Democrats Told to Reach Out

If all you did was read newspaper headlines, you’d think the Democrats would be in clover. Day after day, Republicans seem to be taking a beating on all fronts. And yet, for some reason, it’s the Republicans, not the Democrats, who keep winning elections.

Donald Lambro of the Washington Times discusses a new report by two long-time Democratic political strategists, William Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck, which warns the Democrats that they need to reposition themselves closer to the center if they want to be more successful. Democratic members of Congress are now being briefed on the report, which tries to dispel a series of “myths”:

• “The myth of mobilization.” Democrats are not going to be able to win with the old liberal orthodoxy by simply energizing the party’s base and bringing voters “to the polls in record numbers.” In an electorate “where conservatives outnumber liberals 3-2 …, Democrats cannot win the game of ‘base’ ball.”

• “The myth of demography.” Democrats are fooling themselves if they think the population growth among major minorities such as Hispanics “will secure a Democratic majority for decades to come. Along with rising Hispanic voter rolls has been a dramatic increase in Hispanic incomes,…

• “The myth of prescription drugs is our shorthand for the proposition, which seems to bewitch Democratic political consultants, that Democrats can win present-day national elections by avoiding cultural issues, downplaying national security, and changing the subject to domestic issues such as health care, education and job security.”

Galston and Kamarck blame the Democrats’ weakness on security and cultural issues for a precipitous drop in support among Catholics and married women.

Here’s a cheerful note: the authors wrote a similar report after the 1988 election. The Democrats didn’t listen then; will they now? I doubt it. The Democratic Party has lost much of its influence to far-left grass roots groups like MoveOn.org, which are funded not primarily by the party’s traditional constituencies, but by the far left, especially the far-left super-rich. The issues on which Galston and Kamarck urge the party to move toward the center–the war on terror, the American military generally, and social issues like gay marriage–are precisely the issues that motivate the most partisan Democrats. I’m not sure there are many Democrats left who are willing to compromise on those core issues, which is one reason I’m not as confident as most people that Hillary Clinton has the ’08 nomination more or less wrapped up.

Over the last nine months, events have gone about as badly as they could for the Republicans. Maybe yesterday’s election in Iraq was the beginning of a turnaround, and prospects will look brighter by next November. But even if the next year proves tough for the Republicans, they will still have their ace in the hole: they get to run against Democrats. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.

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