Are the Democrats becoming a regional party?

The 2004 elections are over. Bush won, of course, but I want to focus on an interesting question raised by the red-state/blue-state map of the outcome. It looks suspiciously as though the Democrats are on their way to becoming a regional party.

Specifically, a regional party of the urban Northeast and the West Coast metroplexes. The state-by-state voting patterns since 1980, and especially in 2000 and 2004, point clearly in this direction. The Democrats have lost the South, and they’re losing their grip on the Upper Midwest — Daschle’s loss to Thune and the size of Bush’s margin in Ohio are leading indicators.

I’ve written a couple of previous blog essays on the hole the Democrats are in. They have serious problems. Ronald Reagan peeled away the (private-sector) union vote after 1980; today they’re losing the blacks over gay marriage and the Jews over Israel and the Terror War. Their voter base is increasingly limited to public-employee unions and brie-nibbling urban elites — they’re no longer the party of the common man but of the DMV, Hollywood and the Upper West Side.

The state-level election results reinforce this picture, and I predict that county-by-county numbers will make it even more obvious, especially when correlated with SES. Add to this a serious structural problem, which is that their street-level cadres are largely drawn from a hard-left contingent that wants to pull their platform even further away from anything most Americans will vote for.

This was very clear here in Malvern; even in this staid suburb the Democratic pollwatchers looked like Central Casting’s idea of a fringy radical, bushy-haired and besweatered and festooned with paranoid slogan buttons. The DNC used to rely on unions to supply troops at campaign time; they can’t any more, so they have to lean on organizations like MoveOn.org and Democratic Underground.

Even this they could survive if the mainstream media retained the ability to deliver the 15% swing for Democrats that Evan Thomas of Newsweek boasted of a few months back. But the all-too-blatant partisanship of CBS and the New York Times actually backfired this time, most obviously when the bloggers caught Dan Rather trumping up an anti-Bush story on obviously-fake documents. I think Instapundit is on to something when he says the longest-term result of this election will be the collapse of mainstream-media credibility. With that will go one of the most effective weapons the Democrats have.

A serious rethink of the Democratic platform is in order. The smartest single move they could make is to try to peel off the single largest bloc of Republican-leaning voters — gun owners like me. Bill Clinton has pointed out that alienating the 50% of American households which own guns lost the Democrats the 1994 elections and has cost them critical swing votes in every national election since.

The sane thing for the Democrats to do would be to go unreservedly pro-Second-Amendment. Alas, I do not think they are a sane party any more.

UPDATE: My prediction about the county-by-county numbers proved correct,
according to USA Today’s
map.

29 thoughts on “Are the Democrats becoming a regional party?

  1. I hate trying to tell Democrats where they went wrong, especially since many currently won’t admit that they’ve lost touch with America. Instead, they assume they simply can’t get out the message. Since when did Hollywood have a hard time getting out its message?

    Going pro-gun would definitely have a serious effect here in the South. I personally voted for Easley and Cooper for NC’s governor and attorney general respectively (both conservative Democrats who won state-wide in a red state). Democrats who look closer will see that they won handily in many state-wide elections down South, specifically because Southern Democrats are incredibly different from the rest of the party — they’re closer to independents than Democrats.

  2. Just so, and big-city Republicans are more like independents than Republicans; despite Giuliani’s attempt to ingratiate himself with the national party lately, he’s pro-choice and a bunch of other things that will make him persona non grata.

    It’s more or less a historical accident which states are sufficiently urbanized that city voters can carry them.

    So how’d you vote, Eric? :-)

  3. You make an excellent point about guns, and I’ll try to tell people this. Let’s not forget, though, that Bush would have lost had his supporters known the facts. Never mind the message, America didn’t get objective news. (Or didn’t listen.)

  4. Same thing here in Maryland. It would be a red state, save for Baltimore. Check out CNN’s county breakdown if you doubt this.

    Personally, I hope that the Democratic party implodes and is replaced by the Libertarian party. I think they have their heads in the sand about terrorism, but I think fans of freedom can agree that Libertarian vs. Republican would be *much* better than Democrat vs. Republican.

