How to Create a New Democratic Majority 

10.25.2004 | Jonathan Leaf | National Affairs | 3 Comments
No matter which presidential candidate ekes out a narrow victory next week, it’s unlikely to be in the long-term interests of the Democratic party.

How come?

The Democratic Party is a minority party that still thinks it represents most Americans. Because it has not yet been disabused of this fiction, it believes that it can regain control of the presidency and both houses of Congress by simply fine-tuning its message. The problem goes far beyond Kerry’s preppy clothes, his fluent French and his haughtiness. The party refuses to face the fact that most Americans just aren’t keen on its platform.

Moreover, there are clear signs that the decline in the party’s basic voting strength of the 1990s is continuing or even worsening, quite independent of Kerry. According to several recent polls  — and numerous reports from the field — the gay marriage controversy has enervated the black vote and pushed Latins towards the Republican lever. This is the reason, it seems, why Bush is given a good shot at winning New Mexico this time around, and why he continues to lead in Florida.

Party insiders know this, and according to longtime Democratic pollster Pat Caddell, it was this that foolishly spurred Kerry and Edwards into inserting Mary Cheney’s sexuality into the presidential and vice-presidential debates. The party’s generals stupidly supposed that by making the Bush-Cheney ticket look “pink” that they could get homophobic Democratic voters back onto the rolls of the party faithful. The result, however, has been to draw further scrutiny to the issue and at once intensify the suspicions of homophobic Blacks and Latins towards Kerry while also making suburban women think he lacks class, chivalry and sensitivity as a father. It may well be that there is enough time left for Kerry to recover from this piece of imbecility.

But, if there isn’t sufficient time and the Democrats unexpectedly lose big, the party might gain in the long run. For the party is increasingly an ossified party of the status quo.

After all, there are only two important issues about which influential Democrats passionately seek change: gay marriage and health care. However, the shift the party wishes to affect in health care is likely unaffordable and gay marriage is wildly unpopular in most of America and for now only obtainable through the actions of the judges.

It’s the Republicans who are the activists.  It’s Republican who want to change Social Security, implement school vouchers and medical vouchers, throw out rent control and reform the nation’s tort laws.  And it’s the Republicans who want to expand free trade, re-shape the military, eliminate estate taxes on a permanent basis, re-make the courts… The list goes on and on.

What’s strange is that there is a long list of issues about which Democrats could be talking which are both popular and significant. Here are just a few:

Environmentalism: Kerry seems to have given up on this issue and much of the party is either too dumb or too eager for business contributions to take up the cause. Ironically, more and more average Americans have come to consider global warming a serious issue. The party’s inertia should be indicated by the fact that it was a Republican Governor, Schwartzenegger, who recently signed into law the first important limits on average motor vehicle size passed in a generation.

Trade: 50% of all manufactured goods sold in the U.S. last year were made abroad. The Chinese government is deliberately undervaluing its currency, the Yuan, to hurt our manufacturers. But Bush is allowing this because he knows a fall in the dollar will scare off foreigners buying Treasury bills and drive up U.S. interest rates. That decision is short-sighted, and it’s costing American workers their jobs. Why is Dick Gephardt the only leading Democrat to make trade an issue?

Immigration: To return to last week’s column, current U.S. immigration policies are driving down the wages of workers with no more than a high school education. The Democratic Party has mistakenly concluded that immigration creates new Liberal voters, and so it generally opposes immigration reform. But, as noted above, many of these voters are already drifting to the Republicans. Don’t forget that as recently as the 1930’s it was a basic truth of American politics that Italian Catholics voted overwhelmingly for the Democrats — something that obviously isn’t true any longer. Cubans, Koreans and Chinese are already voting Republican, and Latinos may not be far behind. If the Democrats are sincere in claiming to represent the downtrodden, they should shift gears and oppose the mass immigration into the U.S. of undocumented aliens and unskilled laborers who drive down the wages of workers already here.

Education: The Democratic party needs to stop being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the teacher’s unions. It’s no accident that so many Black intellectuals under the age of forty hold the party in contempt. If average Blacks pick up their ideas and gain any real awareness of where and with whom most problems in American education begin, the Democratic party is headed for the ash-heap. The Democratic position should be based on what’s right, not what’s expedient — and that can’t mean that the Party should be tied to teachers unions.

A Democratic Party with vision — and a positive program to implement that vision — can be a majority party again. Will it take a cataclysmic defeat to bring the party to its senses?

I would be interested to know what makes you think that Americans are increasingly concerned about global warming. I'm a frequent poster on, a community of mainly technical and scientific professionals, and global warming is discussed (and related news linked to) quite frequently. Based on a wealth of information I have read there and elsewhere over the past few years, it seems that global warming has actually dropped off the American consciousness considerably from only a few years ago - and not just because of September 11. If you have evidence to the contrary, I'd like to see it, but until then I'm going to remain skeptical about how much the average American worries about global warming.
10.28.2004 | Jon
Point well taken. Most recently, that does appear to be so (, over the longer stretch, public awareness and concern has been rising. Thank you for the criticism.
10.29.2004 | Jonathan Leaf
More armchair nonsense from this know-nothing who brings the level of discourse at New Partisan into the arena of sputtering over a beer. I can almost hear the slurred speech.

So he thinks a Kerry victory would not be in the long-term interests of the Democratic Party? Time will tell, but I'm sure Democrats will take that risk.

In any case, why should any Democrat listen to the suggestions of this muddle-headed Bush supporter? Once again, his analysis revs up halfway then sputters out before anything of substance has even been mentioned, let alone analyzed.

I defy the most careful reader to draw an inference from this overwrought, poorly written piece except, "Be more like Republicans, why don't ya?"
10.30.2004 | Ken Jennings

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