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Problem: The Democratic Party is the party of cultural values -- abortion rights, gay rights, gun control -- that are favored by liberals and by majorities in blue states, but out of favor with a majority of the electorate on a national level.

Solution: Let's go back to our roots, and make economic populism the party's national common denominator. (I mean things like strong job protection, progressive taxation, labor rights, market regulation, a social safety net, and universal health care.) This will allow Red State Dems to win, by freeing them from locally unpopular social positions, and allow Blue State Dems to continue to advocate for the liberal social policies they feel strongly about.

It's not about "moving the party to the right" or making our party "Republican lite".  Economically, I think we should move to the left -- we should give workers some real reason to vote for us, after Clinton and the Bushes together gave them NAFTA, WTO, and outsourcing.  

Socially and culturally, I think we should simply get broader.  By removing abortion, guns, and gay issues from the party's national platform, we build a broader coalition that will win national elections.  Progressives who feel passionately about social issues can continue to push them -- they won't be excluded from the party.  But the primary focus for activism on those issues can shift to outside groups.

In essence, I'm talking about a state-by-state approach to social issues, but a national approach to economic issues.  Many Kossacks have accepted Howard Dean's argument that gun control should be left to states, and many have also embraced the candidacy of the socially conservative Stephanie Herseth, who is culturally in step with her state (South Dakota) but still party of the national party.

I'm suggesting that we can conquer the red states, if we are willing to pitch a bigger tent.  We should embrace those with social positions like Stephanie Herseth, and gun control positions like Howard Dean.  It's the only way to build a national electoral majority.

See also my longer, more detailed diary entry about this strategy.

ADDENDUM: I just want to quote the last couple paragraphs of my previous diary entry here, for liberal Dems who are uneasy with what I'm suggesting:

A final thought: People are more open to social progress when they are making economic progress. It's worth noting that the Republicans have brought many former Democrats over to a total right-wing worldview by starting with cultural issues, then gradually feeding them the free-market economic ideology.

We can do the same in reverse. Rather than fighting unwinnable cultural wars across the country, let's get people focused on pocketbook issues. As they start to see how the Republican Party is cheating them economically, they will slowly shift their partisan allegiances. In time, many will be open to more progressive social ideas as well.

Originally posted to Geheimbundler on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:42 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Last time I checked (none)
    we HAVE embraced the Stephanie Herseth's of the world.  Heck I gave her money even AFTER she said she'd vote for a federal amendment that would make me a permanent less-than citizen.

    Don't buy the media bullshit that we are "out of step with the majority of this country".  

    A 1.5% shift in the electorate and we'd be doing the happy mambo.  Instead people are commiting hari-kari left and right

    You know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking I like Oreos.

    by Blithedale on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:44:00 PM PST

    •  I wouldn't send her a nickel. (none)
      If candidates won't support me, I sure as hell won't support them.  

      Patriotic, flag waving, radical centrist Howard Dean Democrat. Until we stand on principle and lose our fear of defeat we will never win.

      by rusrivman on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:46:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not buying media bullshit... (none)
      I'm just looking at the election returns.

      I'm not advocating or committing hara-kiri either.

      I'm saying, let's pitch a bigger tent.

      It's not necessarily a radical shift -- as you say, Herseth and her like are already here.  I just think we should be prepared for more of them from the red states.  

      The cold, hard numbers suggest that they will be the ones who give us back Congress and the White House.

      •  I say (none)
        cut them loose.

        End Redstate Welfare Now and take care of our own. Stop trying to buy votes because it is not working.

        Are we seriously considering an anti-abortion dem as our leader in the senate?

        End RedState Welfare Now!

        by JamesK on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:56:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  So you are saying whore ourselves out (none)
        for a possible 1.5 percent margin? Maybe the issue is that we aren't talking to them directly- has anyone considered that is why Bush won. He has been talking to Relgious conservatives for 4 years- Dems only talk to their continuencies when an election comes around. Thats not enough. Look, I wasn't going to bring up this case example. Take Harvey Milk. He was a gay politician in SF who came up before SF became a liberal bastion. He started by building from the ground up and connecting with Blacks, Latinos and labor unions and other neighborhood activist. In fact there are other examples of where this if we know you then you are okay works. In Dallas- hardly a liberal bastion they just elected a lesbian Latina as sherriff I don't think this is simply an issue of values. 33 percent of the people who voted describe themselves as conservative this past Tuesday. The question to my mind is what were the other 24 percent? Can we gain them. Is the CW wrong, and are we yet again trying to paly catch up with the Reps rather than thinking of head of them? Can we shave off 5 percent from this 33 percent conservative base- i.e., I think we need to start acting like the loyal opposition rather than the party desperate to regain leadership by tossing people over the boat.
  •  I agree. (none)
    At least to the extent that the conversation needs to be about economics. That's our roots. That's the message. And it's going to resonate even more with people after a couple more years of Bush economic "policy."
  •  Uh (4.00)
    Herseth also said she'd cast a vote for unelected shit bag if the ec count was 269-269, I don't want a "democrat" like that in the party.
  •  How can this work? (none)
    You're assuming republicans would let us get away with this why?

