How will pleasing the base get Dem candidates in trouble with the general electorate?

Conservatives on this board keep on saying how whacked-out the Dem base is, and that Dem candidates will be forced to take radical positions in order to please their base (and win the primaries) that will spell doom for them with the electorate as a whole.

The latest example of this is Sam Stone in the What are the realistic chances for Republican’s in 2008? thread:

So, just how is the Dem base ‘wacky’? Who comprises this base, anyway? (It’s not mostly netroots, fwiw.) In what way are they “farther out there” than the GOP base?

And the question this thread is intended to be about: what positions will Dem candidates be forced to take in order to win the support of their ‘base’ that will be significant trouble for the winner of the Presidential nomination in the general election?

I don’t see any. Getting out of Iraq? The people are ahead of the politicians, by and large. Universal health care? Ditto. Dealing with global warming? That too. By taking ‘liberal’ stances on all these issues, by the standards of the contemporary MSM discussion of such things, politicians bring themselves in tune with the voters.

Gay marriage? None of the major Dem candidates feels compelled to support gay marriage. Here’s a position that’s unfortunately still too rad for the general population, but the candidates aren’t knuckling under to the ‘base’ on it, if indeed the ‘base’ cares that much about it.

So what are the radical, out-of-tune-with-most-voters, positions that the Dem base has, that it’s able to strong-arm Dem presidential candidates into taking?

Conservatives, the floor is yours.

Not really sure the Dems even have a “base”, in the same sense that the Pubbies do. There is a widespread revulsion and contempt for the current Admin, and well deserved it is, too. But that’s not quite the same thing. A real base, like the Pubbies have, would be devoted followers, people who buttonhole thier neighbors, people who will drive 20 miles in bad weather to cast thier votes. The Dems have such a base lately, due to the clusterfuck, but that’s an accident of history.

It just seems to me that the Democrats are veering sharply to the left. It’s not just a matter of the war - protectionist sentiments are rising. Economic populism is making a comeback. Hell, even gun control is starting to slide back into the Democratic playbook, when only a couple of years ago it was the new ‘third rail’ of American politics and Democrats wouldn’t go near it.

Not long ago, all Democrats claimed to be for low taxes. When Bush wanted to cut taxes, Democrats claimed to want to cut taxes too, only that their tax cuts would be different. Now every Democratic candidate has a tax increase plan, despite the fact that the economy has been soaring and the deficit declining rapidly. A tax increase might work if the deficit is sky-high, but it’s a really tough sell when the deficit is low.

‘The Base’ doesn’t just want the U.S. out of Iraq. They want the U.S. out of Iraq now - a rapid withdrawal regardless of the consequences. They want increased regulations on business, significantly higher CAFE standards, increased taxes on the wealthy, higher minimum wages, job protection for blue collar workers through trade tariffs and regulations that prevent businesses from working in 3rd world countries unless those countries meet 1st world labor and environmental standards. They want extreme CO2 emissions reductions.

Actually, it may be that the base hasn’t changed at all - it’s just gotten more confident. Maybe Democrats haven’t really changed at all, but they just feel empowered enough now to start asserting themselves again.

Regardless, many of these policies would kill them in a general election. Campaigning on a platform of increased taxes and regulation has never been a winner in American politics at the national level. Clinton didn’t do it. He declared that the era of big government was over. Kerry didn’t do it. He claimed he wanted tax cuts, just tax cuts of a different nature.

The number of voters who say that the Iraq war is the most important issue that will determine who they vote for has dropped to 20%, which is just about the same percentage as those who say it’s the economy.

But I don’t expect anyone to believe my points. It’s mostly a matter of opinion, and those on the left and right ends of the spectrum always seem to believe that the bulk of the population is really on their side. From the extreme ends of the spectrum, everything looks ‘moderate’.

My personal belief is that if the Democratic nominee goes into the general election with a record of having promised tax increases on the rich, an immediate pullout of Iraq, promises of heavy environmental regulation and trade tariffs, and other left-wing policies, he or she will be in big trouble.

This is wishful thinking. Actual “promises” will be much vaguer.

The “base”, a.k.a. party activists who are most likely to show up at meetings and rallies and vote in the primaries, are no more “whacked-out” on the Democratic side than on the Republican. The Democratic “base”, though, is just as likely as its Republican counterpart to feel betrayed when it finds out that it won’t be listened to on its core issues. The next Dem Presidential winner is not going to forcefully shepherd the Party faithful’s favorite proposals through Congress (including universal single-payer health care, major global warming legislation including a big gasoline tax or an immediate Iraq pullout). The Democratic activists are necessary window dressing for the first step in getting elected (the nomination), but after that (and in particular beginning in Jan. 2009 for you optimists out there), it’s going to be about enjoying the perquisites of power and planning to win in 2012.

