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Read This

I think Peter Beinart's latest column is available to non-subscribers, and I highly recommend it. "Both of these impulses--to surrender to red-state values and to mock them--are diversions from the real work ahead. The path back to Democratic victory does not lie in cultural issues--it never has, and the best that can be hoped for in that arena is a draw. It lies in a more compelling economic agenda and a more convincing national security one." Exactly.

November 4, 2004 | Permalink


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Courtesy of Matthew Yglesias comes a sound assessment of our condition from Peter Beinart: Both of these impulses—to surrender to red-state values and to mock them—are diversions from the real work ahead. The path back to Democratic victory does not... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 4, 2004 4:14:17 PM


Keep thinking that Matt because I want to see Republicans strengthen their Congressional majority in '06. Also, the way your current party is structured, you'll never be able to beat Republicans on national defense or taxes. Perhaps you should beg Zell Miller not to retire.

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Nov 4, 2004 2:49:04 PM

I don't know -- the civil and women's rights movements were cultural issues, and we won those.

How about "Liberty and Justice for All."
Economic issues are unintelligible to the average voter, but "equality" is pretty easy to get.

Posted by: Matt Kuzma | Nov 4, 2004 2:49:55 PM

Isn't that exactly the opposite of your previous post?

Posted by: praktike | Nov 4, 2004 2:50:01 PM

I am not at all sure about this.

That agenda also has to dispel the reality of what caused the Bush base to vote the way they did this time around: if they can't control their own economic security they will continue to be swayed by issues such as gay marriage. At least that's something they can do something about!

Juan Cole says that the solution to the gay marriage issue is to get the Federal Government out of the marriage business altogether.

Posted by: JB | Nov 4, 2004 2:50:57 PM

Having read this now, I'm confident that it's wrong.

Nominate someone who can appeal to white males, and everything will fall into place.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 4, 2004 2:56:14 PM

It is one thing to say that the dems need to play to their strengths on domestic issues (among the 37% of voters who identified one of the 4 domestic issues as the number one priority, kerry won 27-10), it is a second thing to say that the dems need to revitalize their image and actuality on national security issues (among the 34% that cited terrorism or iraq as the number one issue, bush won 20-14, although that really subdivided between terrorism, which bush won, and iraq, which kerry won). It would only have taken another 100,000 votes or so in Ohio for Kerry to win, so that's all well and good and i agree with Beinart there.

But that's not the same as failing to acknowledge that kerry won 41-30 among the 71% who actually identified traditional issues - be they national security or domestic - and lost 18-4 among the 22% that chose "moral values" as the number one matter. It's the "moral values" that beat kerry, not weakness on national security per se, and while making up for that will require retooling on economic and national security matters, the "moral values" crowd, not that the gop has learned how to mobilize it to the polls, will be a force to be reckoned with on the gop side for a long ways to come.

Posted by: howard | Nov 4, 2004 2:56:36 PM

praktike -

You must forgive Matt, up is now down in this post-11/2 world (or is it 11/3?).

Posted by: Ugh | Nov 4, 2004 2:57:04 PM

It is image. All Image. Likeability. Image. ISSUES DON'T MATTER. E.g., safe blue CA elects the Gropinator.

Read Digby.

Scroll down to “I'm too weary and dispirited right now to get into the inevitable fight that's gearing up within the party, but suffice to say I don't agree that we lost because we weren't liberal enough.” That is where it get’s good. For example:

"In the last days of the campaign he was landing in football stadiums on the Marine 1 helicopter with fireworks exploding to the tune of "Danger Zone." That's a wartime image that's hard to beat --- particularly if your adoring audience is predisposed to love that kind of faux military spectacle...."

Posted by: MattB | Nov 4, 2004 2:57:47 PM

er, "now that the gop has learned how to mobilize it to the polls."

Posted by: howard | Nov 4, 2004 2:57:53 PM

The path to making the Democratic Party more effective doesn't lie in a new agenda at all, it relies in building an identity attached to our values and ideals.