    If democrats in California are in favor of gay marraige, republicans in Georgia are going to use this fact against homophobic democratic candidates in Georgia anyway. Look at Brad Carson for crying out loud.

    It's not enough to make politics local, we need to subvert the language of politics beyond even what Lakoff has been suggesting. Democrats need to be identified as the party of patriots, or as the party of good government, or something positive like that. We've been painted into a semantic corner and we're paying for it.

    •  I'm saying... (none)
      Take these things out of the national platform.

      Then what happens in California will be irrelevant to what happens in Georgia.

      •  Gay Marriage (none)
        isn't in the national platform. You are being delusional if you imagine that running and hiding is the solution. They will simply find some other wedge issue. This isn't about gays, it isn't about the things you want to reduce it to- it's about a 30 year strategy. It is a lesson they learned from the civil rights movement which contrary to popular belief was not begun in the 1960s but actually was mapped out by the NAACP Legal Defense fund decades before where by piece by piece they would dismantle Jim Crow. What the  Dems have a problem with is understanding that thisn't a matter of quick and easy fixes. It will take time and a lot of willingness to be disciplined to get to where we wnat to move this country. that means stop with the scapecoating, blame games and looking for the messianic leader who will take us to the promiseland because it ain't going to happen that way. What will help is if we start to engage directly in coversations with people in red zones (not just states but zones) so that we can convince the numbers that we need to gain a solid majority within each state. If we go to them pretending that we are something that we are not they will spot it. Being southern and from a small town I can tell you that is one of my issues now living in the city- I find a lot of people are not "genuine." So stop trying to find fast fixes- we will have a difficult time for several eleection cycles- but if are smart- we can win.
  •  Gee, yeah (none)
    Let's form a an army of Democrats who are opposed to gun control and abortion and gay rights and the UN and environmental protection and trial lawyers and universal healthcare. then we'll start winning elections.

    Composing The News While The Media Is Decomposing - www.NewsCorpse.com

    by KingOneEye on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:47:08 PM PST

    •  Whoa... (none)
      Health care and tort reform are economic issues.

      Gun control, abortion, and gay rights are more social ones.  The UN is pretty irrelevant to local politics, so I'm prepared to let Red State Dems denounce it if that's what the majority of their constituents is fired up about.

  •  Oh wait (none)
    I think someone else already did that. They're called...um....oh yeah, REPUBLICANS.

    Composing The News While The Media Is Decomposing - www.NewsCorpse.com

    by KingOneEye on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:49:19 PM PST

    •  Republicans who are economic populists? (none)
      Let me spell out what I mean by "economic populism": strong job protection, labor rights, market regulation, a social safety net, and universal health care.

      Last time I checked, there were no Republicans selling any of that.

      Let's make THOSE kind of issues our national platform.  

      •  Indeed (none)
        The thing is, they try to airbrush over those differences.

        Because if we were to draw a big brightline over economic principles, they would be screwed.

        So they do everything they can to innoculate against it.

        And we are hardly doing everything we can to draw that line.

        Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.

        by JimTXDem on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:56:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  we already did that (none)
    Kerry was against Gay Marriage. (but insert weakening of that stance here)

    Kerry was against abortion. (but insert incomprehensible rationale here for not banning it)

    Kerry embraced guns. (Insert Photo of Kerry having sex with a huge gun and confuse people by talking about assault weapons being bad)

    Reasoned, Intelligent, Yes.
    Effective, No.

    End RedState Welfare Now!

    by JamesK on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:50:48 PM PST

  •  What Miss Herseth is doing is called (none)
    representing your constituency. You tend to lose your job when you disregard your employers (the people of your district)

    granted.. her FMA stand was wrong, but that's a tough choice to make too.

    In theory.. if she had the campaign structure to pull off a run for President, she'd have a decent shot in Iowa and maybe even in New Hampshire, but it would take some name recognition.

    "Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right" - Carl Schurz

    by RBH on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:55:15 PM PST

    •  Yes (none)
      What Miss Herseth is doing is called ... representing your constituency. You tend to lose your job when you disregard your employers (the people of your district)

      My point exactly.

      We won't win national majorities by running onpositions that are not supported by national majorities.

      It may be painful to many blue staters to contemplate that vast numbers of Americans do not share their views on social issues.  But that is the case, as this election demonstrated.

      So let's figure out what "we" and "they" CAN agree on, and build a majority around it!

      •  Like I said above (none)
        you are delussional if you think you are going to win by "changing the subject" What you are essentially doing is saying- well I am not going to bring it up- but guess what- they will and even if you say you completely agree with them on these issues they wills still point out that's not what dems in NY say and it will work. The flaw is your analysis if that you assume people in the rural areas and red zones are stupid and wont figure it out. wedge issues work even more effectively if the guy who is the subject of the attack tries to avoid it- do y ou remember the swift boat ads? I am not sure whether they worked or not- there are conflicting polls- but what I am certain of is that Kerry was not helped by pretending it wasn't an issue. And, it wont help to run away from Dems who take a different stance than out of state dems
  •  That's one part (none)
    The other part I think we should emphasize is driving major wedges between the GOP and their conservative coalition members on various issues.  And I think it will be easier than it seems.

