Democratic Politics

January 3, 2005

"How did Bush Win? Organization,smarts and strategy" by T.B. Edsall and J.V. Grimaldi (Oregonian, 1/3/05; Washington Post, 12/29/04 ) analyzes the failure of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential campaign by placing total emphasis on horse-race strategy, where and when the money was spent, and which voters were targeted by the campaigns. This analysis picks up where the real-time commentators and pollsters left off, by ignoring the public policy issues that were raised (and not raised) and focusing on the use of advertising and manipulation of the media. Strategy, while important, is just the means of advancing a message. Edsall and Grimaldi's strategic analysis, however accurate as a bean-counting exercise, totally disregards the quality of the content of the campaign messages and, in doing so, discounts the judgement of the voters.

E.J.Dionne Jr. ( Washington Post 12/31/04) mentions a number of propaganda themes that worked far too well for the Bush campaign, traditional values, swift boat allegations, liberal elites, etc., and he urges the left to be more aggressive in defining the terms of the debate on these subjects. He also sees the need for the Democrats to find a "coherent picture of how things could be better, for everyone." Still, Dionne and other popular liberal thinkers have yet to articulate this unifying concept.

Critics complained during the campaign that, compared to the Republican ideologues, Democrats don't seem to "stand for something." Voters want a concise concept to identify with, an ideology that they can defend. A laundry list of policies may satisfy the wonks but, most people need unifying ideas, simple principles, to go by.

I suggest Democrats declare that economic democracy is a family value, central to the party's goals and a priority consideration in virtually every policy decision. Without progress toward economic democracy, we cannot have social democracy; without a considerable measure of both economic and social democracy, political democracy is impossible. This is clearly proven by the amounts of money described in the Edsall/Grimaldi analysis.

Under Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal Democrats were successful in supporting economic democracy. Social Security, one of the legacies of that high water mark, is now under attack by the Bush regime. Defense of the Social Security System is where a stand must be made if any of the principles of that political history are to be preserved. A major challenge is also being made against the progressivity of the income tax, one of the pillars of the limited economic democracy we have.

The future of the Democratic Party is being decided, even as we lick our wounds. In the face of significant 2004 losses across the national tickets, the "Chamber-of-Commerce" Democrats want to focus ever more on the contest over the "swing voters", those few thousand that ride the fence in "battleground states" and court the cameras and parrot the issues of the day from the media. The "democratic wing" of the Party favors standing for something besides strategizing and fund raising.

Of the 218 million citizens of voting age, some 155 million are registered. Of those, 118 million actually voted in the presidential contest. 100 MILLION eligible citizens did not vote! Should we ask why not? Or should we be glad they didn't, since they apparently don't care. But the second question is why didn't they care. That's why the Democrats need to stand for economic democracy!

For a clear explanation of the status of the Social Security System (and other matters), the Q-Q site recommends the interpretation of Paul Krugman from the NY Times OpEd pages.

Return to Primary Index
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