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Catastrophic Success

As if there weren't enough political opinionating out there, I, too, now sing the body bloglectric. Let me FEED you![XML]

Location: United States

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Oh if only ...

This post on Democratic Underground (I know, I know, but hear me out) is exactly the kind of analysis I want the Democratic Party to conduct on itself. The author exercises clear vision when viewing the differing factions of his own party, of which he labels three (Left-liberals, Center-left libertarians and Center-left populists). We are all familiar with the first two. These are the people we see most prominently in the left-leaning MSM and on universities arguing that "bi-sexual Asian studies should have it's own building. But what goes? The math department or the hockey team, I say hockey."

It is his insight into the third group that makes this essay remarkable. He tells his compatriots:
"I think most observers would agree that the Democratic party is getting killed among the third group: Center-left populists. The Republican party is making great inroads into this group on an overtly cultural appeal. Party elites in Washington, DC, New York, and California, scratch their heads and wonder why working-class people would possibly vote against their own economic interests.

I think that the simplest answer is this: Their interests are not entirely economic. Like most voters, they vote on a broad range of issues, including cultural issues. But I think there is something else going on here. Maybe the Democratic Party isn't doing such a great job at defending their economic interests"

He realizes that the Democrats are bleeding these Center-left populists to the Republican Party because they can not find any cultural benefit in staying with a Democratic Party that cares more for easing everyone's pain and getting down to the "root cause" than fighting the enemy that has declared us unworthy of living as we see fit and demands we either become Islamofascists like themselves or die. Zell Miller is a center-left populist. He believes in the Democratic Party of FDR and JFK. He WANTS that party back. He said so in his book and they refused to listen. So now he gets to say" I told them so (registration required, sorry).

If the Democratic Party wants to avoid becoming a permanent opposition party (like the Canadian Tories), they need to rediscover the people they want to represent. For too long, they have allowed the elites to take over the party. The same elites that are left scratching their heads when their base leaves them. Skinner, the author, writes this about the top-down approach in the Democratic Party:

"I believe that party elites are disproportionately drawn from the first two groups: Left-liberals and center-left libertarians. I know lots of Democrats here in Washington, DC, and they are almost all relatively affluent professional types from the Northeast or West Coast who don't have any life experience at all interacting with regular people from middle America. In fact, their opinion of them could almost be described as contemptuous. At a minimum, I think it could be called condescending. We think that we are doing "those people" a favor by supporting policies which will help them, and quite frankly we feel a little offended that they aren't thanking us for looking out for them.

Quite understandably, the response of some center-left populists is "I'll look out for myself, thanks." Nobody wants to be anyone else's charity-case."

Oh. My. God. He gets it. Red, White, and Blue Americans do not want government handouts. They want the government to make it as easy as possible for them to earn their way into the American Dream. I'll repeat that - so pay attention: E-A-R-N their American Dream. I don't mean earn in monetary terms, and I don't mean justifying why they are deserving of being given the fruits of the dream. I mean working hard, seeing the results and knowing that no one gave you what you have - knowing that by your effort and force of will, you have obtained legally, legitimately and honorably earned everything you wanted and now have.

Today's Democratic Elite does NOT understand that this work ethic, this puritan-bred work ethic, is a source of pride for Middle America. We don't want the government to take care of us from cradle to grave. We want our government to keep us safe, promote our interests abroad, make the playing field as level-as-possible and get the hell out of the way.

Some Middle Americans believe in a social safety net so that if you get knocked off your feet, there is something to catch you until (and this is important) you get back on your feet, at which point, we don't need the government anymore and we'll take over again, and by the way, thanks for the assist. People who feel that way are the Center-left populists Skinner is talking about. They do not believe the government should be creating and maintaining "cadillac-driving welfare queens" [Note: I know these stories are apocryphal, I'm making a point, don't write letters - Ed.]. These are the people that the Dems need to find in their party, promote and listen to them. Until they do, they will only appeal to the far left of their party and those will be the only votes they receive. If the Democrats go completely liberal, then only complete liberals will vote Democratic.

Skinner again:
"Ultimately, my point is this: There is going to be a lot of fighting about whether we need to go "liberal" or go "centrist," but in the end, I think it's missing the point. As long as urban elites from the Left-liberal group and the Center-left libertarian group are arguing among themselves about "how to win the hearts of populists" we are going to lose. Because, let's face it: Most people don't have that much experience dealing with people who are different from ourselves.

If we want center-left populists to be Democrats, we need center-left populists in our coalition to show us how. We need to value their contributions, and we need to welcome them into our coalition as equal members."

He doesn't claim to know what the CLPs want. In fact, I think he's pretty clear in acknowledging his ignorance in the matter. He has the intellectual honesty to ask for help and ask his party-mates to ask for it too.

There is a lot of discussion on this thread and I haven't been through it all, but I did see this from "UCLA Dem":
"Using the "male generic" (e.g. he or his) to represent the individual excludes women.

We can get our values across without saying the individual and "his"...

We need to say "Every child born into the US has a birth tax of $100,000 on him/her or them that he/she or they will have to pay."

Sigh. Those over there? Those are trees. If you back up a bit you can see something called a "forest" ... no, back a little further. There ya go! *pats UCLA's head*

This is the exact myopia that causes the Dems to hemorrhage swing voters.

At any rate, read the article. Like Senator Kerry's concession, it is a credit to the Party.

Update: While strolling through the commentary, I saw a post by Skinner that clarified his article and my interpretation was correct. He gets it. An excerpt:
"But more importantly, I am arguing that we -- meaning urban liberal party elites -- might not actually know what is best for them -- meaning rural and working-class voters.

I can sit here and pontificate on what is necessary to appeal to these voters, but I gotta be honest here: I am totally unprepared to make that call. I am surrounded by urban liberals. I have very little contact with rural and working-class people. Any solution that I propose would not be based on actual knowledge. It would be based on my own ignorance and bigotry."