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Some Thoughts

Just some bullet-points. But they're crucial, damnit, crucial.

1. Shouldn't at least part of coping with the "moral values" problem involve some effort to do a better job of convincing people that more liberal positions than the ones they currently have are actually the correct ones?

2. More broadly, you've got to have a strategy for convincing people that at least some of your currently-unpopular ideas are ideas that they should like, not just a strategy for trying to figure out which ideas will be popular.

3. (1) and (2) above are less the task of campaigns than they are something other people need to be doing out in society when a campaign isn't happening.

4. Look at Harry Reid's actual record as an obstructionist before you leap to the conclusion that he's too electorally-vulnerable to be an effective Leader. Has he broken with the party on any major judicial or legislative votes? As far as I can tell, no.

4. Stop arguing about the reason Bush won (or Kerry lost), these things are multicausal. Elections are complicated.

5. Concretely, and in the very immediate future, reality-based individuals (included, but not limited to, Democratic elected officials) need to start talking about Iraq as a currently ongoing war and not a campaign issue.

6. A desire not to undercut Kerry's campaign has, to a large extent, constrained what reality-based individuals have been saying and doing about this. Now that that factor is gone, we need to start discussing, debating, and advocating various courses of action. My thoughts (like, I suspect, those of many others) on this matter are somewhat muddled at the moment, and only an open exchange of ideas will let people get clearer.

7. Liberals need to learn to talk the talk and walk the walk of nationalism better. Hopefully in some guise that doesn't simply involve invading countries at random. Michael Lind has historically had smart things to say about this, and hopefully will more such smart things to say in the future.

8. Who's figuring out what happened to the Latino vote? That's important. The news that highly religious conservative white people like George W. Bush, though much reported over the past 24 hours, is fairly banal. The fact that Democratic support is waning among Latinos is not banal.

9. Keep in mind that fighting like hell to block GOP legislation and fighting like hell to gain some Senate seats may not be mutually compatible goals. Due to constitutional design, there are many more solid Red states than solid Blue ones. The Senate Democratic caucus is therefore bound to be either small, or else disunited and more conservative than the party as a whole.

November 4, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

MY, it's impossible to talk about "what happened to the Latino vote" because the exit polls were all wrong - at the least if we don't come to the conclusion there was widespread fraud in the elections.

In fact, the original exit polls in Florida (as opposed to the adjusted (ie made-up) exit polls) showed Kerry was doing fairly better in Florida among non-Cuban Hispanics than Gore. And, no, it's pretty absurd talking about the adjusted exit poll results when the pollsters have simply adjusted it to come out with what they consider to be the "correct" results.

In fact, one of the reasons why it's so difficult to talk about what happened in the election is because we don't have any demographic information on who voted for whom due to fact that the real exit polls (as opposed to the made-up "adjusted" exit polls) were all wrong across the board.

Posted by: Dan the Man | Nov 4, 2004 1:01:01 AM

I've been thinking a lot about community (real or virtual)-based groups that would serve to 'protect our nation's values against GWB' or *something*, by
1) gathering & sharing information, esp. local issues - I imagine there will lots of local, somewhat obscure battles in terms of lower court appointees and etc.
2) working to influence opinion
3) nonviolent action

Not political groups so much as formalizing all the current lots-of-folks-everywhere talking in workplaces, lines, streets, etc. . . about what on earth wil happen to us, and giving them a broad but effective focus. Ideas?
-Dan S.

Posted by: Dan S. | Nov 4, 2004 1:01:24 AM

Shouldn't at least part of coping with the "moral values" problem involve some effort to do a better job of convincing people that more liberal positions than the ones they currently have are actually the correct ones?

No. The point of moral values isn't that they are moral, but that they are the voter's. The values-peddaling politician tells the voter "I share your values. Those condescending liberals do not. They sneer at your values." The animating impulse is jingoism not morality. Any attempt to educate the masses as to what are the right values will simply be seen as elitist liberal lecturing.

Posted by: WillieStyle | Nov 4, 2004 1:05:19 AM

"1. Shouldn't at least part of coping with the "moral values" problem involve some effort to do a better job of convincing people that more liberal positions than the ones they currently have are actually the correct ones?"

