Last night, as I’m sure we all know by now, was a very Republican night. I won’t go into the details on that; you can check 'em on CNN. And this thread isn’t about whether it’s good or bad that Republicans now control both houses of Congress along with the White House.
In fact, I’m not even sure if it’s a debate at all; it’s just a statement, maybe a rant. But if a debate can be found, go to it.
In this election, the Democrats have been, on a national level, laying low on the issues, treating each race as its own separate universe, taking Tip O’Neill’s aphorism, “All politics is local,” to its logical extreme.
It failed miserably. Compared to 2002, Al Gore’s run for president in 2000 was a shining success. And there’s a simple reason why. One can argue about whether Gore ran too populist a campaign, or whether he should have emphasized the Clinton administration’s accomplishments more, or whatever.
But it was clear that Gore stood for something. And we had a reasonably good idea of what. That gave half the population something to buy into. Gore’s virtual tie in the election had coattails: the Dems got a 50-50 Senate out of the deal, after having been several seats down in 1999-2000.
This year, though, all the national Democratic party seemed to want to do was duck and cover. And it showed.
The Republicans, over the past quarter-century, have made it abundantly clear what their core principles are. You can love 'em, or you can loathe 'em, but there’s no doubt what they’re about.
To say that what the Democrats stand for is a lot less clear is an understatement. They seem to be content to be “not the Republicans” and leave it vague after that.
At some point, though, you’ve got to stand for something. If the people don’t know what it is you’re selling, after awhile you’ve got to expect them to stop buying it.
I think we’ve reached that point. Last night would have been far worse for the Democrats, but for the ability of the politicians on both sides to collaborate on turning all but a handful of House districts in the country into “safe” seats. IOW, anti-democracy saved the Democrats’ asses last night.
For about the last three election cycles, I’ve been asking, as a Democrat, “Where’s OUR ‘Contract with America’?” When are the Dems going to state a handful of essential principles and issues, and run on them?
I’m sure Tip’s “All politics is local” aphorism worked for him, back in the days when the New Deal was recent and voters knew what the Democrats stood for, and liked it. Having the big stuff already working his way, the rest of it, for a Democrat in Tip’s day, was simply making sure that the results of the Democrats’ national stands showed up locally.
That won’t cut it anymore, though. I think it was Will Rogers who said, “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat,” but if the Dems want to ever be the majority party again, it isn’t going to just fall in their lap due to demographic shifts, as some recent books have suggested. They’ve got to have something to sell that most voters want to buy into. And the first step is having something to sell.
With the Democrats, it isn’t at all clear what that is anymore. Until that changes, the right Presidential candidate isn’t going to save them; nothing will save them. They’ll just continue to lose ground.