Blogs > HNN > RX for Democrats

Nov 9, 2004 12:18 am

RX for Democrats

Democrats can recover from the debacle of 2004 if they heed the wisdom of Reinhold Niebuhr when he said, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This means forgetting about 2008 and focusing on 2006 and 2010.

*Forget 2008. Fortunately for Democrats, presidential elections are up for grabs every four years according to the performance of the party in power, with little that the challenging party can do to change the outcome. If the Bush administration fails to meet the domestic and foreign policy challenges of the next four years, Democrats will regain the presidency in 2008, regardless of their choice of a candidate.

*Reform From the Bottom-Up. Democrats have to redefine the liberalism of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson for the twenty-first century and refine it into a simple, compelling message. The party should follow the model of the United States Civil Rights Commission during the 1960’s when it built a consensus against racial discrimination by holding hearings that tapped into the hopes and dreams of ordinary Americans. The Democratic Party should hold similar hearings across the nation, organized and run by local leaders – governors, mayors, county executives, state legislators, and independent activists – not the crowd in Washington.

*Seize the Moral High Ground. Whichever party holds the moral high ground dominates politics in the United States. Democrats must relearn how to frame their principles in terms of right and wrong, beginning with a quietly organized retreat that includes the nation’s foremost thinkers on morals and rhetoric.

*Focus on 2006. Democrats should begin now to target states and congressional districts, recruit dynamic candidates, and get its donors to put troops on the ground for 2006, when setbacks in Iraq and the economy could turn voters against the party in power. Like the GOP in 1994, Democrats should develop national themes and not assume that midterm elections are 470 separate contests. Long term, to stay competitive in the Senate, Democrats need to expand their political base beyond the current 18 to 20 states. The Democrats should target 10 small states, rebuilding party organizations and pressuring Republican senators.

*Fight for State Legislative Seats. Republicans have used their control over state legislatures to gerrymander congressional districts. In Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, for example, Bush and Kerry received nearly equal support, but Republicans won two-thirds of the congressional seats. In Texas, Republicans gained unified control of the state legislature in 2002 and then redrew district lines to defeat six Democratic members of Congress. Democrats must beat Republicans at their own game with nationally directed, well-funded state legislative campaigns to ensure that district lines drawn after the Census of 2010 give Democrats a fair chance to compete for congressional seats.

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