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Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Dems v. Repubs
Jane Galt writes:

The Republicans, after all, are in many ways a larger tent than the Democrats.... And that's because they can. The Republicans only have two groups to please: social conservatives, and fiscal conservatives....

The Democrats, on the other hand, are a veritable festival of interest groups: unions, teachers, minorities, feminists, gay groups, environmentalists, etc. Each of these groups has a litmus test without which they will not ratify a candidate: unfettered support for abortion, against vouchers, against ANWAR drilling, whatever. A lot of groups means a lot of litmus tests, because with the possible exception of the teachers, no one group is powerful enough to swing an election by themselves.

This causes two problems. First, it drags the party platform marginally farther to the left than the Republican platform is to the right, which in a 50/50 nation is bad news, and it narrows the well of political talent. At the local level this doesn't matter, since districts go reliably for one party or another, but nationally it's a problem, which is why the Democrats are struggling to hold onto the senate and the presidency. It took a politician of the skill and charm of Bill Clinton to make it work.

I've gotta disagree on a number of levels.

First, it doesn't just take the skill and charm of Bill Clinton to make it work. No matter what you think of the 2000 elections, the fact remains that Al Gore received 500,000 more votes than George Bush. Gore didn't have the charm nor the skill of President Clinton.

Second, sure, the Democratic Party has lots of interest groups each having their own limus tests. But, when push comes to shove, the party members and independents come out to vote for their party. It's not like they have 135 different choices on the ballot. They usually have just 2 (or, in the case of the last three Presidential elections, 3, including Perot and Nader). So, President Clinton can anger labor with his support of NAFTA but still get labor's vote in 1996. Clinton can anger the far left with his ending of welfare as we know it in 1995 but still get their vote in 1996. Clinton can execute a mentally retarded person in 1992 and still get the anti-death penalty vote that same year. Gore can distance himself from Clinton's accomplishments and still his votes in 2000.

Why do Democrats (and many independents) rally around their candidate come election time? It is because the Democratic Party does have core beliefs that they all share. President Clinton articluated them like few others before, but others have, and others will. I give an example below.

Jane Galt continues:

But the larger problem is that those interest groups are increasingly coming into conflict. African-americans want vouchers, but the more powerful teacher's union says no. Latinos trend strongly pro-life, but don't let NARAL catch them at it. Environmentalists want stricter standards that cost union members jobs. The more interest groups under the tent, the looser the grip the party has on any one group. And as social security and medicare turn into the sucking chest wound of the budget, the money for the programs that Democratic politicians have traditionally used to cement those interest groups to them is disappearing.

Sure, there is conflict. But there is no conflict in opposition. Meaning, all of these interest groups that she lists... African Americans, teachers unions, Latinos, environmentalists, and the others she doesn't... are all united against the fiscal conservatism opposing them (politically opposing, that is). And it's not just solidarity in opposition, these groups, again, all share a corps of beliefs.

She continues:

And the reason that I thought of that is that Daniel Drezner makes what I think is essentially the same point in discussing why the Democrats are having such a hard time coalescing around a candidate.

Are Galt and Drezner agahst that the Democrats haven't coalesced around a candidate yet? It's 2003 forgoshsakes. The first primary is months away. The convention is basically a year away. What do they expect? A candidate all ready picked out? Ready to go? Sorry that just doesn't happen.

Picking a nominee is hard. The Democrats *should* be having a "hard time". It's always hard -- for both parties. For every George W. Bush who gets the nomination, there is a John McCain who fights for it and doesn't. Debating who the best person to run doesn't imply a hard time. It's democracy. Come next October, the party will be united. That doesn't mean a "hard time" is being experienced.

Oh yeah, what are these core beliefs? Courage and confidence.

It's an old story. It's as old as our history. The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage and confidence. The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail. The strong, the strong they tell us will inherit the land.

We Democrats believe in something else. We democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact. And, we have more than once. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees -- wagon train after wagon train -- to new frontiers of education, housing, peace; the whole family aboard, constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics, and people of every ethnic group, and native Americans -- all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America.

For nearly 50 years we carried them all to new levels of comfort, and security, and dignity, even affluence. And remember this, some of us in this room today are here only because this nation had that kind of confidence. And it would be wrong to forget that.

So, here we are at this convention to remind ourselves where we come from and to claim the future for ourselves and for our children. Today our great Democratic Party, which has saved this nation from depression, from fascism, from racism, from corruption, is called upon to do it again -- this time to save the nation from confusion and division, from the threat of eventual fiscal disaster, and most of all from the fear of a nuclear holocaust....

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