Thursday, November 04, 2004

Post-Election Assessments: Time for Serious Class War?

Here is what my very good friend Trond Jacobsen posted to edebate last night:

Setting aside the tactical decisions and missteps of this particular campaign to look instead over the longer term, I believe that if the Democrats want to win, and progressives want to help them, quality of life issues for the working class should be the heart of the platform and the substance of campaigns and campaign rhetoric. Wages, benefits, protection of right to organize, heath care, overtime protection, child care, etc.

These are the issues. Social issues are important, but not as important. Civil rights are important, but not as important. Protecting the environment is important, but not as important (at least in near term). Choice is important, but not as important.

I know others disagree. Let's debate it out.

New Deal Democrats sparked a realignment by focusing (at least rhetorically and in many ways in actuality) on using the government to make a marginally more equitable though still unjust system. The reward was better than parity in Presidential elections until LBJs actions in 64/65 calved southern bigots (and others in the more recent period) from the party, and even then the Democrats had a lock on the legislative branch.

Enter the DLC and Clinton. Win two presidential campaigns - but lets be clear that at least in 1992 there is no way Clinton wins without Perot in the race -but lose control of Congress. Incumbency has always been a very powerful force and to precipitate a reversal on the scale of 1994 takes both major effort and major failure to accomplish. Having failed to recover control of either Congress or the White House with tepid incrementalism now for several elections, coupled with the apparent success of mobilizing the Christian right to vote in greater numbers by the GOP, the window of opportunity to restore power via the cautious approach has closed.

My view is that for all Kerry's many weaknesses and the mistakes of the campaign, this election is the highwater mark for this cautious approach. We had as strong a candidate as possible from the primary pool. I still thinkthat is true.We matched in money. Kerry spent roughly 50% MORE on advertising in PA, OH, and in FL than the Bush. The Dems did not get blown away by GOP dollars. We had our most successful voter mobilization effort ever. We had a huge outpouring of networking and coordination and cooperation. And we lost. Not a landslide, not even close, but a decisive loss nonetheless.

A new approach is necessary. Or more accurately, a return to an earlier approach. The bottom line is that the Dems did not carry Ohio, a state that has been absolutely hammered by/under the Bush administration. Whatever a progressive may think about the wisdom or need to support the Democrats as the lesser of two evils must now seriously reflect on that strategy. It makes some sense on paper but if the Dems continually lose and grow relatively weaker over time as a result, this approach (my approach this election) leads nowhere.

Barring a willingness to return to earlier approaches, the Dems wont win. There is no way to trump anti-gay bigotry with soft-peddled class warfare - only the strong stuff will do.

Trond E. Jacobsen

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