If we keep thinking we can win by doing even better at pure intellectual appeal, we're doomed.

Posted by: cmdicely | Nov 4, 2004 2:58:58 PM

I'm not so optimistic. As I said in the post below this one, the new fascism dictates that liberals are the cause of all life's problems, and that the poorer you get, you blame them and turn to right wing jesus for help. If the left puts forth a strong (hopefully anti-corporate) economic agenda it could stand a chance, but there are millions of people who are worse off than they were four years ago who are going to be hit even harder in the coming four who may not care. I hope the left can make the case to these people, and I know I'll be working to try, but it's so hard to match the level of reactionary garbage that has surrounded them for the last 30 years.

Posted by: dstein | Nov 4, 2004 2:59:30 PM

The rotten borough (so-called 'heartland') has spoken. Between deficits, national security, the draft, jobs, and healthcare, they decided the most important issue was...

Yes. That's what it's all about. Never mind if you don't have a job and your kids don't have health care and are on the verge of being shipped off to some Middle East hellhole with a shoddy Halliburton gun and no body armor. The MOST IMPORTANT issue is that two men, somewhere, might be assfucking.

I'm of three minds on all this. Mind #1 says "they made their bed, let them lie in it, I'm getting the hell out to Canada or the UK". Mind #2 says "ok, this Jesus stuff really plays, let's get someone who says Jesus every other sentence and says that God told him to institute national health care". Mind #3 says "the problem is Kerry wasn't ECONOMICALLY liberal enough... if he had stopped listening to idiots like Brad Delong, maybe he could have promised to actually DO SOMETHING about the obscene offshoring and won Ohio... if he hadn't listened to the conventional wisdom and had actually promised free health care for all, maybe that would have convinced the heartland... maybe we need a 10-point economic Covenant with America..."

What do you think about all this shit? (no trolls please)

Posted by: Firebug | Nov 4, 2004 3:06:56 PM

I don't buy the be more economically liberal thing. Kerry had a credible health care plan and his outsourcing position was popular.

Didn't matter.

Gays and Arabs are existential threats, but more generally Kerry was a Massachusetts liberal.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 4, 2004 3:13:59 PM

I don't dispute Beinart's point about the need to focus on economic justice; no honest religious progressive does. But then there's that point of coming to a cultural "draw" in a society that is to a significant degree (though obviously not wholly) a socially and religiously conservative one. I'd rather that the campaign for a egalitarianism not begin from a position that already suffers from a moral deficit in the eyes of several million (strategically placed on the electoral map) people. No amount of religious re-orientation could ever win over the incipient theocrats, but a little bit could go a long way towards persuading a few key others.

Posted by: Russell Arben Fox | Nov 4, 2004 3:15:44 PM

Firebug is right. Who votes? Old people. How many AARP members are ready for any kind of gay rights? This shit is not that complicated. All you need to do is appeal to the broadest group of people while giving the least amount of information possible. Remeber, it's a popluarity contest.

Posted by: Jason | Nov 4, 2004 3:17:06 PM

Now is the time to mock red state values. We don't get a chance during election years.

Posted by: joe o | Nov 4, 2004 3:21:19 PM

This seems a promising approach, notably because
the Republicans are choosing terrible policies in
both areas.

On economic/domestic policy, Edwards' "Two Americas"
is a compelling theme within which various policies
can fit. I think we can also point out that
life is best for everyone when we have strong growth,
as under Clinton, and while the Repubs *talk*
about growth their policies don't achieve it.

On national security, I think we have a chance to
claim the high ground:

1) Claim the "Powell Doctrine" for the Democrats

2) Get the troops and weapons we need for the
the war we're in now, i.e. more special forces,
more boots on the ground, more body armor and
armored vehicles to withstand RPGs and IEDs.
More airlift and logistics capcity, less
fancy fighter aircraft.

