake up call. Stop pandering and kissing up to left wing special interests. As a liberal, I encourage the next nominee to be a Southern that can speak the evangelical language of the Bible Belt. John Edwards raised a Baptist, could have done much better. He speaks to the Bubba in a more moderate way. and could recite the scriptures at the drop of a dime. Like FDR and Truman, Edwards could demonstrate political skill which could vastly strengthen the party, he could retain the support of liberals in the cities and of many conservatives in the South. Don't worry about kissing up to Hollywood and the Cultural elite, you have their vote anyway. Pander to Southerners, visuals and image is everything ! We can't change the direction of the country, unless we know how to win first.

Per dr. cookie's comments about John Kerry:

Kerry had, by far, the most progressive beliefs and voting record of the viable candidates (I'm excluding Al Sharpton, although I admire him tremendously, and excluding Dennis Kucinich because he really did not have a shot). He even maintained his opposition to the death penalty when just about all of the other candidates who had a real chance caved and decided to support it (this includes particularly Howard Dean, who was a conservative Democrat in his own state). He has about the best record on the environment of anyone in the Senate. Furthermore, you sound just like the GOP when you start that "first he voted for it then he voted against it" stuff about the war. He voted for the right to threaten force, it was not an endorsement of going to war while inspections were successfully going on.

I am a progressive, left, Democrat, and I found John Kerry's stands to be perfectly consistent with both progressive beliefs, and at the same time, having to forge a party that reaches out to a broader spectrum of citizens.

Oh, I do remember Vietnam, and anyone who had both the courage to serve when NO ONE of his class was, and then the courage to lead the antiwar movement--well I think he has paid his dues. He didn't spend the war in Europe going to school or going AWOL from his reserve unit.

I didn't want to be pulled into this my candidate was better than yours garbage. We fought a very honorable campaign with a candidate we can be proud of, and we're in a hell of a lot better shape then we were a year ago.

Let's not trash the candidate, when there are much deeper institutional causes right now of why Kerry did not get elected. We need to look to the midterm elections, and feel proud of ourselves for not veering to the right in this one, and NOT playing the game the way they do.

Man, why does this article remind me of the last scene in the Monty Python film Life of Brian, where all the crucified thieves were gaily singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?"

The truth is, if you try hard enough you can always find a way to put a positive spin on anything. Just totalled my car? Awesome! Forget about car insurance, maintenance, fuel costs - look at all the money I'll be saving by not having a car! Not to mention all the great exercise I'll get from all the additional walking. Sheesh, shoulda run the damn thing into a wall years ago!

One thing I do know about this election: A substantial number of people who wanted to vote and intended to vote were denied the opportunity to vote. And major obstacles were put in the way of many others, from unmailed absentee ballots to six hour waits at the polling place to hopelessly antiquated and unreliable voting equipment that caused many ballots to end up in the waste basket.

And of course, the most ominous unanswered question of all - were all the votes that were cast electronically counted in a fair and impartial manner? Anecdotal evidence suggests there is ample reason to suspect otherwise.

Drawing a happy face on a photo of a mugging victim doesn't make the crime any less real - let's not delude ourselves into believing this past Tuesday was anything other than a very sad, disappointing and profoundly disturbing day in our nation's history.

Ds HAVE to learn to play Rove's game or they will keep losing and being surprised why afterwards.

The next ballot should include an initiative to outlaw divorce (it's against God's will, as clearly expressed in the Bible). Maybe divorcees should also be jailed or at least branded with a scarlet "D".

Ds should start working now to get this initiative on every state ballot and then force R candidates to either support it or explain why not.

Then watch the fireworks!

Oh, oh...

Looks like I may have spoken too soon. Perhaps there will be no preservation of newly forged coalitions, nor leveraging of newfound strengths after all. Perhaps we *will* just disintegrate into a snarling pack of cannibalistic weasels and begin feasting upon one another immediately, only to have to build up from scratch for the next election upon the smoking ruins last.

Well, if that's how it's going to be then let's get on with it. Let the quadrennial chorus begin:

"THE DEMOCRATS LOST BECAUSE WE WERE NOT VOCAL ENOUGH IN (ADVOCATING/SPEAKING OUT AGAINST) ____________ (insert personal pet issue/narrow viewpoint here)."

I really find this ritual self-immolation to be a wonderfully cathartic process and an incredibly useful way to spend our time and energy. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

Personnaly, I think everyone is over analizing the result. The DieBold machines were rigged and the out come was inevitable. They ONLY way Bush could win was to rig the machines.

It is the rigged voting machines, stupds!

I am impressed by the analysis and by the comments. I believe it is helpful to examine our political skills, determine where the opposition got the upper hand, and act on what we have learned. At some point the self-examination and flagellation must stop, and then we begin to work again.

With that in mind, I have a few observations:

First, the Religious Right began quietly working in the early 1990s at the local level, placing their own in local school boards and on city councils. That is what we must do, and several other commenters mentioned that. We as active Democrats must get involved in local politics and the local Democratic Party. Learn how the party works. Find your ward and precinct, and learn how political parties function. Knowledge is indeed power; by getting active and founding a local Democratic club in the Republican suburbs, I feel a little better knowing that we helped return county government to Democratic control.