  5. Let me ask a question to the pro 2nd ammendment people out there. Do you think there are some aspects of gun control that are acceptable? Example: background checks conducted when weapons are purchased. (And thus the need to eliminate loopholes which circumvent the background checks, such as gun shows)

    I would call myself undecided on the 2nd Ammendment issue, but I think I lean in favor of the right to bear arms. I don’t believe I would own a gun myself (I don’t now).

    context on me: Univ. Student, conservative leaning on some issues (states rights, civil-liberties / personal freedom, fiscal responsibility) liberal leaning on other issues (government sevices, tax-policy, social-issues), I consider myself an independent but am registered Dem for some reason (Mostly vote for Dem and 3rd party candidates – only ever voted for 1 Rep)

    Anyway, it just seems like right-to-bear-arms is a more complicated issue than just Pro-Guns / Anti-Guns.

    JMS

  6. *hugs the second amendment*

    It seems that the second amendment is one of the largest casualties of so called “Homeland Security.”

    To me, the second amendment provides the American people the ability to defend themselves from a tyranical government.

    The Homeland Security Act negates this, calling “Traitor! Terrorist” anyone who would even suggest in a tone greater than a whisper that the US government is corrupt and needs to be stopped

    </rant>

  7. Come on Eric, don’t be coy. You did it, didn’t you? You puckered up and laid a big smacker on Bush’s backside. Welcome to the born-again Republicans.

  8. The Democrats are really stupid. They ought to stop trying to tell everyone what is best for the country and just do what’s best for their party.

    They should go pro-2nd amendment, ultra-pro-Israel, pro-business and anything else that can get them votes. Stop focusing on poor people, students and other losers who don’t even bother to vote. Or they could just admit to being a pack of lying commies (which they are).

  9. Max Lybbert makes an excellent point in that the Southern democrats are quite conservative on a national scale. If the national democratic party continues to drift even farther to the left, I think they’re in danger of a major split in the party, with southern and even other moderate democrats either forming a splinter party, or even switching to republican. In a repeat of the 2002 elections the democrats got their asses handed to them again in the congressional elections and the republicans have strengthened their majorities, and the future doesn’t look to bright for the democrats.

    The democrats really need to find some sort of stable base platform, instead of drifting the way they have been in recent years. The problem for them is that the farthest left liberals are speaking the loudest for them and are in danger of hijacking the party. The 2006 and 2008 elections will likely determine whether or not the democrats remain as a viable national party.

    But we can’t forget the most important thing about why we have elections; to see what pointless and crazy comments Dan Rather will make. That guy is hilarious, which would be fine if he had a show more like Jon Stewart’s, but unfortunately he’s on the real news. I expect to see him retiring very soon now. Probably the only thing funnier than Dan Rather was the talk on PBS about Republicans over throwing the government if Bush lost.

  10. Fine as far as it goes, but really a tactical move, rather than a strategic one. Big-spending ‘compassionate conservatism’ has made the today’s interest-group/Green democratic party unviable; the Republicans are now vulnerable in general to a more libertarian stance, but the hard-left wing of the Democrats blocks any move that way, leaving it to the Republicans and trapping the Democrats at 40-45%.

  11. Before I finish my first post, let me give a little background information. I was raised in Riverside, CA — one of the few “almost conservative” parts of California. I currently live in Caswell County, NC. Caswell refers to itself as the first county where Reconstruction failed after the Civil War ( http://www.rootsweb.com/~nccaswel/misc/confession.htm — this led to state-imposed martial law, which then led to the removal of the Republican governor for overstepping his bounds ). Caswell also sent its first Republican Congressman to Washington sometime in the last six years or so (I’m too lazy to look it up right now).

    I came into the state as a registered Republican, and my in-laws are now card-carrying Democrats. They are a little more moderate than I, and don’t trust the market as much. For federal races they almost always vote Republican, but Republicans running for state office are generally a little radical for both my tastes and theirs. Democrats that are born-an’-raised Southerners are just slightly left of me, while transplants (eg., Northern Democrats, who often teach at the colleges) are incredibly left of me. Zell Miller isn’t unusual here at all ( http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2003-06-23-1.html — this was well before the Republican Convention — and http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2003-11-23-1.html ).

    Thinking about this a little more, I almost would characterize this as a three-party system, with Democrats as two of the parties. In the past, the “National Democrats” aligned with the Southern Democrats, and won elections quite often. Currently, that’s not happening. Instead, the Republicans align with the Southern Democrats, give the illusion of a “Solid South” (as if pro-tobacco planks can go that far), and give the National Democrats fits.

  12. Think the best thing to do is just accept me as your ruler America. One way or another it will happen, and so it’s better not to put up a hassle. The matter of fact events that will take place will and me as ruler of all.