Both parties’ candidates generally run on more radical rhetoric in the primary campaign and moderate it after being nominated.

Cite? According to this, the national debt (not deficit) as percentage of GDP has been climbing steadily since 2001.

And why exactly do you think all those things (which happen to be exactly what the country needs) won’t sell with the voters?

:dubious: Never? Remember FDR?

And how does this translate into promises or programs? ISTM that nobody’s talking about repealing NAFTA; the only question is whether to jump blindly into whatever new trade agreements Bush thinks up, or to progress a bit more cautiously for awhile.

In what sense?

Oh, that’s right: universal health care, income tax rates that are less than Bill Clinton passed, and a return to the cap gains rate that Reagan signed into law.

Yep, that’s “sharply to the left,” alright.

OK, but what does that have to do with the ‘base’ - which parts of it are fighting for this (the netroots isn’t, by and large), and who’s getting roped into it?

Not long ago, all Democrats claimed to be for low taxes. When Bush wanted to cut taxes, Democrats claimed to want to cut taxes too, only that their tax cuts would be different. Now every Democratic candidate has a tax increase plan, despite the fact that the economy has been soaring and the deficit declining rapidly. A tax increase might work if the deficit is sky-high, but it’s a really tough sell when the deficit is low.

Can you produce some evidence for this?

And ordinary people don’t think we need anyone checking up on food imported from China?

Nobody wants them either except for leftist hippies.

Hell, polls show people are willing to support increased taxes on their own selves if it’ll help address problems that need addressing.

Yep, that was a total loser with the general electorate. :slight_smile:

Without specifics, that sure sounds like blather from a right-wing blog. Reading it, I can’t tell what it even means. So, can you quote somebody who speaks for a chunk of the Dem base about this?

Define ‘extreme’. What part of the base wants what that regular people don’t want? And how have the candidates responded?

It’s participatory democracy.

Nobody ‘campaigns on a platform of increased taxes and regulation,’ any more than a restaurant tries to sell you on the cost of a meal, without talking about the meal.

People want things that government can provide. They don’t want collapsing bridges. They do want health insurance. People have seen what cutting taxes does, and they don’t like it.


The thing is, there are polls and stuff to define where the population is on things. I’m sure there are more definitive discussions than ours about what constitutes the Democratic base. I can give you a good idea of what the range of opinion is in the netroots, but that’s only one part of the base. But even if we say ‘netroots’ = ‘base’ just for discussion’s sake, you’d have to show which bloggers with which sorts of followings were for what, and how it was received.

So you’ve neither defined places where the Dem base, or any part of it, differs from the majority of the population. You’re just handwaving.

I’m gonna go take a nap, but later on, I’ll be delighted to give some instances of where the GOP base differs from the sentiments of the general population.

I fully agree: this is your personal belief. :smiley:

I live in a community that is considered one of the most liberal in the country, and a home base for liberal whackos. If you wanted to see the base of the democratic party, Boulder would be the place to go, along with Berkeley and Madison and a few other places. Colorado is also caucus state, which means that to be involved, you have to go to meetings, not just show up and vote.

I have been to the meetings, and I know what the base looks like. We are engineers, pharmacists, teachers, college professors. etc. I’ve never met a gun control activist at any meetings, and nobody wants their taxes raised. While everyone thinks Iraq was a huge mistake, nobody really thinks we should pull out every single soldier tomorrow.

The image of the liberal base is a phony caricature perpetuated by right wing propaganda. The reality is incredibly different that the myth. Guys like Ward Churchill and his followers are a miniscule fraction of the left and probably don’t even vote Democrat anyway.

The Democrats aren’t “pleasing their base.” THE issue of the moment is the war and their base wants the US out, now.

Do anyone see the Democrats in congress standing up to GW on that issue?

Is Colorado as a whole more conservative or liberal?

I gotta say, Sam, that your post sounds like a lot of hand-waving. First, you need to define what “the base” is, and then you need to produce some reasonably good outline of what platform would please them the best. Seems like the big issues of this campaign are, or are shaping up to be: Iraq, healthcare, and the economy. Unless we have another terror attack, that issue seems to be slipping out of people’s minds.

Most Americans want us out of Iraq even faster than the Democrats are proposing. Neither of the top 3 Democratic candidates has a plan that gets out of Iraq completely, although the press likes to use the shorthand of “end the war” or “bring the troops home”. On healthcare, I don’t think people know what they want except that they’re not happy with the current situation. As for the economy, people just always seem to be nervous these days-- maybe they’re right to be nervous, maybe not.

