Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

Location: Wichita, Kansas

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Diagnosing the Democratic Party

We recently commented on the state of left wing politics, the liberal wing of the Democratic party, and the party in general in the articles “Liberals and Lemmings” and “Far Left Morphing and the Impact on the Democratic Party”. An assessment by a BBC correspondent comes to similar conclusions.

“The Democrats need a message and a new way of communicating that message to a mass audience. They have neither. And do not be fooled by those who say this malaise is structural, at this stage of the electoral cycle there isn't a presidential candidate etc. No, it is more than that. The American left has faded away.

Only their bumper stickers remain, like cockroaches after a nuclear holocaust. "Re-defeat George Bush," they whine. Not knowing, not caring that the world has changed.”

This is a bit surprising considering the liberal leanings of the BBC. The overall tone of the article was a lament for failing to effectively seize the opportunity being handed to the Democrats by “Republican's misfortunes”. We agree that the Democrats have so far failed to marshal a plan. Even if they should do so, however, voters are unlikely to flock back to the banner.

The Democrats have not only their internal problems to contend with, but the reality that George Bush is not the key to Republican success. The biggest issue is that there is a long term trend of conservatism in the country, and a gradual exodus of moderates and conservatives from the Democrats. There is a greater resonance of many Republican positions with independent voters. Both short and long term polling results indicate that a shift is occurring.

"A new Zogby poll strongly suggests that Democrat Congressional leaders are no longer listening to the majority of their base. Instead, the poll confirms that Democrat leaders appear to be led by the left-wing “fringe” faction of their Party."

"Zogby poll results say that 58% of self-described Democrats said they think their leaders should “accept their lower position in Congress and work together with Republicans to craft the best legislation possible.” Only 6% said the top goal for Democrats should be to defeat Republican legislation, while nearly one-quarter of Democrats – 23% – said they think Republicans do a better job running Congress."

"The Harris Poll also found that conservatives continue to outnumber liberals by 36 to 18 percent but that the largest number of people think of themselves as moderates (41%). However, the long term trend for party identification has changed over the last 40 years, with the Democratic lead declining from 21 percentage points in the 1970s, to 11 points in the 1980s, seven points in the 1990s, and (so far) five points in this decade."

The longer term trending is the real story. As the number of people self-identifying as Democrat dwindles, it leaves a party with fewer moderates. The further left this skews the remaining party, the less hospitable more moderates find it. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Death by extremism.

Unless the Democrats reverse this trend of 40 years, they are in for further bad news. Pulling the left wing “core constituency” to the center will only get more difficult as time passes. Meanwhile, Republicans are looking hard at John McCain and Rudy Giuliani as their next Presidential nominee. Putting up either of these would only broaden the appeal of the party to that big slice of 41% moderates.

Is there any hope recovering for Democrats? Certainly, and we'll discuss that in Part II of this topic.

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