Steven Den Beste has another long but valuable overview of the American electoral process and why it doesn’t bode well for the Democrats in 2004. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned many, many times, I’m a big believer of Anthony Downs, who formally theorized and analyzed that the party that best captured the center of the electorate is the party that will likely win any given election.

Den Beste uses a Downsian analysis to examine the political climate and comes to this conclusion:

So 2004 will be the nadir for the Democrats. Barring extraordinary events, in 2004 the Democrats will crash and burn, and then many in the Democratic party will finally start asking whether the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party” is actually a liability rather than an asset, something to be isolated and frozen out instead of pandered to. Given that they, like the religious right, have nowhere else to go, it’s not even clear that the Democrats actually need to pander to them. If that happens, the Democrats may again become viable in the US.

The Republicans eventually did that to the Falwell-Robertson religious right, and that’s part of how they regained viability. But the practical effect of that was for the overall party ideology to move closer to the uncommitted American center. It wasn’t just a cosmetic change, an attempt to find a new way to deliver the same old message.

If the Democrats eventually marginalize the Tranzis, they too will move closer to the American center, from the "opposite side". If a disaster in 2004 doesn’t bring that about, they’ll suffer further disasters in 2006 and 2008 (and 2010…), and eventually they’ll make that change, and once again become competitive out of narrow self interest. For in the long run, not even leftists like being ideologically-pure losers. There’s no substitute for victory.

Indeed, having been involved in grass-roots GOP politics for years, I can attest to the fact that the religious right is still a factor, but they’re not in the driver’s seat of the party. The Republicans realized that the religious right was an electoral liability.

As Den Beste notes, the Democrats haven’t come to the same epiphany when it comes to the radical left. As much as Democrats would like to spin Howard Dean and Wesley Clark as "moderates" they are anything but. The party line of the Democratic Party is that we should never have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, a position that instantly puts them in the minority. They argue that the US should kowtow to the UN in foreign policy – a position that is also a minority position in this country. Their economic plan is more tax and spend liberalism. Their trade policies are based on rejecting the advances in world trade made under the Clinton Administration.

In short, the Democrats appeal solely to the people who believe Bush is Hitler, John Ashcroft is the secular antichrist, the war on terror would be better served through preemptive surrender, and the way to fix the economy is by having the government run everything. In short, those are all the positions that the Democratic faithful like, but does nothing for the rest of the electorate.

Making this problem worse is the fact that the Democrats can’t elucidate alternatives to the current policy. They can call Bush "a miserable failure" but they have no plan for Iraq, for the economy, or for the war on terrorism. As I like to put it, the Democrats have a policy of petulance, and that’s all.

Negative campaigning doesn’t win elections – as Gray Davis just found out. Negative campaigning can be an effective tool, but only after a candidate has an established message and can present a positive alternative.

Democrats will argue that this is all playing to the base for the primaries, and there’s an element of truth to that argument. However, unlike prior elections, the Democrats can’t hope that what they say in the primary season will be forgotten by the general election. In an age of pervasive decentralized media, everything they say and do is a matter of easily-accessible public record.

In order to win in 2004, the Democrats would have to radically change their entire platform – which would allow the Republicans to paint them as wafflers on the issues. See what’s happening to Wesley Clark right now who’s waffled the other way to run as a Democrat for an example of this effect in action. Either the Democrats run as radicals and lose, or run as false centrists and get politically hammered.

Unless Iraq gets significantly worse (which is unlikely) or the econonmy crashes (which is even more unlikely) it seems that President Bush will get a second term, barring some kind of massive change of fortune. It is possible that he may lose of course, but the probability of that is small at this point. The Democrats are heading for electoral irrelevance in 2004, and 2002 and the California recall are harbingers of this effect.

Of course the Democrats will once again embrace the center, as parties naturally do when they go off to ideological extremes. However, given that the current Democratic platform is antithetical to the needs of the war on terrorism, the Democrats should not be surprised when they lose in 2004. Unless the Democrats come up with a candidate that can credibly claim the center, they are already marginalizing themselves with the American electorate. Given the radicalized nature of the Democratic Party, the chances of that seem slim indeed.

10 thoughts on “Realignment

  1. I can’t get over how you can say the same thing day after day after day and not get tired of saying it. If it wasn’t for your arrogant overconfidence of Bush’s re-election (despite growing evidence showing that it’s unlikely) and your obsession with talking France’s economy down, your blog would be practically non-existent. Nonetheless, I’m sure we’re all eagerly awaiting your 743rd report on how the Democrats can’t possibly win in 2004 because they’ve been hijacked by the lunatic fringe. I’m sure you’ll shed some serious light on the topic not previously discussed in your first 742 reports on the topic.