And besides, they candidates almost always play to “the base” in the primaries, then move to the center in the general. What’s different this time is that one candidate (let’s call her Hillary) seems to playing to the general now, and she’s getting away with it-- at least so far. Not to mention that fact that the Republicans are just all over the map, not happy with any of the candidates being put up.

Sure it is. I said as much. I just thought I owed RTFirefly a response, but I recognize this isn’t exactly a Great-Debates type response. It’s pretty much opinion. Of course it’s hard to pin down ‘the base’, just as it’s hard to pin down the Republican base. And it’s hard to say how many promises will be kept, or how many will even be made.

I do think that on both the Republican and Democratic side the rules have changed somewhat because of the internet. We saw the beginnings of that in the last election. The grassroots are much more organized now and much more capable of operating on a national stage. We’ll see where that takes us.


Good question. It has traditionally voted Republican, but moved hard to the left last election. The house delegation went from 4-2 Republican to 4-3 Democrat (one extra seat was created), plus the Governor went from R to D. The state house and senate also went Democratic for the first time in decades.

This is a definate turn, but I am not so sure that it is a permanent thing. Coloradoans have always been, like in many western states, libertarian in thinking, and voted for Republicans who would just stay out of their way. Starting in about 2000, the Colorado Springs crowd got themselves elected, and the state did not take kindly to them. It was all about flag burning, private schools, gay marriage - while letting the state burn (2002) and education go to hell. Since then, Colorado Republicans have been moving back to the center, and we’ll see what happens.

There is a reason the Democrats chose Denver for their convention next year.

Wonder how well logical syllogisms handle facetious statements. :slight_smile:

This is way off the thread topic, but another factor with respect to Colorado, along with NM, AZ, and NV, is the fairly heavy Hispanic population. According to the American Community Survey, Colorado was 19.5% Hispanic in 2005. And the GOP, for once working contra Bush and Rove, has been doing its level best lately to tell Hispanics they’re not wanted.

That part of the country is joining the Midwest as a home to more than the usual number of swing states. Even Kerry came within about 30,000 votes of picking up both NM and NV, and that of course was before the immigration fireworks of last year and this. If the Dem nominee can pick up those two states and Colorado too, plus hold onto everything Kerry won, then s/he’s the next President.

So the Dems had a lot of motivation to choose Denver. Once it came down to Denver and NYC, I’m surprised they even had to think about it for very long.

What pisses me off is how the Repubs raised taxes so much.

Not I. I don’t see any evidence that the Democrats are pleasing their base, or anyone else.

This could go on for years if we don’t pin down specifics. So I’ll pick just one - education.

Now, most of the country wants big changes to be made in the education system, and while these changes are hotly debated, the netroots and the right wingers alike both agree on the need for considerably more accountability in the system.

This kind of accountability, though, is anathema to the teachers’ unions, which hold disproportionate power in the Democratic nominating contests. Therefore most Democratic candidates make no noises at all int his area, and don’t enact policy when in office. The exception to this rule this year seems to be Barack Obama, and he is being raked across the coals by a lot of the more militant teachers.

So no, the netroots aren’t involved here, but a vocal group is that is steering the wagon. And in issue after issue, from farm policy to Social Security to the war, the same thing can be said. Now, I won’t deny that similar things happen on the Republican side, but the scale of it on the Democratic side is huge, given their dependence on special group politics.

Denying these realities and the part they play in the process is just silly - everyone knows on both sides how much sway teachers’ unions have in the process. So it would be better to note how the more damaging effects of these kinds of arrangements can be mitigated. Perhaps a wise candidate can assert his independence from the teachers, like Obama is to some degree.

Let’s see.

Heavens no. We wouldn’t want a…precipitous withdrawal! <thunderclap>

I think most informed people on this subject will recognize that we can’t just pull up stakes and leave overnight. It’ll take a good 18-24 months to get all that expensive equipment out. That’s why we should’ve started back in May instead of, say, having a Saigon moment in 2015. YMMV.

But let’s assume your characterization of the base is correct. What of it? None of the Dems except Kucinich want us to leave Iraq completely. All their plans involve leaving substantial forces for the near future to combat trrrsts/“protect our vital national interests,” and their plans involve removing the troops over a long time period.

As for playing to the base, I’m not seeing anything they’re doing to make the base happy. In fact, I’m pretty sure the base is quite unhappy right now, especially since they just voted today to give Gonzo even more power to wiretap at will.

What have the Dems done in this new Congressional term that pleases the base? Minimum wage? That was traded for Iraq funding and it’s not even that important – especially since it had a wider appeal besides the base, and was supposed to be done in the first 100 hours. Some half-hearted oversight and investigations with no follow through? Same, most people in this country want Bush and friends to be checked, but they can’t even do that. Both sides were angry over the immigration fiasco. Am I forgetting something?

It’s been all hat, no cattle this entire time.