  13. Looking at it from here in the UK, what is striking is the homogeneity of the US. In the rural Western and Southern states that Bush won comfortably, Kerry still got 35-40% of the vote. In Britain we have the same kind of urban/rural divide, but it is much more one-sided: a recent by-election in an urban constituency, the main opposition Conservative party got 10% of the vote.

    Given that the US, like other developed nations, is gradually trending more urban, I don’t think the Dems need to worry about the stereotype rural conservative voters. They lost this time to a coalition of traditional Republicans, Democrat hawks, and the religious right, and even so it was no landslide.

    They may have energised a lot of previously-uninterested voters with the MoveOn / Michael Moore wing this time, but the problem was that each additional vote cost them a more mainstream vote. If they bring back the mainstream that they lost on foreign policy, they might still hold on to some of this election’s gains.

    And whatever the MSM is worth, another Clinton is worth 10% by simply being an attractive candidate.

    (No I don’t mean another candidate _called_ Clinton, get back in your box Hillary).

  14. While your suggestion is rational, it just ain’t gonna happen. While some of the anti-gun types are just wet-dreaming moonbhats, a lot of others are in it for a different reason.
    They want to take your guns away to increase their power. This would be achieved by making the honest citizen helpless and therefore dependant on them for “protection.”
    This is also the reason the Democrats are soft on crime. They like to keep the criminals in circulation in order to keep people afraid.

  15. The Democrats are the victims of the primary system, which causes candidates to be picked by the most vocal and active, rather than by the majority of likely general election voters. And the most vocal and active people in the Democratic party are of course the extremists.

    The best hope for the Democratic party is probably something like the Green party. If a flagrantly-extreme party can draw off the nutjobs, the Democrats might return closer to their roots, and we could have a prayer of sane politics in this country. Short of that, I fear it’s just going to be more of the same until people stop trusting the MSM, and desert en masse for the Republicans.

    In 12 years or so, we might see an 1860-style realignment of political parties. Which is probably the best outcome we can realistically hope for.

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  17. I am amused by the thought.

    I agree heartily with the 2nd Amendment–it’s the best “homeland security” program there is, both against foreign terror, invasion during war, and autocratic government.

    However, I also agree with an idea posted by Eric, in the “Ten Reasons I’m Not Liberal…Conservative”.

    Abortion: The liberals’ looney-toon feminist need to believe that a fetus one second before birth is a parasitic lump of tissue with no rights, but a fetus one second afterwards is a full human, has done half the job of making a reasoned debate on abortion nigh-impossible.

    I would be severely tested in terms of “partisan affiliation” if the Democrats managed to take the right to keep and bear arms seriously, and also remained the party of “abortion as a feminist sacrament.”

  18. Eric,
    Your comment that, “and I predict that county-by-county numbers will make it even more obvious” is borne out by a map Sean Hannity has posted on hannity.com. The map is the usual red-blue one, but by county rather than state. It’s quite impressive!

  19. I revel in the defeat of those brie-nibbling Democrats and their “leader” who is in actuality an agent of the Viet Cong. Our new one-party system suits me, it’s a party of the people. Let’s get a posse together so we can rough up the remaining commies and Islam lovers like RMS.

  20. Omar: Your comment Let’s not forget, though, that Bush would have lost had his supporters known the facts is exactly the kind of elitist crap that turns people off of the Democrats. It assumes that those who supported Bush did so out of ignorance, and ignores the likelihood that many of them did so out of a true belief that he was the better choice.

    jms: Your statement about gun shows being “loopholes” is itself incorrect. Gun dealers have to follow the same requirements at gun shows that they do at their own place of business. Individual sellers at gun shows have to follow the same requirements that they would if they were selling through an ad in the classifieds. Gun shows are only the issue to those who want to take away our guns.

    I support an instant background check before a gun is sold – as long as no record of the check is kept anywhere, in any form, and as long as its cost, if any, is kept nominal so as not to become a de-facto gun transfer tax.

  21. Excellent and reasoned analysis ESR. I would add the following points:

    - People and organizations like MoveOn, Michael Moore, “P-Diddy” and Bruce Springsteen only help your cause in the media saturated coasts where they are preaching to the choir. They do not play well in the religous states in the midwest and south. “P-Diddy” was tried for a felony for Gods sake.

    - Your Northeastern and West Coast base has an incredible snobby attitude in regards to the Midwest and South. Even now, the liberal intelligensia is shaking their heads wondering how the people in “flyover” country voted for Bush. They need to “get it” and make those people part of the party. It is a huge part of the country after all.

    - The Democratic non-DNC “leadership” is non-existant. The DNC leadership needs to be replaced (obviously).