3) Stop building massively expensive high-tech
weapons that make sense only to defense
contractors - e.g. missile defense, F22,

4) Get serious about nuclear proliferation -
including our own. No nuclear bunker-buster,
cut our own nuclear arsenal, more money for

5) Get the world back on our side (including
Muslim countries).

Posted by: Richard Cownie | Nov 4, 2004 3:24:13 PM

crap. after what happened in ohio, the only way democrats can win is to show that they are more christian than the pope. Democrats should choose some white christian from south with the promise of criminalizing abortion, gay rights etc. Acknowledge openly that we are a christian nation. That's the only way to win election.

Posted by: st | Nov 4, 2004 3:25:07 PM

Jason, for the record, people 65 and older voted in about the same numbers as people 29 and younger, and indeed, they essentially washed each other out: the younger voters supported kerry and the older voters supported bush by more or less the same numbers.

and yes, i think the reason that the older voters went for bush this go-round is partly gay issues (i think that the older voters were part of the "moral values" first crowd), and partly some form of "don't change commanders-in-chief in midstream."

Posted by: howard | Nov 4, 2004 3:26:15 PM

Howard, thanks for the info. Do you have any numbers regarding voters who are 55-64?

Posted by: Jason | Nov 4, 2004 3:30:31 PM

What you might be wrong about is whether or not your victory needs to one for the Democrats.

In any case, the path is along educating and communicating with the people.

There's a new type of optimism brewing called Techmocracy, over at:


Its all through word-of-mouth right now, but perhaps with a little more attention and visibility we'll see the optimism solidify as a community.

Posted by: MikeH | Nov 4, 2004 3:33:44 PM

Jason, the endlessly fascinating exit poll date is available here:


(This is apparently data that has been "adjusted" to reflect that actuals between bush and kerry, although there are still some oddities, but that's another story).

They parse the data in a couple of funny ways on age: in one cluster, they break out age cohorts by 18-29, 30-44, 45-59, and 60+; in another, they break out the data by 18-64 and 65+, so i can't answer your question directly.

The 45-59 cluster, 30% of voters, went for bush 51-48, and just to spell out the other numbers i referenced, 18-29 year olds (17% of the electorate), went for kerry 54-47, and 65+ (16%) went for bush 52-47 (hence my "more or less" washed each other out comment).

Posted by: howard | Nov 4, 2004 3:43:32 PM

"The path back to Democratic victory does not lie in cultural issues--it never has, and the best that can be hoped for in that arena is a draw."

Politics is about neutralizing your opponent's strengths, while enhancing your own strengths. Look at how Bush has neutralized Democratic strengths in both elections. We will get nowhere until the Republcan advantage in cultural values is neutralized and taken off the table.

The path back to Democratic victory lies almost entirely in cultural issues. It's why we lose elections, and has been for a while now.

Why do you think the smart folks in the party wanted John Edwards as the nominee instead of Kerry? Because he had a better speaking style? Figure this stuff out - it's not rocket science.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 4, 2004 3:50:11 PM

How can you say that when Edwards delivered nothing. He is not a very good candidate.

Kerry insisted on proposing a tax increase for no reason. The New Republic etc are in the bag for these tax increases to balance the budget and bring back the Clinton years. It's a death trap.

The congressional party did worse by following Kerry's lead on taxes and being more warlike that Kerry was. I'd say he overachieved compared to the crop of Senate candidates.

Posted by: wellbasically | Nov 4, 2004 3:57:48 PM

From Beinart

"It is true that Kerry failed to win back many lunch-pail, working-class former Democrats. But, instead of focusing merely on why those voters were alienated by the Democrats' cultural message, party strategists need to pay more attention to why they weren't attracted by its economic message."

In poll after poll, Kerry consistently had a 60 - 40 advantage over Bush on which candidate was fighting for their interests on economics.

Americans are ALREADY attracted to our economic message by a healthy margin. Enough of them decided Kerry was too alien on cultural values, and that was MORE IMPORTANT to them than economic values.

Posted by: Petey | Nov 4, 2004 4:02:53 PM

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