The Future of the Democratic Party
Dean Esmay has an interesting view on this.
The Democrats, as I see it, now face a crisis of conscience. They can angrily dig in, continue to embrace the Michael Moore/Joe Trippi wing of the party as their hope for the future, or they can realize that the center in American politics has shifted and they can begin the process of remaking themselves, pushing the more extreme elements to the side and finding ways to win back the votes of people they've done so much to alienate the last few years.
In the House, so long as Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi remains as Minority Leader, the Democrats will continue to be the Angry Left. However, the Democrats in the Senate have the advantage of having to pick a new leader. If they pick Harry Reid, the current Senate Minority Whip, they will signal that they at least want to appear more centrist and may even be a real step toward cooperation. If the Democrats pick Christopher Dodd, it will clearly signal that they will remain on their Leftist crusade.


Apparently they have chosen Reid.

(The Hill, if you don't read it, is the daily newspaper of Congress and is available online)

Posted by: Drew | 11/03/2004 - 06:44 PM

It remains to be seen if Reid will lead them toward the center or if they will drag Reid over to the Dark Left Side.

Posted by: Lucy | 11/04/2004 - 08:04 AM

I've never found Reid all that centrist.

Posted by: King of Fools | 11/04/2004 - 09:03 AM

Well yes and no. I agree he has toed the Democratic party line for the most part - in fact, as minority whip, he enforced the party line.

However, consider the following. He is from a "red" state, so he has to pay attention to his voters or he'll end up like Daschle. This is why I was happy to see Drew's link - Reid is much better than Dodd IMO (since Dodd is more liberal and is from a blue state who supports his values). Reid claims to be a Mormon, hopefully he will pay more attention to his professed beliefs than some other politicians.

Reid is also considered pro-life because he voted to ban partial-birth abortions, but others are skeptical about how solid a pro-lifer he really is.

I don't know him well enough to make a firm judgment about this, but I'm now at least optimistic there is a chance for some Democratic flexibility. If Dodd had been elected leader, I would not have been optimistic at all.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/04/2004 - 09:56 AM

If Democrats follow the Republican line and rubber stamp their agenda, then we are "bipartisan." If we stick to our guns and vote our conscience and best interests, we are the "Angry Left." Sorry, I don't buy that.

Now is not the time for the Democrats to become Republican "lite." One of the criticims from the Left regarding the Democratic Party is that too often the leadership has wimped out to the Republicans, playing softball to their hardball. While it hurts to lose the Senate seat, I'm glad that Tom Daschle is gone for those reasons.

While it's clear that there were more conservative voters than liberals in the election, I disagree that the center has shifted that much. Almost half the country vote against Bush as well.

There are new political realities that the Democrats will have to deal with -- such as that force known as Evangelical Christians -- but to give in to a Bush agenda is not the way to do it.

Posted by: Szdfan | 11/04/2004 - 03:45 PM


I didn't know liberals had any guns to which to stick ;-)

Seriously, no one is asking you to give up your principles, but one of the principles of a democratic republic is that the majority rules within some guidelines. Daschle is gone because he was painted, correctly in my opinion, as an obstructionist. The Constitution says the Senate should vote on the president's nominations and Daschle refused to allow the issue to come to a vote. This is unprincipled and I have often thought about suing the Senate to force them to vote since I (and all other Americans) are being unconstitutionally deprived of representation by their inaction. However, now that only five Dems need to help force a vote (or only eight Dems if you subtract three liberal Repubs), I suspect the Dems in the new Senate will be much more reasonable. Reid himself comes from a red state and he is certainly aware of that. There are enough Democratic senators from red states that this is not that big a hurdle.

I do not use the word liberal to be insulting, but as shorthand. In order to clearly communicate with each other, we all must use commonly used words. Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative, Leftist and Right-wing are all used interchangeably. The last pair is sometimes used insultingly, so I used the first two pairs the most.

I agree that the shift toward the right is not that big; neither is it new. The Democrats have not received the majority of the vote since Jimmy Carter barely won the majority of the vote in 1976 against Gerald Ford with 50.1% of the popular vote. The right has had a slight majority since Ronald Reagan. Clinton won his first election thanks to a president who took his reelection for granted despite hacking off his base and facing a opponent who took away many of his key voters. Even with the benefits of incumbency, which are manifold, Clinton could not win a majority when he was reelected. The ironic thing is that if Roe v. Wade had not been imposed on the land, abortion would probably be legal in the blue states and the Republicans would have lost a key motivating factor for their constituents.

That said, the percentage of evangelical Christians is growing every year and I believe they will continue to do so. If that means the majority of people want to return to most of the laws and values of our forefathers, so be it. (I say most I do not know of any respectable people, Christian and otherwise, who advocate a return to slavery).

Anyway, I don't think there is any fear of the Democrats becoming "Republican Lite" they just need to give up their love affair with activist judges before they lose another 10 or so senators. For my part, I hope they do so soon, America is better served by two strong parties, not by one decent party and one dysfunctional one.

However, the Republicans also have many woes. The Angry Right in Illinois got their way when they got Keyes on the ballot. A moderate Republican had a chance in Illinois, Keyes had no chance. Not only was he too conservative for their state, he was a hypocrite for even running (after he blasted Hillary Clinton as a carpetbagger, he then did the same thing).

