It's like Mardi Gras meets the bombing of Dresden...
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The Politics of Polarization
William Galston and Elaine Kamarck have released a new study, entitled "The Politics of Polarization" that "examines the recent past, the present, and the foreseeable future of modern-day electoral politics." Drawing on the success of their first report back in 1989, "The Communist Mani..", I mean, "The Politics of Evasion" which helped shape the direction of the Clinton presidency, Galston and Kamarck appear to be on a mission to save the Democratic Party from itself.

By their analysis, the current Democrats have deluded themselves on four seperate topics.
  • The Myth of Mobilization- Galston and Kamarck state that previous Democratic strategies have been to energize the base and bring them out in record numbers. However, this has been failing for a number of different reasons. First, for every election since 1976, the Republican base has been around 50% larger than the Democratic base. Second, Republicans are becoming to be at least as effective as the Democrats in encouraging large numbers of their base to vote. Third, Republicans have been making substantial headway among women, hispanics, and Catholics. Also, the Democratic base has been increasingly hijacked by the extreme left, which finds itself increasingly at odds with mainstream America.
    "They are more likely to be secular in their orientation, only half as likely as other Americans to attend religious services weekly, and only one third as likely to participate in Bible study or prayer groups. 61 percent of Liberals oppose displaying the Ten Commandments, versus only 22 percent of all Americans. A remarkable 80 percent of Liberals favor gay marriage; less than one-third of their fellow Americans agree. In the area of defense and foreign policy, 67 percent of Liberals believe that the preemptive use of military force is rarely if ever justified, versus only 35 percent of all Americans. 65 percent favor cutting the defense budget to reduce the deficit; again, only 35 percent of the electorate would go along with them. Liberals are only half as likely to be military veterans as are Americans as a whole. Only two-fifths report that they regularly display the U.S. flag, versus two-thirds of their fellow citizens."
  • The Myth of Demography- This "claims that long-term, ongoing changes in the U.S. population will secure a Democratic majority for decades to come. Among the major components of this shift are: a growing class of post-industrial professionals; women (especially those who are single or highly educated) affected by the feminist revolution; and Hispanics and Asian immigrants, who have come to the United States in record numbers during the past generation." However, this doesn't agree with the immediate future where large numbers of people from predominantly blue states in the Northeast and Upper Midwest are moving to red states, shifting the demographic map Republican, and fails to consider Republican successes in attracting larger blocs of traditionally Democratic groups. While Democrats have been successful at attracting larger numbers of the educated (no doubt a result of their entrenchment in the Ivory Tower), they have been losing ground among lower income workers and Hispanics.
    "Experts agree that Hispanic support for Republicans was almost certainly higher than it was in 2000.xv In addition, the family income of Hispanics grew more rapidly than that of any other ethnic group during Clinton’s second term and Bush’s first term. Not surprisingly, attitudes of Hispanic votersare increasingly parallel to the attitudes of voters in the rest of the population."
    In other words, Hispanics are beginning to realize that in order to keep their money they should vote Republican, or it will be forcibly redistributed.
  • The Myth of Language- "The thesis that the problem with the Democratic Party is not what it believes, but rather how it speaks. This thesis comes in two variants — the simple-minded and the sophisticated. The simple-minded version says that if Democrats have a problem with observant religious believers, the solution is for candidates to quote the Bible as often as possible. The sophisticated version, most closely associated with the eminent Berkeley linguist George Lakoff, focuses on the need to situate issues within attractive "frames"—phrases, metaphors, and narratives that trigger favorable associations and persuade voters to go along." However, Galston and Kamarck quickly move on to say that the first is false because voters witnessing decades of irreverancy won't immediately change sides the first time Ted Kennedy says "Yeah, I believe in Jebus," and the second is false because John Kerry "could not 'frame' his way out of what the public saw as a contradiction between his initial vote authorizing the president to go to war against Iraq and his vote against the $87 billion supplemental appropriation needed to fund it." Duh. Furthermore, "Democrats are in trouble today in part because they lack a coherent approach to foreign policy, espouse positions on key social issues thatstrong majorities of the electorate reject, and have failed to offer compelling economic proposals that speak to the new economic challenges of the 21st century. Rhetoric cannot solve substantive problems such as these." I totally agree with that analysis. I'm just amazed it the Democrats until almost 2006 to come up with this on their own when I've been hearing it from Republican analysts on the Dems since shortly after Bush won the presidency.
  • The Myth of Prescription Drugs- "The Myth of Prescription Drugs is our shorthand for the proposition, which seems to bewitch political consultants, that Democrats can win present-day national elections by avoiding cultural issues, downplaying national security, and changing the subject to domestic issues such as health care, education, and job security. This proposition fails thetest of political reality in the post-9/11 world." As the chart below shows, Democrats are incapable of winning an election when national security matters. The only two elections won by Democrats in the last quarter century occured after the Cold War ceased to be an issue and before terrorism was taken seriously. "Moreover, Democrats’ focus on the details of domestic policy proposals comes at the expense of cultural issues, which for many voters are seen through the prism of candidates’ individual character and family life. As Democrats wring their hands over the partly mythical What’s the Matter with Kansas syndrome, Republican campaigns rarelymake this mistake."
Galston and Kamarck conclude their paper by laying out some criteria that the next Democratic candidate should fulfill in order to have any chance of success in the 2008 election and beyond. "We would argue that of all the tests national candidates must pass, the personality test is the most important. This test may be summarized in three questions that voters are asking and that candidates must answer to their satisfaction. First: Is the candidate a person of strength, with core convictions and the ability to act on them through challenges and criticism? Second: Is the candidate a person of integrity, who displays consistency over time, who tells the truth, and whose words and deeds coincide? And third: Is the candidate a person of empathy, who understands and cares about people like us?" My challenge is to name one person at the forefront of the Democratic party who espouses these virtues. Can't do it? Not suprised. The only person who failed to vote for the war in Iraq TWICE before deciding their political fortunes could be better served on the "Bash Bush" wagon was Russ Feingold.

"Take me seriously!"


Blogger RedHurt said...

Excellent post. I found that amazingly interesting and right on the money.

It seems likely to me that the salvation of the democratic party is to be found in expanding their base into realms currently occupied by republicans, and found this to be the most cogent part of the analysis you described. It seems likely to me that republicans will become polarized by Bush's big government and the real non-hawk conservatives. The problem is that Bush's real base, the hawkish-big-gov't conservatives, are the current "mainstream" of the republicans, and seem in my limited perspective to encompass the group that 1.) the democrats lost from Clinton's era and 2.) they're most philosophically similar, and the only group they have a chance of getting back. As the republicans move more towards the center, they're leaving the far right libertarians out in the cold, but it'll be winter in hell before those guys side with the dems.

12:33 PM  

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