Advice For Democrats (after the November 2003 elections)

Well, the election results are in. The Democratic Party took a

beating yesterday — a worse one, I think, than it has really
assimilated. The Pew Research Center has analyzed
the results. If you guys don’t want your butts handed to you in 2004,
I have a few suggestions.

First, a reminder for new readers or old readers in any doubt. I
am not a Republican. I am not a conservative. There are some people
who are going to think my giving advice to the Democratic Party is
disingenuous or some form of point-scoring. They’re wrong. Politics
is an intrinsically evil game, but it might become at least less evil
if the Democrats cleaned up their act. I’d like to see that.

The most important message the voters delivered yesterday is that
running against George Bush is a fast road to failure. Where
Republican candidates successfully tied themselves to national issues and
ran on a boost-Bush platform (as in Kentucky and Mississippi) they won.
Only where the Democrats were able to divert attention to local issues
(like the FBI bug in Philadelphia Mayor Street’s office) did they

U.S. troops out of Iraq? Jobless recovery? War for oil? Tax
cuts? Halliburton? All these favored taglines of the anti-Bush crowd
got no traction at all. Zero. Zip. Nada. There is no evidence that
they helped and some inferential evidence in the poll numbers that
they hurt. The Democratic incumbant in Mississippi knew this was
a’comin’ — he actually worked at keeping Bill Clinton and the
whole gaggle of Democratic presidential candidates out of his state.
This didn’t save him.

The Democrats had already lost southern conservatives. The Pew
analysis says they’re losing moderates, too. Republicans gained in
every voter stratum except blacks — rich, poor, male, female,
whites, and hispanics. The angry-left pitch not only doesn’t work,
it’s accelerating a long-term tend of Republicanizing the South.

This has direct implications for 2004. The way the regional
arithmetic of the Electoral College works makes it effectively
impossible to take the White House without a strong showing in
the South. If the 2004 elections were held today, Bush couldn’t
lose — and the trends favor Republican gains in the next

So. What can the Democrats do to win?

  1. Support the war.

    The U.S. is at war. We will continue to be at war until there is
    no credible threat from an alliance of WMD-wielding rogue states and
    the Islamist terror network. The American people have accepted this,
    and they will back George Bush’s war policy unless or until it appears
    that he cannot competently execute it. Arguing that we should not
    have a war policy, or should have a less ‘unilateral’ one,
    just lost the Democrats two governorships and will almost certainly
    lose them a third in Lousiana on 15 Nov.

  2. Stop trying to personalize the 2004 campaign.

    The only loser bigger than running gainst Bush’s war policy is
    running against Bush himself. The Bush-is-Hitler/Bush-is-a-moron thing
    has no zorch anywhere outside a set of bicoastal Brie-nibbler
    patches and university campuses that can be counted on one hand.
    The American people like and respect Bush, even when they question his
    policies. (I find this part difficult to understand myself, but the
    evidence is undeniable.)

  3. Actively support gun rights.

    Of all the single-issue blocs, gun owners are both the largest and
    would probably the easiest to pry loose from the Republican base
    (remember, Bill Clinton himself said gun control swung the last
    election cycle). Over 50% of American households own guns and their
    demographics cross over many narrower political classifications. A
    lot of swing voters like me simply will not vote for any Democrat
    without an actively pro-Second-Amendment record, but will give
    Republicans the benefit of the doubt on this issue. If you want us
    back, dump the gun-grabbers overboard.

  4. Drop the prescription-drug entitlement.

    I pick on this one because there is just now no more obvious
    example of domestic-policy fecklessness. The American people said no
    to single-payer health care ten years ago. If you think they can’t
    spot a multi-billion-doller Medicare boondoggle in the making, you’re
    fooling yourself. Passing this turkey will bring no credit on either
    the Democrats or Republicans supporting it. Let it die.

  5. Give us some presidential candidates who aren’t jokes

    I look at the Nine Dwarves and the first thing reaction that comes
    to mind isn’t even disgust but a sort of weary incredulity. I think
    of P.J. O’Rourke’s line: “What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking
    fuck?” A major party in the wealthiest, most powerful, fourth most
    populous nation in the world can’t do any better than these?

    I think I have a lot of company in judging that these guys looked
    better six months ago, before they cheapened themselves with their
    endless indistinguishable yapping and their blatant pandering to the
    silliest barking moonbats on the fringe of the Democratic left. Bush
    has actually gained stature by comparison after every debate.

    Nobody expects these guys to sound like Republicans — but, you know,
    once, there used to be a Democratic position that didn’t sound like
    a petulant “Nyah, nyahhh”. I haven’t heard any credible plan for the
    war or the economy. Clue: Neither “Repeal the Bush tax cuts” or “Hand
    Iraq to the U.N. and the French” will fly to anyone who can string
    three facts together about economics or history. I don’t think these
    characters even believe their own bullshit.

You Republicans out there will be comforted by the thought
that the Democrats are utterly incapable of taking this advice. I am
not comforted by that thought — but you’re probably

(Correction: a reader pointed out that in 2003 the U.S. is
the third most populous country in the world, not the

Blogspot comments


  1. Let me offer some other key points, which you missed somehow:

    1. Don’t count on Southern votes. Kentucky and Mississippi are pretty Republican states. It turns out, if you actually look at the data, that you can’t simply extrapolate from their votes to determine how the country will vote! In fact — and I can’t think how this didn’t get properly reported — Democrats did really well in New Jersey! Wacky but true.

    2. Try to avoid scandal. In Kentucky, the Democrats were dealing with a nasty adultery scandal right up to the election. Who’d have guessed that this would hurt them in the general election?

    3. Don’t assume that any losses (or wins) are due to adherence to your own pet policy. Cause that’s just stupid. Look beyond the sense of vindication (he lost cause he didn’t act like meeee!) and think about how politics really work.

  2. From my perspective as a Libertarian election lawyer, the D’s did a lot better in Kentucky and MS than the Governor races indicate. Lots of ticket splitting. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing incumbents won big, of either party. In my town, the D’s won the city council for the first time ever, by 13 votes. No clear national trend.

  3. “Clue: Neither “Repeal the Bush tax cuts” or “Hand Iraq to the U.N. and the French” will fly to anyone who can string three facts together about economics or history.”

    You mean it will keep a Democrat from being elected or it isn’t sound policy? Bush’s economic ‘policy’ is very much like Reagan’s in the 80’s. Instead of deficit spending for the cold war, it’s deficit spending for the war on terrorism. Guess what George senior had to do after claiming he wouldn’t? Had to raise taxes. W should have asked his dad about ‘voodoo economics.’ Now, granted, using ‘repeal Bush tax cuts’ as an election motto is not going to make anyone vote for you, even if you know you are going to have to …

  4. And bam — there’s the comeback, as the Democrats win almost everything in Louisiana. Guess they didn’t need Eric’s advice so much after all.

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