I look forward to the day when I have my choice of pro-life candidates. It may surprise you, but I voted for several Democrats on November 2. In my battleground state, there were several pro-life Democrats running for state office and I think the Democratic party needs all the pro-life voices they can get.

Anyway, this has been a long response to a short comment. I am glad you add your "liberal" perspective here and we are the better for hearing it. I am also glad we can both celebrate the removal of Daschle.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/08/2004 - 06:03 PM


I don't think that you would use the word "Liberal" as an insult but frequently I've heard the word flung around as an insult (it's usually coupled with "elite" or "media"). For example, during the campaign it was charged by some quarters that Kerry was the "most liberal Senator" -- as if the fact that he was a liberal made him inelligiable for President.

I agree with you that it is better to have a balanced legislature. When one party dominates, the checks and balances in our system start to become unraveled.

I however, don't agree that Democrats have a love affair with so-called "activist judges." This is a politically motivated key phrase
to throw at judges that rule in ways that conservatives don't agree with.

I don't think I've ever heard any conservative judges referred to as "activist." For example, when Judge Moore placed the statue of the Ten Commandments in his courthouse, I don't believe he was ever referred to as "activist." In the same vein, would any ant-choice judges be also called "activist?"

The reality is that civil rights for minority groups have often been furthered in the courts (i.e. Brown vs Board and the dismantling of Jim Crow). Obviously, there is a kind of severe backlash these days.

The Democrats have a great deal of soul searching to do these days, similar to what the Republican Party went through after the defeat of Barry Goldwater. In a way, this is good for us, because it forces us to take a look at ourselves, perhaps to find better ways to articulate our values and messages.

As I've stated befrore, the Left is highly fractured -- we have not been able to create a Meta narrative with the same effectiveness of the Right.

James Carville is quoted in today's Washington Post --

"We have to treat the disease, not the symptom," Carville said. "The purpose of a political party is to win elections, and we're not doing that."

Carville said that the party's concern about interest groups had resulted in "litanies, not a narrative."

"The party needs a narrative," he said."

Posted by: Szdfan | 11/09/2004 - 07:06 PM

I agree some conservatives use "liberal" as an insult, but glad you realize that is not the case at our roundtable.

I also agree that people do not use phrase "conservative activist judges." However, there is a good reason for this. Conservatives believe judges should enforce the law and interpret it when new circumstances arise (e.g., applying the first amendment to the internet). This is much different than a judge making up a new right or throwing out a practice that had been ruled legal for many decades. By definition any judicial activism is anti-conservative... I think it fair to call Judge Moore an activist and he is a judge, but his activism was shown in his behavior, not his rulings. I'd also point out there was no outswelling of protest when he was removed (which is what I what I promote for all judicial activists).

You are the second person this week to bring up Brown vs. Board to me as a defense of judicial activism. This tells me I should write a long post on it, but I'll try to comment briefly. In a nutshell, Brown vs. Board was the Supreme Court fixing a mistake made 60 years ago by an activist Supreme Court. See this link for some details. I do not consider Brown vs. Board as an argument in favor for judical activism, merely a warning that sometimes it takes the courts decades to clean up their own messes.

In theory, a pro-life judge could be an activist. Let's say Roe v. Wade is overturned (as it eventually will be). Then each State will resume the right to make their own laws about abortion (as was the case before five robed tyrants stepped in and overturned the 10th amendment at their whim). In the future, some Supreme Court justices could say that they had discovered "the right to life" in the Constitution and that all babies had a right to live and abortion is banned. This would be pro-life activism and should it ever happen I would call it such.

Judicial activism is not a charge most conservatives throw at judges when they rule against us. I truly believe it is an honest description of one of the main problems with the current Democratic party. You want to know how conservatives think - we believe that in the last 30 years the Democrats have given up fighting in the court of public opinion and simply appointed judges to force their views on the majority against their will.

If abortion or homosexual marriages or someother issue with which I strongly disagree is ever affirmed by the legislative process, at least then I know that it was done in accordance with the laws by which we profess to live. I may not be happy with the outcome, but that is life in a democratic republic. However, I will never stop protesting judicial tyranny and I suspect the fight may continue until the Democrats have less than 40 Senators. At which point, they may get a clue and start appointing justices who do not think they are legislators...

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/09/2004 - 08:29 PM

One of the wierd things about the Post Election Post Mortem is I find myself agreeing with what Lannie Davis and James Carville had to say [G]

"Get over it"
"Enough with the conspiracy theories and hate speech"
"Take a good look at yourself, figure out what people didn't like and do a better job next time"

Wishy-Washy Drew the Moderate

Posted by: Drew | 11/10/2004 - 03:40 PM

One notable thing about US Politics recently is the reticence of the Left to embrace the Left.

If you ask George Bush, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity "Are you a Conservative/on the Right" they answer "Yes I am."

If you say "John Kerry is a Liberal/on the Left" I saw him immediately denying it.

The Left worry that they are being insulted. Well, Alan Colmes doesn't. But he is the only person I can think of who says loudly "Look at me. I am a Liberal!"

Posted by: Drew | 11/10/2004 - 04:30 PM
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