Monday, November 08, 2004

Advice to Democrats after the 2004 Election

As usual, a lot of Democrats are acting as if the world is coming to end because they lost the electoral college by less than 100,000 votes in Ohio. The protesters are back organizing to cut and run before we know if Iraq can be stabilized. The “back to Bubba” crowd is longing for another Clinton or Carter to get some of those religious votes that we all know belong lock, stock and barrel to the Republicans. They remember the intelligent, articulate, charismatic Clinton and forget the sleezeball, bible thumping Bubba that couldn’t keep his pants up and brought us NAFTA and amnesty for illegal aliens. They remember the Carter who promised us hope but delivered malaise. And they’re now using all the Republican weasel words like faith, values, and morals to become more acceptable, forgetting that they are the ones holding the moral high ground defending the poor, the middle class, and persecuted minorities. Here’s my advice if you want to win the next round.

Look at yourselves and decide who you are, and not just what you want to win. Speak clearly and concisely about what you represent and do not try to be on every side of every issue. Make a distinction between religion and morality. You can be moral without being religious, and you are. You can tolerate and accept personal religious belief and expression without tolerating religious extremism, superstition, and destruction of the wall between church and state. We all have values. My portfolio has value. I value my privacy, my liberty, my friendships, my community, my country and my way of life. Your values are just as worthy as anyone else’s values and you should define them and speak up for them.

In the realm of politics, be who you are and spend your time cultivating the cultures where you can be successful. Forget the Bible Belt and Mormonland (Idaho, Utah, etc). You will never succeed in these places where religious literalists dominate. Keep an eye on Florida where more and more people from the east and Midwest retire and where the culture becomes more urban year by year. Watch states like ND whose congressional delegations are all Democrats but will vote for a born-again bubba over a northeastern liberal. But concentrate on the interior margins of the blue states where races were close – Nevada, New Mexico, and particularly the Midwest where the only other state you needed to win was Ohio. If given a reasonable choice they’ll usually vote their pocketbook.

Don’t pick Bubba candidates thinking you can win back the Bible Belt. Don’t pick candidates from the Northeast or California, including Hillary with all her baggage. Not that there aren’t good candidates there, but it’s liberalland and Hollywoodland and it scares the daylights out of some voters that you could otherwise bring into your camp, and you have those areas in hand. Your best bet for next time would be a ticket like Evan Bayh/Barach Obama. The Midwest is where you can make inroads. Midwesterners are largely political moderates. They are quite practical people who are concerned about their economic welfare at times like these.

Keep your extreme liberal wing in check. It can bring you nothing but losses. People are interested in preserving the environment, but they’re not interested in blowing up all the dams during our energy shortage to save some snail darter or make it easier for white water rafters. Promote a gradual process of energy diversification. This is not going to change overnight. Compromise on wilderness areas vs. logging and recreation interests. We need to preserve wilderness, restore polluted areas, preserve clean air and water, but not at the exclusion of maintaining a stable economy and allowing people to experience nature. Participate in the Kyoto process for global hydrocarbon reduction, but drive a hard bargain to make the process compatible with preserving our way of life. Pick your time and place for protests. Too many of them water down the effect and may antagonize more people than they persuade.

Socialism and communism are dead. You are still being characterized by Republicans as socialists, backers of big government programs, and big spenders. You are no longer the big spenders. The Republicans are. I don’t think you advocate the ownership of industry by the government or believe that America is the antithesis of everything good, so don’t hang on every word of old die-hard socialists like Noam Chomsky. There are certain things that government can do better than private industry, like seeing that everyone is treated fairly, has equal opportunity to prosper, a decent education, and adequate food, shelter, and health insurance. This can be a cooperative public and private effort. But, don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs by strangling business and innovators with unnecessary and cumbersome regulations. Campaign against corporate welfare and abuse as strenuously as your campaign for equal opportunity. Get on board to simplify the tax code in a way that is equitable for everyone but will prevent the drain of billions for compliance. And, finally get straight on upholding the laws. It’s not acceptable to break the law to get votes or avoid the wrath of your favorite constituencies. Get on board to uphold the laws against illegal immigration, and curb the abuse of the legal system with reasonable tort reform.

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