The two-nation trap
In "The two-nation trap," Alan Wolfe argues that Democratic presidential contenders cannot expect to govern effectively if they merely rally the faithful and fail to reach out to Republican regions and voters. Is it possible for a Democrat to speak effectively and persuasively to all of the people?
It depends on the candidate. Howard Dean cannot. He is leading because he is attracting the votes of the liberal base of the Democratic party. If he is the Democratic candidate the 2004 election will look like a repeat of Mondale-Ferraro. Keep in mind the only northern democrat to win since the second world war was JFK, and he did so by the smallest margin ever. Any northern liberal will get smoked in a national election.
alan wolfe is always a stimulating thinker. i fear its optimistic to suggest that any politician will adopt as forward thinking and responsible an outlook as he proposes.
It is possible, but the speaker will have to surrender his basic Democrat instincts, most particularly the idea that the world revolves around an open laptop at Starbucks. The other part of this equation, which will be much harder to effect, concerns the American habit of thinking that the world ends at the Pacific and the Atlantic. 9/11 shows not that an evil world is poised to take away American freedom; rather, it demonstrates that the world will not tolerate American greed, bribery, pompous self-righteousness, or egotistical smugness. George Bush is the least impressive candidate since Warren Harding. Democrats do not need to nominate the Perfect Candidate in order to beat him. They do, however, have to nominate someone who will take the party out of the hands of the scam-artists and the schemers (like Terry McAuliffe) and return it to the people who actually work for a living.
steve, st. paul, mn
Why are all of these questions geared towards the left and always criticizing Republicans? This "Ideas" section is always extremely one sided and rarely shows any diversity in its "ideas". We're always presented with a rant that has an anti-Republican bent that contains criticisms that rarely provide any support to these beliefs.
Democrats certainly dont speak to Americans that work hard, are taxed and want to be left alone...Ordinary Americans are bombarded with what we 'should' tolerate, why we should pay more taxes, and why the 'takers' deserve more and the 'givers' are greedy. Trying to raise a family and make ends meet is difficult enough without the 'New' Democrats preaching from the left wing fringe about why hard work for fair pay is morally wrong and why I am not 'tolerant' enough......the party is in the tank, and a long way from where it started...
No, it's not possible for a Democrat to win the presidency. The old coalition is being chipped away. I talked to a minimum wage worker at a hotel in Virginia who was upset with the Social Security taxes he was paying. He would be a natural constituent of the Democrats, but they're taxing him too much. There have been anecdotes over the past few years of seniors who have gone back to work to make ends meet. They will no longer be an automatic vote for the Democrats since they're paying more in SS taxes than they're receiving. The Republicans recently decided not to extend unemployment benefits. Since these people will now have to find jobs, they will be on the paying end of government, not the receiving end, and will vote accordingly to lower their taxes. On social issues, Americans are 70-30 against gay marriage according to a recent poll by the New York Times. On abortion, most Americans believe a mother's womb should be a safe place to be. This is reflected in the Republican majorities in the House, the Senate, and the governorships. So, it looks like 4 more years of Republican rule.
In theory, it should be trivially easy for a Democratic presidential candidate to get at least a foot in the door (if not more) with just about everyone across the political spectrum. Not only has the current president managed to alienate the Democrats' traditionally liberal base through such actions as launching an unprecedented, unilateral attack against another country solely based on intelligence that was deemed questionable at the time, but his expansion of government power in the name of "national security" (cleverly named the "Patriot" Act) has also made some on the right apprehensive. If the Democrats want to reach beyond their core supporters, they will need to speak clearly and transparently to average Americans about truly relevant issues, rather than attempting to match the Republicans blow-for-blow on their grandiose playing field of morality and righteousness. Average Americans would rather discuss their national and local economies, their concerns about their employment status, and the safety and well-being of their families than moral issues such as gay marriage and third-trimester abortion that, while not philosophically unimportant, are largely irrelevant to most people at the present time. With respect to these more practical matters, it is rather straightforward to show how the country has degraded over the last four years, and therefore there is little need for Democrats to whip up a storm of political hyperbole that alienates so many voters and would-be voters -- just simply stating the facts and drawing a clear conclusion from them will suffice. Yet such a case study should only serve as the point of departure for a candidate's discussion: while the failures of the Bush administration can be clearly identified and demonstrated, less obvious is the path that the country needs to follow (or forge) going forward, and even less obvious is the manner in which that path will be traveled. A candidate that can clearly and convincingly articulate to the average citizen his vision for that path will generate a sense of hope for change and betterment that the present Bush-bashing strategy does not achieve. Ultimately, it is this sense of hope that will persuade voters and drive them to the polls on Election Day.
