November 15, 2004
Give me a reasonBy Steve Feinstein
In the wake of the Democrats' unexpectedly widespread, far—reaching loss in the recent election, many strategists and operatives in their party have come to the conclusion that what the Democrats need to do in order to regain power is to stress their recognition and appreciation of the role that 'moral values' play in American society today.
A story has surfaced that suggests Democrats dine more frequently at Applebees restaurant, so they can experience the casual, down—to—earth atmosphere of 'real' America, where values—driven Americans spend their time. At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Democratic warlord James Carville went so far as to say,
"The underlying problem here is, there is no call to arms that the Democratic Party is making to the country...We've got to reassess ourselves. We've got to be born again...I'm out of the denial. I'm about reality here."
This should strike thinking observers as being quite odd, to say the least. The very reason for a political party's existence is to espouse a set a beliefs, a point of view, a governing philosophy that can be presented to the country as a reason for that party to be given the opportunity to lead the nation.
Republicans, led by President Bush, have made their case quite clearly:
— A strong national defense and the willingness to act unashamedly on behalf of America's interests first, even if such action ruffles a few feathers overseas
— Limited taxation, to give individuals the greatest say in the conduct of their own financial affairs, which, by extension, yields the maximum benefit to the national economy as a whole
— Judicial appointments that emphasize rational interpretation of existing law, and not the creation of new law from the bench, without accountability to the electorate
— A belief in and defense of the traditional nuclear family as the essential building block upon which an efficient, correctly—functioning society is based
— Government assistance programs that are oriented towards helping those who are temporarily in a disadvantageous state to enter (or re—enter) society's mainstream as contributing, productive citizens
The Democrats offered no clear, well—articulated alternative. Most of what they said during the interminably long primary season and the 8—month general election campaign amounted to nothing more than vague anti—Bush diatribes and minute—by—minute criticisms of the days' events. Dick Gephardt famously called President Bush 'a miserable failure,' but didn't offer anything memorable or concrete in his place. Kerry lurched awkwardly from one position to another, first, embarrassingly, as the War Veteran ('...and I'm reporting for duty!'), then as the Stem Cell Champion (as surrogate Edwards proclaimed poor Christopher Reeve would walk again), then as the Bringer of Energy Independence (even as he opposed drilling in ANWR, whose barely—explored potential ocean of oil is far bigger than the substantial discoveries already mapped) and finally as the Great Statesman, who would magically 'restore' heretofore non—existent historical alliances with France, Germany and Belgium (all the while coveting UN approval, of course).
The elemental difference between Bush's Republican approach to the election and Kerry's Democratic approach is that one can substitute virtually any Republican name in place of Bush's, and the basic tenets of their platform would remain the same. Guiliani, McCain, Rascicot, Rice, Pataki, Romney—the list of Republican beliefs above would apply to each one of these potential 2008 candidates as certainly and unquestioningly as it applied to President Bush in 2000 and 2004.
But Carville's carping that the Democrats need to be born again indicates that there is not any single set of unifying principles that unites their party and clarifies their outward message. The myth of the "religious right" having won this election for Bush is a great example of denial by the left—leaning liberal media like NPR, the New York Times, and CBS/ABC/NBC. The facts are that the "evangelical right" did not constitute a greater percentage of the 2004 election than in years past, and interestingly, 25% of the so—called religious right voted for Kerry. Blacks went from 9% to 11% for Bush this time, Jews went from 19% to 24%, and Hispanics went from 33% in 2000 to over 42% in 2004. Bush simply won more votes across the board, in all categories, and the Democratic power brokers are having a hard time admitting it.
Centrist political analyst and commentator Morton Kondracke remarked that Democrats ought to visit a church once in a while, 'just to see what goes on there.' That misses the point. The Democrats can't simply change their outward appearance in order to fool the public into thinking they share their values. 'See? We like religion too!' doesn't ring true.
If the Left doesn't focus on the real reasons they lost—national security, taxes, judicial concerns, family—oriented programs, and personal opportunity and accountability—and instead, makes up fictitious reasons to assuage their egos, then they'll continue to lose future elections without ever knowing why. When a political party finds that it needs to concoct reasons for its existence, that it needs to fabricate issues and invent common ground with which it can appeal to the electorate, it doesn't speak well to that party's reason for being.
Steve Feinstein is a corporate communications specialist in Massachusetts