Here's the deal. Gay marriage helped to bring a lot of voters out that we didn't necessarily want to come out because there were ballot props banning it in crucial swing states. It will be decades before most of these laws are overturned, and the GOP can only play this card once per state. As it is, they're running out of swing states to play it in (if they haven't already run out.)

After this election, and Bush stacks the courts with lunatic fundamentalist judges, the GOP will have nothing further to offer Reagan Democrats, who have been voting Republican for most elections since 1980 (and in no small number of cases 1968) because there was virtually no real difference between the two parties on economic and trade policy in most cases, and between nothing and at least hearing what they wanted to hear on cultural issues they voted Republican.

The worst that can happen is that the Bush SCOTUS overturns Roe V Wade, and that would be a terrible thing for poor women of color deep in red state territory, but from a political POV it (and maybe Bush's victory alone) opens up the whole of the midwest, the southern border states, the southwest, and perhaps even some southern states like Arkansas and Lousiana. Abortion will eventually become legal just about everywhere again (as will gay marriage), but in the meantime the Democrats could well sweep a significant swath of red states with Huey Long style pro-life economic populists.

Posted by: Green Democrat | Nov 4, 2004 1:12:29 AM

I would add that Democrats *can* become a party where both pro-choice liberals and anti-choice populists, pro-gay marriage liberals and anti-gay marriage populists coexist at the national level because a) marriage is an issue for the states and b) if Roe V Wade is overturned abortion will become an issue for the states to decide. Neither of these issues will be taken up at the federal level.

Posted by: Green Democrat | Nov 4, 2004 1:17:22 AM

"Liberals need to learn to talk the talk and walk the walk of nationalism better."

I'd agree with that one. I support liberalism because I think it makes America stronger. If you could convince me that another policy would make America stronger, I'd accept that.

On the other hand, liberals shoot themselves in the foot every time; they also need to be less arrogant, both intellectually and morally. Case in point: "Shouldn't at least part of coping with the 'moral value' problem involve some effort to do a better job of convincing people that more liberal positions than the ones they currently have are actually the correct ones." Correct? WTF?

Posted by: Andrew Boucher | Nov 4, 2004 1:23:33 AM

Democrat's need to drop the Pro-Choice stance. Democrats need to make it clear that they're pro-choices. Imposition creates opposition. Democrats need to be the party of responsibilty and freedom.

Posted by: Porco Rosso | Nov 4, 2004 1:23:35 AM

PS Incidentally I hope I didn't sound as though I was somehow elated at the prospect of half the states in the country outlawing abortion. I was simply suggesting that should Roe V Wade be overturned, and Democrats want to remain viable in states like Ohio, West Virginia, and Arizona, they may well need to allow anti-choice populists into the fold. As for changing hearts and minds, that is really the responsibility of activists and organizations. Politicians generally play catch up. That's how its always been. If gays want to convince their fellow residents-of-a-particular-state that gay marriage should be legal, they need to go out in the community and work it. That's how progress is made.

Posted by: Green Democrat | Nov 4, 2004 1:34:43 AM

Liberals need to learn to talk the talk and walk the walk of nationalism better.

Er. Liberals are, by and large, internationalists. Perhaps Liberals should just "talk the talk and walk the walk" of conservativism better, too.

Or maybe, liberals need to work on grassroots community building and identity building the way the right has, both to have permanent (not just election centered) mobilization, and bypass major media for disseminating information, and also to keep pressure on the major media.

Posted by: cmdicely | Nov 4, 2004 1:35:41 AM

Andrew -
Yes, correct. There are moral truths. The truth of this claim is totally independent of a seperate claim that moral truths are whatever a divine being decreed them to be. One obvious candidate for a moral truth would be, "Killing other people for pleasure is wrong." The belief that such claims cannot be true, or that they can only be true for a particular individual, is highly pernicious. It is a seperate issue at to what degree morality should be involved in government, but the existence of disagreement about what is morally true does not mean that there is nothing which is morally true.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Nov 4, 2004 1:39:52 AM

You could start by dropping this "reality based" meme. It is a smear, it is elitist and it is false stereotyping.

Not a very good start, really.