Second, in my discussions with Republicans, I found their voting decisions to be based on what they were told to believe about Kerry and Bush by the Republican party; there wasn't any real personal examination of issues going on. To understand this blind allegiance, I recommend the much-touted book, "What's the Matter with Kansas?" by Thomas Frank, and also recommend checking into George Lakoff, the respected linguist who has unpacked and examined language on the right. His work can be found on Amazon and through the Buzzflash online headline service.

Finally, like the commenter named Mike, I live in Ohio, where we won the cities but lost the countryside. Our work for the next few years must focus on changing the political language to our advantage to win back these rural dwellers. Mike is 100% correct that the Ohio Democratic Party is broken; this we must change as well. If either of these problems exist in your state, start working to change them now. I hope my suggestions help.

For the sake of sanity, will the National Democratic Party please bury the issue of gun control.

Is it really worth loosing on all our other needed reforms for what is really a false promise anyway?

Shall we sacrifice all of our agenda at the altar of this false god indefinitely? Word to the leadership, cut this albatross loose.

In response to Paula,
Right ON! To win the war we have to know our enemy. Not that the GOP is our enemy, they are americans too and, the far majority, are probably not that much different polically.

But to win the "war" we have to follow and emulate where feasible the tactics that they have sucessfully adopted. Working at the grass roots level we can hope to conquer!

I have to agree with Sean Willet above. This is no 1964-like new beginning. We didn't go down in flames standing up for our values. We pandered to the middle (we'll give you more tax cuts!), tried to pretend we weren't liberals (We support state constitutional bans on gay marriage, just not federal ones! Oh yeah, plus we love guns!), and generally came off as Republican-lite. What the conservatives understood to their credit is that it is worthwhile to stand up for your values and explain them even if it takes decades to persuade voters that you are right. We haven't made any progress on that front. Our leaders can barely even admit they're liberal, never mind persuading others to join the team.

I fully share everybody's frustration, but having suffered a number of my own personal setbacks, I have to say that it is absolutely CRUCIAL to long-term success to be as realistic and aware of one's successes (and the reasons for them) as one's failures. We did accomplish amazing things this time around, but sometimes you do all you can and it's still not enough. But it won't be enough next time either if we get defeatist and cynical. A big part of what we need to win others to our side, besides a big mythic vision, is an aura of pride, determination, and hope. So let's work on that along with everything else on our list by keeping our accomplishments in mind.

As for the vision thing, I liked Dean's serious discussion of the Enlightenment principles that this country was founded on. I think this would be a good counter to the religious fundamentalism that is so divisive. Hey, it inspired a revolution against the king--surely we can topple a few bloated neo-cons as well!

Keep the faith.

Evangelics spend more time going to church each week than most Dems spend voting in four years. They are simply more committed than we are to their cause, and they outwork us. We talk on blogs, but they circulate emails. Millions of emails daily.

We cannot beat them by being more organized, because that ain't happenin'. We can beat them by showing the ugliness of their "values." We have to show that better, and we have to get some consistent themes to pitch.

They're vulnerable on EVERYONE IS GOING TO HELL EXCEPT THEM. And they're vulnerable on JUDGING others.

The evangelics think the Catholics are frauds, and both of those think Mormons are frauds. We need to exploit their intraChristianity hatred and their disdain for those unlike them.

Thank you for such a detail and factual commentary. I could not agree more. On a personal note, I have always voted and had strong political opinions, but I never engaged materially in the process. This year I recruited, I worked the polls, I donated nationally and to local candidates, I invested in and created a blog/website (http://www.PoliticalTruths.info), and I intend to network both physically and with other websites with true positive progressive liberal ideals. I am sure I am but a microcosm of what is happening around the country.

Let us get busy and continue moving forward. The Republicans did not change the consciousness of many in 1 year. They began this over the last 20 years.

What a joke! If Kerry had lost 51-48 but the Democrats had gained seats in Congress, some of the above might make sense.

But the Democrats got buried in a nationwide Republican tide- even when they ran demonstrably better candidates, they lost almost all the close Senate races.

The Democrats are where the Republicans were in 1936.

Iwrite from the big valley in ca. I am so proud of the fight we democrats waged. Irwead and look so far and people are not getting the simple facts out.Kerry lost only because we fought an incumbent.It s historically hard to do this,and as we have just seen almost impossible.Stand up with me,Kerry will win in 2008.The vote count will be guarded a lot better and hopefully the chads in ohio will be extinct for the gop machinery to manipulate as we have seen in two elections now. This is America.222billion for Iraq and no money to protect voting AMERICANS from another catherine harris.I have two honorable discharges and can tell you decent Americans you will not get a reasonable analysis from most forums on the air.Look at the votes in Ohio alone. Ohio votes thrown out mostly in democratis precincts by the tens of thousands. i am still so damned proud of John Kerry,Edward Kennedy and we will be back .The next election we will not face an incumbent. 2008 WE WILL WIN WITH KERRY.