by Chris Bowers, Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 04:37:24 PM EST
In the following states, Kerry moderates are enough to close the gap between liberals and conservatives: CA, DE, IL, IA, ME, MD, MI, MN, NH, NM, OH, OR, PA, WA and WI (a total of 196 EVs). Together with the states where liberals already outweigh conservatives that amounts to 275 electoral votes, barely enough to win a presidential election, even if we run a perfect race. So, we need to convert some conservatives to liberalism, if we're going to put states like Florida, West Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona consistently back in play.The difference between the number of liberals and the number of conservatives is so great in this country, that only in states worth 275 electoral votes is the liberal vote, plus a double-digit lead among moderates, enough to pull out a victory. Combine this with our very real problem among Latinos, and we can arrive at the conclusion that everyone already knows: we are in serious trouble.
The two strategies most often bandied about in response to this are that we either move to the center or move to the left. There are problems with both plans.
Moving to the Center
If the conservative and liberal size and share of the vote remain the same, in order to reach a Presidential popular vote majority just by appealing to moderates, we need 60% of moderates. That is a tall task, and it would still only take us to 50.1%. Further, if we move to the center and semi-demonize liberalism, ala Clinton, and no one voices the liberal opinion, the liberal vote will almost certainly decrease in size. An undefended ideology is not an ideology that will grow. Our base will shrink, and we will need even more than 60% of moderates to reach a popular vote majority. That might very well be impossible.
Moving to the Left
If the conservative and moderate share of the vote remains the same, in order to reach a Presidential popular vote majority just by appealing to liberals, we need 95% of the liberal vote. That is a tall task, and that is just to get to 50.1%. Further, if we move to the left, and only try to appeal to liberals, our advantage among moderates might entirely disappear. That would make it impossible for us to win.
Moving one-way or the other isn't going to cut it, as our position would remain precarious in both directions. The problem, as I see it, is not that we are too liberal or too moderate, but that the country itself is too conservative. With 34% of the electorate self-identifying as conservative, and 85% of self-identifying conservatives voting Republican in national elections, Republicans only need a little over 40% of the moderate vote to win. In that situation, they could run a horrendous campaign and still win, while we could run a nearly perfect campaign and still lose.
We are in a lot of trouble, and the only way I see out is pretty long term: we need to close the gap between liberals and conservatives. Well beyond any other demographic, that is the heart of our problem. Conservatives outnumber liberals in states worth 459 electoral votes, while liberals outnumber conservatives in states worth only 79 electoral votes. In every southern state except for Florida, conservatives outnumber liberals by at least twenty-one points. That is not a swing region. That is barely a swing nation.
The only way we do this is if all Democrats, including moderate Democrats, start defending liberalism and telling the truth about conservatism. We have to grow liberalism. This does not necessarily mean that we have to adopt more liberal policies, but at the very least we have to start defending liberals. No one does that anymore, which nearly guarantees that liberalism will not grow. When you face a dead end in either direction, there is little point in moving. We have to move the country, or else we are dead meat. Either we defend the ideology of half of our voters--and defend it by name--or we face a generation of irrelevancy.