Posted by: ronb | Nov 4, 2004 1:44:16 AM

Yes, you do have to exert an effort to change values, otherwise you either end up pandering to existing values and lying, or following through with the same policies as the other side. And when it comes to setting your own policies, it will come through that you have liberal values, regardless of what you say or don't say. Changing those values is called leading. Echoing what the polls tell you the crowd wants to hear is pandering. And once you've done that, you're trapped.

As for elitist liberal lecturing, there was a time when so called 'ordinary folk' went out of their way to attend such lectures. When Abraham Lincoln was campaigning, it was not unusual, in a small town, for the candidates to debate through the afternoon, break for dinner, and then continue late into the night--and for the crowd to stay and listen to the whole debate. We have allowed education to be portrayed as arrogance and rigorous argumentation to be spun as elitist. If we are going to teach new values, right there is a good place to start.

Posted by: Mark Fournier | Nov 4, 2004 1:51:24 AM

Myglesias--

Yes, elections are complicated affairs with multicausal outcomes. But we are all delimited by our cognitive abilities. There are going to be one, two, three...five "lessons" of this election at most. The construction of the 2004 narrative, like the AIDS quilt, is a huge collective process. It begins now.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court may have cost the Democrats the election. The country seemed to be congealing around a consensus of "civil unions." People understand that insurance, visitation, etc. are a big pain in the ass and they had no active animus that wanted to prevent gays from having those privileges. But then the MA Supreme Court tried to, you know, abolish marriage as we know it. (Yes, yes, by extending it.)

Now it's a sad day when extension of rights is odious to the American people. And perhaps the MA supreme court was right in its constitutional exegesis. But this is a HUGE policy change and the court basically enacted it unilaterally.

So while elite Democratic opinion was thrilled, actual, you know, people might have felt a little bit disenfranchised. ("I don't remember voting for this.")

Maybe the Democrats need to deal with judicial activism--and yes, there's a conservative variety, too--before it can be exploited for GOP gain.

Posted by: Chuck | Nov 4, 2004 1:51:54 AM

"5. Concretely, and in the very immediate future, reality-based individuals (included, but not limited to, Democratic elected officials) need to start talking about Iraq as a currently ongoing war and not a campaign issue."

I tend to suspect that how the coming battle of Fallujah goes, and how elections go in January (if they happen at all) could well have a significant impact on the direction of the war. Or not.

If Iraq turns the corner, things will be strategically clear for the Democrats, but politically difficult, which is to say the neoconservative strategy in the so-called war on terror will have been vindicated, and Democrats will need to run a liberal hawk in 08 to have so much as a snowball's chance in hell of winning the presidency - however loathe they might be to do that.

If Iraq continues to go south, things will be much politically simpler for the Dems, but strategically much murkier, which is to say that the failure will amount to a wholescale repudiation of neoconservativism, but that it may well be very (and dangerously) unclear how to proceed in the "war on terror" and perhaps even raise the question as to whether we should proceed at all.

Posted by: Green Democrat | Nov 4, 2004 1:52:34 AM

Well, we'll need a new meme, then. "We are all minorities" sounded good to my mind's ear a few hours ago, but it could be mocked way too easily.

Posted by: Maureen | Nov 4, 2004 1:56:43 AM

Mark-
Very good points re: education and argumentation. I've though for a good while now that we need an organization entirely devoted to "Raising the level of Debate."

Posted by: washerdreyer | Nov 4, 2004 1:58:02 AM

Mostly people's "values" reflect what they feel comfortable with and what makes them feel threatened. Mostly, they are not swayed by the considerations that might lead a philosophy major at Harvard to conclude that a value is "right." (For most of these people the idea that a value is enshrined in the Constitution is an argument for amending the Constitution.) But they are swayed by experiences that affect their feelings. Perhaps the most positive thing we can do is to express and live our values with pride and dignity. Trying to "repackage" our values in some more appealing manner doesn't fool anybody, and is seen as expressing hypocrisy and a certain kind of shame.

