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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Revealed: How the Democrats can Recover


Aren't people making a little too much of the fact that 22% of voters said that "moral values" was the most important issue to them? This statement, from Thomas Friedman's column, is pretty typical:
"The Democrats have ceded to Republicans a monopoly on the moral and spiritual sources of American politics," noted the Harvard University political theorist Michael J. Sandel. "They will not recover as a party until they again have candidates who can speak to those moral and spiritual yearnings - but turn them to progressive purposes in domestic policy and foreign affairs."
Well talk is cheap, and if Democrats can win with a little God talk about social justice or whatever, that's fine with me, although I'm skeptical about the odds of this working. But I think Sandel and Friedman are a little too quick to prescribe a cure, without taking time to make an adequate diagnosis.

I happen to know exactly what the Democrats could have done to win Tuesday's election, and what they have to do to "recover as a party" -- they need to convince 1.5 - 2% of voters to choose them instead of the Republicans. If they persuade religious conservatives to switch that's fine. If they persuade some of the rest of the Republican coalition to switch -- the 60% or so that don't think "moral values" is the most important issue -- that's fine too, and seems a lot more likely.

Maybe nominating a Southern Baptist is the way to win next time, or maybe it's protectionism, as Aussie Economist John Quiggen suggests, or maybe it's something entirely different.

Finally, it's worth keeping in mind that social issues are likely to play out pretty differently next time. The Supreme Court, with three or four Bush appointees, seems likely to overturn Roe v. Wade sometime soon. If that happens, pro-choice Bush voters (about a third of his total), may realize that they're made a terrible mistake.

 
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