Kicking the Donkey -- Why the Democrats lost the national elections, and how we can avoid a repeat performance --by Edward Lachowicz
When you stop looking at polls and the potential of a stolen election through electronic voting, there are many tangible, easily visible reasons why the Democratic Party suffered defeat in 2004. The potential of malfeasance does exist, but there are ways which we could make a majority so powerful that no amount of machine rigging would result in a Republican victory.
First is the fact
the Democrats have not only ignored most of their key issues, they have
distanced themselves from their base. Some special interests within
the Democratic Party are not a bad thing, I point to the labor unions
as a specific example. (A shining example of a powerful union with its
members in mind is the Service Employees International Union). Discussion
on raising the minimum wage was non-existant. Talk of health care was
small to say the least. Most of the Kerry campaign was spent discussing
The Democrats spent
most of their time following the primaries campaigning on the Iraq War.
They did not campaign against it, a popular Democratic (read: liberal)
position. Instead, they campaigned on how they would have done things
differently, following their votes to support the removal of Saddam
Hussein from power, and authorizing the President to use any means
When you look at
the typical Democratic voter, the one you're hoping to turn out, you
can expect them to vote for you if you can show you can give them a
job, health care, and a place to live, among other key necessities.
Our economy is in shambles. Jobs are being outsourced to foreign nations.
Millions of people have no health insurance. Even the Section 8 housing
program has faced serious cutbacks. If a Democrat campaigns on restoring
these things, the Democrat wins. Once we start campaigning on wars,
Second is the condescending attitude many Kerry voters turned on the Republican base. I am aware this worked both ways, I certainly was the target of some rather nasty barbs from Republicans. The one important difference is that for many Republicans, this really is a serious insult, whereas most Democrats don't take assaults on our intelligence seriously. This is especially true in the South, which is still largely uneducated and has an average IQ of around 85-90. ("Blue" states rank around 100-105.) The terms "redneck", "hick", and "hillbilly" roll easily off our tongues. This is largely equivalent to the use of racial slurs, though many don't realize it. Liberals assume conservatives are "stupid". This is largely untrue, they just need serious convincing from people who truly care about their success.
We do not need to pander to the South and Midwest with talk of guns, God, and gays. We need to establish ourselves as a moral party, not through religious means, but through common sense. We need to, as people, treat the people of the opposing party with respect and kindness, especially when campaigning for their votes. I personally have heard tales of canvassers in the South speaking in a derogatory manner of the very people they are trying to persuade. Anyone who has ever worked with a telephone knows you need to smile, or the person on the other side of the phone can hear you aren't happy. This applies even more in person- you can have a smile on your face, but you can bet those people know you hate them.
In the end, we largely gave up on the south, and winning one or two Southern states (Arkansas and North Carolina come to mind) would have resulted in a Democratic victory. Our strategy needs to be nationwide; we cannot simply give up on Southern states. Not spending money there is one thing, giving them up entirely is a different story.
The most important thing that I can see, however, is the candidate and his campaign- as well as the foolishness of the party electorate. Or perhaps it was fear. During the primaries, we had many choices for a candidate- ten to be exact. We decided who to elect based on their "electability" in the general election. Our desire for "Anyone But Bush" resulted in a candidate who, literally, did not poll as well as "Bush vs. someone else". (Yes. Kerry lost to "someone else".)
The biggest lesson I think the Democratic Party regulars need to learn is that we need to send up a candidate who appeals to people, and represents our issues and what we are feeling. We opposed the war in Iraq. This eliminated John Edwards, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Wesley Clark, and Dick Gephardt from consideration. We wanted someone with experience, which eliminated Al Sharpton. Bob Graham eliminated himself. This left us with Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Moseley-Braun for potential Democratic (again, read: LIBERAL!) candidates. Now is when the party could have started determining "electability". I personally chose Dean, but all three made good candidates. They all were vibrant, good-hearted people who had no fear of speaking out for Democratic issues- the issues which would have won us the election.
In the end, the Democratic Party must review whether it wants to continue pandering to the right, and causing the loss of Democratic seats as well as those of moderate Republicans, or if it wants to pander to the left, and staunch the bleeding of disaffected Democratic voters to third parties, as well as to the apathy column. There is no middle anymore. There is no place of compromise between the parties. There is only one or the other. Hopefully we will eventually get past this time of great polarization, but that time is not now. I am a Republican turned Democrat because the Republicans have shown they want nothing more than power and could care less about the people. And, last I checked, "we the people" ran this country.
My advice to John Kerry would be to not quit his day job. Regardless of whether he lost or not, he made an important promise as a candidate, and that would be to not quit until all the votes were counted. He did not do that. I understand the decision but feel that we can now point to yet another empty campaign promise made by the Democrats. Regardless of this, the decision was wise. Extending the election for another 11 days pending a recount would have resulted in a "sore loser" mentality which may have stripped away part of the party vote next time around. This was not, at first glance, a margin which would be overcome. Hopefully Bev Harris and Black Box Voting will expose the voting machine issues and stain the Bush presidency if it still results in that.
My effort to counter the problems of the Democrats is to convince Howard Dean to make another run for the presidency. Whether you support Dean, or another candidate, encourage the efforts of true leaders and true Democrats to run, and run early, while discouraging the efforts of "moderates" and "Republicans-Lite" to siphon votes from the candidates we deserve to have leading us.
The only way we can win is to be Democrats. Let the last 20 years be a lesson to you.
November 7, 2004
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