  2. Jay, I’ve never been one to document every tidbit of information I read so I can later use it in a bibliography to defend my opinions on a blog. Perhaps I should start doing so to counter the oft-repeated Republican claptrap of not being able to cite every sentence I write with some sort of source. This is a blog, not a term paper, and you sure as hell aren’t a college professor, so perhaps you should try to deflate your ego a little so you don’t hurt your head the next time you walk through a doorway.

    For that matter, your “verified facts and figures” are often questionable at best. On the issue of steel imports crippling the domestic steel industry, I cited the thousands of documented layoffs and mill closings, you cited assurances from a couple “steel industry analysts” that everything’s gonna be A-OK. I’ll be more than happy to stand my “support” on that issue.

    As for you and den Beste’s dueling fairy tales, 98% of it was the same airheaded and repetitious “Democrats are controlled by the fringe left and have no chance of winning now or ever again” blather, but there was one point you guys brought up that I found particularly interesting given the timing. You cited that the Republican Party is “no longer under the control of its religious right wing”. The fact is, the religious right has more power in the Republican party, and thus American policy, than ever before now that Bush has bypassed Congress and unconstitutionally looted the Federal treasury, giving away his children and grandchildren’s money to support “faith-based charity” efforts. But perhaps you missed that nugget since you’ve been so busy assuring everyone that the Democrats are guaranteed losers over and over and over again.

  3. Emerson said, Events are in the saddle and ride mankind

    President Bush took a great risk in going to war in Iraq, and I don’t think he did it because he thought it was a sure thing. Nonetheless, he no longer “controls his destiny” as they say about sports teams. The fortunes of war are now in charge. If Saddam is captured, for instance, the momentum may flow back in favor of Bush. But right now, he is vulnerable, and I certainly see no prospects of a realigning election.

    On the other hand, if the lid comes off in Iraq, and a former Independent like Clark is the Democratic nominee, there is the potential of realignment in the direction of the Democrats with independents like myself moving into the party.

  4. The problem with Clark is that he is a consummate political opportunist.

    After researching the former General, it’s clear that he is not a man of convictions. Rather, he has a history of doing what will get his face in the papers and what is politically expedient. As one officer who served under Gen. Clark at NATO described him, Clark is the penultimate “REMF” – a man whose sole concern is his own political advancement at any costs.

    The way in which Clark is running his campaign is emblematic of why I dislike him so much. His campaign was started by a grass roots efforts, then Clark screwed his own partisans over and let a group of ex-Clintonistas take over the show. His position on the war have changed so many times I’m not sure even he knows what they are anymore.

    As Gen. Shelton said, Clark has “character issues”, and from his record those issues stem from his constant self-aggrandizement. His actions over Pristina Airport nearly tore the Bosnia mission apart. His arrogance made him hated by everyone who worked with him at NATO. His indecision is entirely unfitting of someone who must serve in a time when indecision can lead to the deaths of thousands.

    In short, Clark the man is nothing like Clark the symbol. Clark is little more than an empty uniform, a way of making the Democrats look better on national security issues without actually changing their radical policies. Clark simply does not Presidential material, he lacks integrity, what policies he has are flawed and riddled with self contradiction, and he has deep-seated issues that make him unqualified for the office.

  5. Clark isn’t liberal enough to win the Democratic nomination in the first place. I would be very surprised if it isn’t Howard Dean that winds up running against Bush.

  6. My Democrat wife will occasionally wave some news story in my face about how something bad just happened in Iraq. She has yet to give me an answer to this question: “OK. So why does this mean Howard Dean should be president?” Of course, the Democrats could win. But they’d need to do the hard work of articulating some set of policy alternatives to say to ordinary non-core voters, who don’t hate Bush, why they would be better and why Bush should be voted out. But once you actually articulate a proposal, everybody is immediately all over you with why it is a terrible idea, a sell-out, etc. So the Donks are just hammering Bush, which is easy and fun, and they are more and more unreasonable about their language and tone. This gains them no ground in the center. So they are building nothing toward a win in 2004. Nor do I think it will be easy, or even possible, after all this vehemence, for the nominee to “fade right” going into the general election.

    It reminds me of the GOP during Clinton’s presidency. They hated him so much they alienated the center.

    Here’s hoping the Donks keep it up, and march right off a cliff in 2004.

  7. Pingback: Centerfield

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