    Visit the Diary of the Lying Socialist Weasels, for commentary from the Original Progressive Web Warriors!

    by Jonathan on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:55:23 PM PST

    •  partial birth abortion (3.66)
      is a made to order wedge for us. rethugs passed a bill banning it, but because the bill contained no provision for the life and health of the mother, it was overturned in the courts. the thugs wanted it overturned in the courts - they wanted the issue kept alive.

      so lets introduce our own bill on the matter, one that has life/health provisions. if it passes, we lose nothing, because the procedure is rare and usually only performed when their is a life/health issue. and we garner "values voters". if the thugs refuse to sign on, we beat them over the head with it.

      No member of our generation who wasn't a Communist or a dropout in the thirties is worth a damn. Lyndon B. Johnson

      by maskling11 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 08:28:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, maybe (none)
    But my view is that if we're targeting deep red states like South Dakota, we're on the wrong track.  If we're going to change our positions to win elections, let's focus on the red states that we can win.  Those would be states like Nevada, Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, and Colorado.  We should also strengthen our softening support in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Washington, and Oregon.  If a state gave George W. Bush more than 60% of the vote, screw it.  Let's hold onto what we have in the red states when we can, but our real focus should be on making the blue bluer, and bringing red states on the edge onto our side.
  •  Herseth is kinda cute (none)
    I don't know all the faces of the members of congress, but she gets my vote for the cutest babe in congress. Of course, she's up against grandmothers.
    •  That might be why I gave her money (none)
      Yes she is cute.  And maybe she's educatable.

      But you know the premise that the Democratic Party is somehow leading the charge for gay marriage is ludicrous.
      It's not a part of the national platform.

      Just because the Republicans use homophobia as a wedge issue doesn't mean we have to buy into it.

      You know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking I like Oreos.

      by Blithedale on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 08:03:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Buying into homophobia? (none)
        I hope you're not saying I'm buying into homophobia, or advocating that we have to do so.

        I'm saying, very simply, let controversial social issues be decided by Dems on a state-by-state basis.

        Massachusetts can keep gay marriage, and Vermont can keep civil unions.  (The "Federal Marriage Amendment" would NOT fit with the state-by-state approach I'm advocating.)

  •  Army of Herseths (none)
    By God, I think you're right — if we could find a way to field a slate of astute political operatives who were also major babes, we really could take back the House.

    But we need to start early, developing a system and a farm team. If we start now, running webcam girls for city council seats all across the country, we should be well-nigh unstoppable by 2010.

  •  RE:RE: (none)
    Kerry lost because the republicans where able to add to the ballot the anti-gay marriage ammendments, and thus turn out huge numbers of "christians" to vote for these ammendments. He also tied himself closily to these ammendments using interaction with the churches.
    The gay community took a chnace with the gay marriage push in MA and CA, it ended up a couple of years to early and it bit the democrats in the ass in the most important swing state Ohio.
    Now I am not blaming the gay community, I cheered and laughed as I watched the weddings in California, people enjoying a right that they should have.
    I think we will have to suck it up and learn from this. One of the most important lessons;

    1. Control at the State level. At least here in Ohio, the republicans can get anything they want onto the ballot at any time, they control everything. We should be backing state level candidates, not long shots in Oklahoma and Kentucky. If we control the states we can guide the national aggenda.
    2. In states that allow it we should be gerrymandering to increase the number of Democrats in congress. That is what the Repugs in Texas did. Turn about is fair play.
    3. We need to start micromanaging at the state level, not whining about the vote totals.

    The only government level us democrates will be able to control is in the states we control at the state level. God knows we will only be doing rear guard actions in the senate for the next few years.
    Jeff Wilson - Ohio
    •  I will add one point (none)
      Bush has been courting Christian Conservatives day one in his adminsitration- gay rights was only the recent example- I think that is what's being missing- long term strategic thinking- stop thinking of 2006 or even 2008 start asking what are we going to do each year to achieve long term goals that are more than about electing  a candidate in a particular year? If we don't think liek that we will contiue to fail. But of course this requires more than hand wringing
  •  Herseth is a joke. (none)
    She said that if Kerry and Bush tied 269-269 in the electoral college then she'd have voted for Bush in Congress to decide who would be the next President.  After that comment, she can go to hell.  If you are so afraid that guns, god and gays prevent you from supporting a thoughtful Democrat who would've been an outstanding President, then I'd suggest you become a Republican.  In fact, I hope she gets beat next time by a Republican, 'cause I'm tired of back stabbing Dems like her.  That's where this party goes wrong.  We can't command loyalty from anyone.
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