The Democrats should be the party of the big tent, of course, but not by compromising core values. It wasn't enough in the end, but this year we did pick up a lot of former Republicans who are repulsed by that party's current core constituency. After 1964 the right built an enduring electoral juggernaut (I don't include Nixon in this BTW) by staying true to who they were instead of trying to weasel their way to the center. If we stay true to our core values we will, slowly, pick up more young people, more moderates, and so forth, while the Republicans will be increasingly be dominated by a hateful core that repulses the majority.

Posted by: NashEq | Nov 4, 2004 2:22:54 AM

Michael Lind? Are you serious?

Posted by: haha @ yglesias | Nov 4, 2004 2:33:44 AM

I'd note that if Roe is overturned there's no reason Congress can't just pass a federal ban on abortion. It'd be nice if they'd just leave it up to the states, but consider their approach to the gay marriage issue.

And come to think of it, once you've got a court that'll overturn Roe, my guess is that's also a court that won't quibble if you want to pass a federal ban on same-sex marriages.

Basically I'd say dig up all the Scalia/Thomas dissents and that ought to give you a good idea of what we'll see.

Personally, I think the right to privacy will be the one I'll miss the most...

Posted by: boonelsj | Nov 4, 2004 2:38:33 AM

"I'd note that if Roe is overturned there's no reason Congress can't just pass a federal ban on abortion. It'd be nice if they'd just leave it up to the states, but consider their approach to the gay marriage issue."

True but unlikely. It would be a staggering over-reach by the GOP, and they would pay for it at the polls, that is if blue states didn't simply secede.

"And come to think of it, once you've got a court that'll overturn Roe, my guess is that's also a court that won't quibble if you want to pass a federal ban on same-sex marriages."

There already is a federal ban on same sex marriage, signed into law by Clinton. If you're talking about the Federal Marriage Amendment, that's not going anywhere, nor will it, and even if it did the Supreme Court would have nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Green Democrat | Nov 4, 2004 2:51:10 AM

The future of the Democrat Party (provided they want one) is Lieberman.

Lieberman is a capitalist - unashamed, he knows the engines of prosperity. He liked the tax cuts.

Lieberman supports the war - we have real anti-liberal enemies out there, diplomacy is not going to cut it with the fanatics any more than it did with Hitler

Liberman is in opposition where it matters - social issues.

Bush got my vote this year - you run a Lieberman type candidate and he would be my prefrence over any one the Rs are likely to run.

Hell I was pinning for Joe this year.

Start with these propositions:

1. socialism is dead
2. there is a war on

Once you have those down try finding positiions that give you the votes to win.

BTW it would be a good idea to purge the Jew haters from the party. Cynthia M. should be disavowed by the Democrats.

The same way the David Duke/Pat B. wing was purged by the Rs. Publicly. Same goes for the Jew hater and arson inciter Sharpton. Ugly people make an ugly party.

You guys need to clean up your act if you ever expect to get out of the wilderness.
--==--
Take Zell Miller's critique to heart. He is trying to tell you something important.

Posted by: M. Simon | Nov 4, 2004 3:02:12 AM

This idea that the country was congealing around civil unions until the Mass SJC came around is utter bullshit. Civil unions became the widely accepted moderate position when gay marriage became a real possibility. When Dean signed the bill he got all kinds of death threats--in VERMONT. Nor have many states actually passed civil unions laws.

Posted by: Katherine | Nov 4, 2004 3:05:03 AM

Republicanz:

If you want your free advice taken seriously, don't refer to us as the Democrat party or pine for Joe Lieberman. We're stupid, but we're not that stupid.

Posted by: Katherine | Nov 4, 2004 3:06:50 AM

Whatever happened to the party whose liberal watchword was death to tyrants?

Any one remember Jefferson?

What is wrong with invading random countries and replacing tyranies with democracies? Why not have a plan or a list instead of getting in the way?

Posted by: M. Simon | Nov 4, 2004 3:07:07 AM

Katherine,

Glad to hear you are not that stupid.

In fact I predicted in May of '03 you would not be that stupid. I also predicted then (before any one knew who the candidate would be) that you would lose this election. Based on my knowledge of how smart you are.

If you are the future of your party let me make another prediction - '08 is going against you as well. By a larger margin.

When you have had enough of being so smart you will change.

Posted by: M. Simon | Nov 4, 2004 3:14:01 AM

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