What happened, redux

5 Nov

After the disastrous midterm election in 2002, I wrote a post detailing my opinion of what happened. I argued that the Democrats had once again failed to distinguish themselves from the Republicans, which had further alienated the Democratic base. I boldly asserted that unless the Democrats found their voice, they were going to continue to be a minority party . Tuesday's election showed that I was right about the need for the Democrats' need to find their voice, but wrong about what that voice needed to be saying.

See, I think the Democrats are still trying to ride the coattails of FDR and his New Deal coalition. That was the last major realignment in American politics. That last time a true majority coalition was constructed by either party. John Kerry tried to evoke that coalition in his campaign. The media and many Democrats ignored it because it was much more fun to label Kerry a flip-flopper or as weak-willed. But if you took the time to listen, you saw Kerry taking the stands that were once the bedrock of the Democratic party. Kerry reached out to the working class and told them that the Democrats could make sure they got a fair deal. Hope was on the way. Unfortunately, and I wish I'd been prescient enough to see this before the election, the working class doesn't think that is all that important anymore.

The working class and much of the middle class no longer vote on economic issues, they vote on values. They don't see the Democrats as the party of FDR, but as the party of Hollywood and "liberals." They've forgotten what a liberal really is because we've been running from the word since Ronald Reagan made it dirty. We can't win that linguistic battle anymore, but we can win with our ideas if we speak to the working class in their own language. We truly are on the right side of "value" issues, we just don't know how to tell people that. And until we can convince the working class in the middle of the country that their allegiance to the GOP is undermining all the things they believe in, we will be the minority party.

In 2002, I argued that the Democrats had lost their message and moved too close to the center and alienated their base. Today, I realize that Democrats can't win even if they are on message because our message is ignored by a slim majority of the people. Instead of adopting the GOP's economic message, it is time we adopted their values message. I don't know how to do that. I honestly can't see the world the way they see it, but I do know that if the Democrats can't learn to do it, we will lose for a very long time.

p.s. Arianna Huffington agrees with me.

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