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Those Democrat Mistakes Just Keep Comin'

Commentary by Greg Lewis / TheRant.US
December 23, 2004

One of the mistakes Democrats made during the 2004 election (and which they continue to make now as they grope about blindly for someone to provide a desperately needed shot of real leadership as Chairman of the DNC) was to categorize people who voted for George W. Bush in very broad-brush, single-issue terms.

Now the Democrat Party is, if nothing else, a coalition of single-issue voter groups, and so it's perhaps not surprising that Dems, projecting their own mindset, see red-staters in this way. It would seem as though Democrats can't believe that anyone who voted for George W. Bush might possibly have a "nuanced" approach to making political choices. Rather, as it appears Democrats would have it, Bush supporters are either right-wing Christian conservatives for whom the morality issue is paramount, or they're anti-gun-control survivalists, or they're pro-corporate businesspeople, to mention a few of the issues in terms of which Dems tend to label Republicans.

Because they failed to recognize that individual Republican voters are infinitely more complex than their (the Democrats') portrayals of them would suggest, Dems, in the past election, simply gave up on trying to present their candidate to a significant percentage of the American people. The God-and-gun-rack southerner comes immediately to mind. Democrats conceded the "southern" vote to George W. Bush and declined to compete in the south, even though their Vice-Presidential candidate was himself, at least nominally, a southerner.

Not everyone who voted for George W. Bush was anti-abortion. Likewise, not all Bush voters were Christians . . . or caucasians, or heterosexuals, or in favor of America's involvement in the war in Iraq, or, for that matter, Republicans. But, while waging a national political campaign has become — thanks to the enormous amount of data that can be collected, analyzed, and used as the basis of refining strategy down to the precinct level — something of a "science," there is still room for the intuitive approach, especially where crafting the "message" that candidates present is concerned.

It seems to me that Democrats failed badly in the area of where they chose to compete in large part because they tended to be dismissive in their portrayal of Republican voters and sympathizers. The result of this attitude, which carried over to groups of voters whom Dems might well have had a chance to sway to their side, was that Democrats failed to even try to present their positions to many middle-Americans. The fact is that people know, without your telling them directly, whether or not you take them seriously. The Democrats, through their strategic choices, communicated to many Americans who might have been swayed to vote for Kerry that they did not consider their votes worth soliciting.

The very fact that Democrats conceded the southern vote wholesale became part of the message they sent. Although Kerry vigorously campaigned in Ohio, his dismissal of "southern" voters as people with whom he didn't share common values and positions must have been seen by many Ohioans as confirmation that he didn't share their own values and positions as well, because Ohio, especially southern Ohio but including most areas of the state to some degree, is decidedly red-state territory.

My own maternal grandparents came to Akron, Ohio, from Kentucky in the 1920s, and they were part of a large movement of people from, particularly, Kentucky and West Virginia to Ohio during the period of industrial growth that took place in many of Ohio's manufacturing centers. The values they brought with them have been passed down to their children and grandchildren and endure to this day, despite the enormous social and cultural changes of the past 75 years.

John Kerry tried to communicate his sympathy, even his solidarity, with Ohioans by staging a duck hunt and being photographed in camo gear. Had he bothered to get a handle on the collective genealogy of the state's citizens, had he managed to understand that they are fundamentally "southerners" in many of their attitudes and values and political positions, he might have convinced his handlers to actually craft a message which pointed up the things he (Kerry) had in common with Ohioans rather than to present him in an embarrassingly cartoonish way. Hell, the presentation itself had to have been perceived by Ohioans with any savvy whatsoever as an insult to their collective sense of who they are and what they stand for.

It's not a little bit ironic that Democrats, who can't seem to find positions within their administrations and political organizations for the very minority constituencies (African-Americans, gays and lesbians, and women, to mention a few) whose interests they purport to champion nonetheless have the temerity to flay George W. Bush over his choices for cabinet positions and judgeships. In doing so, they manage to ignore the fact that the Bush administration's top appointees truly represent a "Rainbow Coalition" of appointees.

From Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice (both of whom have been pilloried by the Left as "Uncle Tom" blacks) to Education Secretary Rod Paige and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, African-Americans have been appointed to numerous key positions by George W. Bush. And in Rice, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the Bush team has broadly welcomed women.

The fact is that, while they present themselves as the party that looks out for the interests of minorities and women, Democrats are only concerned about the plight of these constituencies if they are willing to toe the liberal line. Blacks and Hispanics and women who have ignored Democratic pleas to see themselves as victims and who have gone on to realize significant professional accomplishments and rise to positions of prominence through personal initiative are no longer representative of what the term "minority" has come to stand for in the Democrat lexicon.

OK, you counter, Clinton appointed Donna Shalala and Janet Reno and Madeleine Albright to cabinet posts, and Ron Brown and Henry Cisneros and Frederico Pena certainly represented African-American and Hispanic interests in the Clinton administration. It seems to me, however, jaundiced my takes on these matters are because of my conservative sympathies, that we have to take into account the "crony coefficient" that most of these appointments reinforce.

Janet Reno singlehandedly subverted the pursuit of justice in any number of cases, from the Waco conflagration to Clinton's pecadillos and legal misadventures. And Frederico Pena was not only — during his tenure as Mayor of the city of Denver, Colorado — the architect of the Denver Airport scam, he was a principal of a law firm that opened offices in Nicaragua in the 1980s and provided legal representation for Communist leader Daniel Ortega. (By the way, Clinton HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was also a member of that law firm.)

All of this is to say that Democrats still don't get it. They obstinately refuse to recognize that their lip-service homage to core liberal issues — which were relevant in the 1960s but which are in today's political and economic climate passè — no longer grant them immunity from legitimate charges that they are living in the past, that their causes and positions are increasingly out of consonance with the return to a set of fundamental values shared by a majority of Americans.

Sorry, guys, but we just don't want to hear it. We don't want to hear that, for instance, Christian values no longer have relevance in the marketplace of ideas you have so belligerently dominated for the past four decades. And we don't want to hear about how you are intellectually superior to us, how you hold some sort of patent on the realm of intellectual discourse that mandates that you have the right to tell us how we should think and feel about certain critical issues.

We'll judge you by your actions, thank you, and not by your disingenuous assertions that you are, despite the resounding renunciation of what you purport to stand for that George W. Bush's victory in the 2004 Presidential campaign represents, the party of "the people."

The bottom line is that you pretty clearly are not close to "getting it." It's obvious that you, absent some borderline miraculous collective political epiphany that gives you to acknowledge the error of your ways, are going to pursue the same dead-end tactics that have informed your failures in the past two national elections.

The current presenting issue — your choice of DNC Chairperson — shows no signs of revealing that you are willing to put your political nominees where your mouth is. The late Maynard Jackson was the last "person of color" you considered for the position of DNC Chairman, and Bill Clinton summarily dismissed him in favor of Terry McAuliffe. More recently, Donna Brazile, who is both a woman and an African-American, has flatly refused to consider competing for the position, saying, in effect, that the Democrat Party is in such disarray that reconstituting it as a political entity that might compete in future national elections is beyond her capabilities.

Democrats, it seems, are destined to remain a party whose idea of a "message" goes no deeper than the photo op and the vitrioloc personal attack on their opponents that characterized their resoundingly unsuccessful attempts in the 2004 elections to reassert themselves as a party capable of mounting a meaningful national campaign.


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