by J.D. Tuccille
November 3, 2004

Democratic Party -- Closed for Renovation

A few minutes ago (about 8:30 am, Mountain Time), New York Senator Charles Schumer appeared on NBC's Today show to attribute his party's clobbering at the polls (in terms of offices lost, I hasten to add, not necessarily in terms of raw votes) to "values." Specifically, he named gun control and gay marriage as issues where Democrats lose Southerners and Westerners no matter how much voters may (or may not) agree with the party's message on other issues. Schumer said Democrats need to "do something" on these values issues, while emphasizing what he considers his party's advantage on "jobs, the economy and health care."

OK, here's my fear -- and prediction: Seeing themselves stuck at a bit less than half the national vote (a credible amount for a major party in any country, by the way, and only a problem in a winner-take-all two-party system) and confined to coastal urban areas and the upper Midwest, Democrats will reposition themselves by de-emphasizing values issues -- basically dropping abortion, gay marriage, gun control and similar contentious matters -- in national elections. Simultaneously, the party will push harder for government-controlled healthcare and business-bashing regulations that sound an economically populist theme.

Schumer seems to be calling for exactly this strategy.

The end result will be a political party that drops its remaining positions in favor of personal freedom and tolerance, and emphasizes authoritarian issues pretty much across the board. The one net gain from a personal freedom perspective will likely be gun rights, which the national Democratic Party will probably treat as radioactive for years to come.

That will leave us with a populist-authoritarian party facing a militarist-authoritarian party in national elections.

Crap. Why did I start writing about politics again?

Interestingly, Schumer held himself out as a non-partisan sort of guy who'd be willing to work with the president on matters of mutual interest.

That's a far cry from his days as a federal Representative, when he sold himself to his staff (including one of my college roommates) as a firebrand socialist.

Then again, in light of President Bush's domestic spending spree, including the Medicare drug-benefits program, maybe that's not such a stretch after all.

The one major hurdle to Democratic repositioning that I can imagine is Democrats' refusal to take seriously those voters who disagree with the party on the issues. By insisting, like Nicholas D. Kristof and Thomas Frank, that voters who favor Republican economic policies over Democratic ones are "voting -- utterly against their own interests" without even asking why those voters may disagree, Democrats treat their target audience with contempt. They do the same when they insist that the very values issues on which they are losing to Republicans are "content-free." Clearly, many voters put a lot of weight on values issues, and they're unlikely to be persuaded by politicos who consider the masses to be too stupid to understand their own good -- even if those politicos pay sneering lip service to heartland values.

Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Jerome D. (Il Tooch) Tuccille. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Il Tooch is prohibited. Mess with me and Iíll use your polished skull as a beer mug.