Brian, Portland, OR
No, a democrat cannot reach out to republicans, who still tell one another about Clinton murdering Vince Foster, Clinton letting Osama get away, Clinton the rapist, Clinton the thief. Their hate of Clinton is a reflection of their hate of a polyglot, urban and internationalist nation, which, sitting on a pillar of nuclear power and military coercion, finds that it cannot act without the fundamentals of real international agreement, cannot steal the resources that it wants, cannot take what it wills regardless of the wants of the other 5 3/4 billion human beings on earth. They will NEVER accept an America without a 'John Wayne' politics, an 'ostpolitik' if you like, that runs roughshod over the asperations of the rest of the world, so there is no point in injuring our democratic base attempting to 'woo' these hate-laced infantile undereducated white men who are the statistical core of the Republican party.
lord of flies, Los Angeles, CA
Being raised a democrat in the 50's and 60's the democratic party really did stand for working people and for the "common man". Not today, the democratic party represents those that don't work, and a melting pot of others that believe that the government can solve all problems by spending someone else's money. The Globe should do a survey to see which party has a higher percentage of working people in it - my bet would surely be the republican party by a wide margin. The Alan Wolfe article was very interesting and really does point out a strategy, perhaps the only strategy where the democratic party has a chance of winning in 2004. The only people following the policitcal debates today are the junkies (usually the far left or far right). This explains why Dean is so far ahead in the polls - he may play well in New Hampshire, but wait until he gets to SC or beyond. Most republicans I have spoken to hope that Dean is the democratic candidate; no white person south of the Mason-Dixon line that works will vote for him after his cracks about the Southerners. His elitist attitude really came through - he obviously feels that he knows better than any Southerner what's good for them. Therefore, he won't win a Southern state. When Mom and Pop in the midwest go to the polls, I don't think Dean will fare much better - too liberal. One cannot proclaim to be a fiscal conservative and yet propose to spend like there is no tomorrow - most working Americans are fed up with the federal budget being about 80% entitlements and those on the take saying it isn't enough. With the economy coming around and the Iraq situation looking better all the time, it's going to be a cold 2004 for the democrats and the Globe. The only strategy that gives any chance for the democrats is Wolfe's.
Mark, Amherst, NH
It is amazing to me that anyone could believe that President Bush, a truly great President of the same mold as Lincoln and Washington, could be described as divisive or as following a two nation strategy. As is so typical of left-wing screeds, Wolfe simply hurls accusations without facts or argument. In fact it is the party of plunder not principle, the Democratic Party, that is divisive and is appealing only to special interests that hope to gain yet more plunder or patronage from its victory. Like Clinton, they will promise anything to anybody, lying blatantly and often, to get votes. They are completely guided by focus groups and polls rather than principle, and they have to be because they believe in nothing - moral relativism's gaping maw. Recipients of plunder and their collectivist, hate-America cheerleaders of the radical left are all that is left to the Democrats. Decent folk avoid them, averting their eyes. It is fitting that a minor demagogue like Dean leads this party to ruin. His rants about any perceived weakness in government policy would be embarrassing to anyone with a shred of dignity, but dignity is a concept the Democrats abandoned long ago. What is he shrieking about now? His cowardice in the face of terrorism, deficits (that Democrats normally embrace) to recover from Clinton's recession, or just what is the whine du jour? Who listens or cares? In short, there are two flaws in the article: one is the lie that Bush is following a two nation strategy, the basic thesis of the article, and the other is that the Democrats, until they actually have some principles, represent a viable alternative anywhere. In other words, the article is irrelevant and silly.