    - The Democrats lost the way when they started supporting NAFTA and other “open-trade” anti-worker measures.

    - Put some thought into choosing a running mate. Choosing a trial attorney just because the group gives you lots of money every year is not a good strategy.

    - Before they nominate a candidate, they need to take this simple test: “WITHOUT mentioning the opposing candidate, list three specific things you like about your candidate.” Kerry couldn’t pass this test, and neither could his running mate.

  22. As a long time Democrat (yet, oddly, not a traitor!), I really have to beg to differ with some of this dialogue. Bush clearly won due to cultural reasons, some having to do with guns, but mostly having to do with abortion and gay marriage and faith.

    Great, wonderful. In 8 states it is now unconstitutional at the state level for gay partners to be given any official recognition. According to the language of certain states’ amendments, even private contracts purporting to confer familiar bonds between partners could very arguably be invalidated, for giving the seeming of a marriage-like arrangement between them.

    I’m a hard working, tax paying, intelligent atheist. I consider love relationships between gays to be of some value, even if we want to keep the word marriage dedicated to its traditional definition. These positions, as I understand it, make me an anti-American elitist.

    Well, great. But if the Republican party insists on defining itself in a way that repels the intellectuals, (and by that I mean in the fundamentalist vs. secularist contrast and not the patriot vs. traitor or gun defender vs. gun confisticator way) then you won’t ever have my affection, my approbation, or my vote.

  23. Based on the op-eds today ( http://www.professorbainbridge.com/2004/11/the_liberal_eli.html ), I think the “we’re too good for the rest of you” crowd in the Democratic party, may well continue to drive the party into obscurity and irrelevance. Since the Greens don’t seem to be learning the lesson either, I think the Libertarians may become the next national party.

    Now, to respond to Jonathon Abbey’s more comment:

    /* I’m a hard working, tax paying, intelligent atheist. I consider love relationships between gays to be of some value, even if we want to keep the word marriage dedicated to its traditional definition. These positions, as I understand it, make me an anti-American elitist.
    */

    No, these positions make you an opinionated person. Just as my positions on those and other issues also make me an opinionated person.
    Dialogue like “Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/04/opinion/04wills.html?ex=1100235600&en=203e96a72b022d97&ei=5006&partner=ALTAVISTA1 , especially compared to http://camprrm.typepad.com/coyote_blog/2004/11/on_totally_losi.html , and http://camprrm.typepad.com/coyote_blog/2004/11/leaving_america.html ).

    /* Well, great. But if the Republican party insists on defining itself in a way that repels the intellectuals, (and by that I mean in the fundamentalist vs. secularist contrast and not the patriot vs. traitor or gun defender vs. gun confisticator way) then you won’t ever have my affection, my approbation, or my vote.
    */

    That’s fine. The parties exist to bring similar thinking people together. The question is, how will you get enough votes to win nation-wide elections, considering the past decade of eroding Democratic power?

  24. Oops. I didn’t finish a sentence.

    “Dialogue like “Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/04/opinion/04wills.html?ex=1100235600&en=203e96a72b022d97&ei=5006&partner=ALTAVISTA1 , especially compared to http://camprrm.typepad.com/coyote_blog/2004/11/on_totally_losi.html , and http://camprrm.typepad.com/coyote_blog/2004/11/leaving_america.html ) comes from the elitists that can’t see past their own prejudices on the rest of an intellectually unworthy America that couldn’t possibly have *meant* to vote for Bush without also meaning to vote us back into the Dark Ages.”

  25. OK, this will probably be my last post on this topic:

    1. Let’s not forget that the Left’s love of Social Security, minimum wage laws, etc. isn’t grounded in an intellectual argument. Increasing the minimum wage encourages minimum-wage workers to vote for liberal candidates.

    2. Another analysis on what the Democrats need to do to win nation-wide elections (from a Harvard law professor, no less) can be found at http://techcentralstation.com/110404F.html .

  26. …the longest-term result of this election will be the collapse of mainstream-media credibility…

    It’s been a long time since the mainstream-media have lost their credibility. This election is just an indicator, not a reason.

  27. meu nome é bruno e sou um grande fa do seu trabalho; um dia espero chegar onde vo^ce chegou e me tornar um hacker de verdade, mas nao aquele tipode hacker que invadi os computadores do outrosso pra ver a destruição, mas sim para poder desemvolver programas para aqueles que nao tem comdição de tar comprando um, gostaria que respondece, obrigado de seu fa, bruno!!!!!!!

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