Without much comment, yesterday I presented numbers form exit polls that showed the margin between self-identifying conservatives and self-identifying liberals in each state. Next to those numbers, I showed Kerry's vote margin among moderates in every state. Although I did not comment much, commenter gunnar quickly intuited what I wanted to say about the numbers: Some comments on the above numbers. In most of the states, moderates voted for Kerry over Bush, except for AL, AK, ID, KS, KY, LA, MT, NE, ND, OK, WY. In all of these states, far more people self-identified as conservatives. We're probably toast in these states, even long term, but they only add up to 63 electoral votes and 22 Senate seats.

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.

Tags: Democrats (all tags)



Precisely Why Lakoff Is Key
"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."

I agree 100%. And Lakoff is talking about something even more fundamental--EXPRESSING the liberalism that we already embrace.  I mean "fundamental" here in a structural sense. I think that both are equally essential, and will work to synergize with one another.  

The more we work on expressing liberalism, activating liberal frames, the better our foundation for explicitly defending and defining liberalism--as well as attacking conservatism.  The more we work on defending and defining liberalism, the more clearly Lakoffian language will translate into specific political messages.

by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-11 04:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Precisely Why Lakoff Is Key
A yep! I don't think much of Thomas Franks book, what little I have read. It's pretty common sense to me, but the Lakoff teaches us a lesson -- let's talk about the Lakoff and get the movement started now!
by Loganpoppy 2004-11-11 05:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Precisely Why Lakoff Is Key
I have not read Lakoff's book, but I have read Frank's book.  He does not say that we don't need more liberals.  His thesis is that people are voting against their economic self-interests because of their social views.  He then says that Democrats can appeal to them by pointing out the things that they can do for the poor and working class.

I don't think that this point of view at all precludes the possiblity of raising new liberals.  Indeed, it may help to do so by opening up a way for the social conservatives to get a fair view of the liberal social agenda.

by nanoboy 2004-11-11 05:35PM | 0 recs
Here's why there's hope.
Most people agree with progressive positions on the issues.  That should give us hope that there already exists an ideological base for our views as a party.  

The problem is that swing voters vote for people like Bush and Reagan because the are desparate for leadership and the Republicans have brilliantly perfected the art of the message.  From Bush to Cheney to Coulter to Limbaugh you get the same simple and powerful message over and over and over again.  After more than 20 years of this, it's no wonder so many people have come to identify themselves as conservatives. They sound like they "know where they stand."  They sound like leaders.

Our candidates have repeatedly gotten their teeth kicked in by these simple but strong messages.  Even Air America sounds dense and conflicted. Only when we become as skilled at delivering our message as the Republicans, will we gradually begin to see the tide turn.

Most swing voters are pragmatists, not ideologues.  We lose their votes not because they disagree with us but because we fail to lead.  Communication IS leadership.  The Republicans understand this.  We do not.

by jmckay 2004-11-13 11:12AM | 0 recs
Lakoff and the survey literature both agree--it's not just the moderate swing voters. A lot of conservatives also support us on the issues--and they have liberal frames in their heads, just waiting for our rhetoric to activate them. If you activate the frames, they raise the salience of the issues they agree with us on.  This is what we should be doing--in all our campaigns, but also between campaigns, in all our media communications.
by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-14 10:38AM | 0 recs
Two prong approach
You've been doing some excellent discussion of this. What I come away with is a two-prong approach. First prong is honor liberalism and what it's done for our country. We should be discussing how liberal policies have made this a more tolerant nation with a strong middle-class.

The second prong is denigrate conservatism. We have to make people feel more comfortable with being a moderate because being a conservative is just

How to do this on a national level? I don't know.  I just don't think letters to the editors is going to do this job.  We need something more aggressive.  All I do know is that I'm going to ask our local DFA to fund some radio commercials blasting conservatism this year and next. Of course, I'm living in a blue part of Arizona.  These efforts need to reach the red part, which runs a little higher for ad costs. This is one idea. Anyone else have some suggestions?

by Erin in Flagstaff 2004-11-11 04:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Two prong approach

Don't think of it as denigrating conservatism, more of showing how the neo-cons and the religoius right have completely betrayed our freedoms (Choice, Contraception, Patriot Act. etc.) and destroyed our legacy as the "Good Guys" in the world.

Then show how feeding and educating everyone and  making health care affordable is good for America.  How implementing renewable energy and a healthy environment are good for jobs and will save us.

The apologists and liars will be working OT for the next few years.  It should get easier to pop the bubble of lies, but expect more intense reactions.

Let's make it happen.

by beeste 2004-11-11 08:10PM | 0 recs
...but many of us are still missing the point...
The widening gap between self-described conservatives and liberals has less to do with our political philosiphy than media access (bombardment).

I will try to find the study and will post once I find it.  This study determined that most people, after significant time listening to personalities like Rush, Insannity and Scarborough (the Mayor of Looneyville), would begin to identify with the views and values of said personalities.  (I think it boils down to a hero-worship-lite sort of thing or more specifically the 5th level of Maslow's heirarchy - belonging.)

Anyway, we have a good start with Air America.  The good thing is that I rarely hear anything on it that isn't the unwashed truth.  And the truth is pretty hard to beat once its out there side-by-side with the lies and distortions from the other side.  For too long we have allowed the other side to out gun us with media access and bloviating.  It's high time we start beating them down with honesty and facts.

Hopefully, I'll have more later.


by joby 2004-11-12 05:28AM | 0 recs
Not a full excuse though...
Agree to a VERY large extent, we do need to work on getting more outlets, but even with the access we have now, we could do a whole lot if we'd just get some dem surrogates that weren't cowardly pansy-asses who are more worried about getting invited to the next dinner than they are about speaking the truth or defendiing liberalism. Dems didn't just get beat by MSGOP, they beat themselves the minute they didn't get on MSGOP and start pulling a Jon Stewart each and every time. I still haven't heard dem leadership complain about the media AT ALL. Why is that???

Two words - complicity and complacency.

Political Physics
by cgilbert01 2004-11-12 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Two prong approach
One thing we need to push for is to level the playing field in the talk radio wars.  We are way behind in this area and it is a large reason why the average American thinks that liberal is an evil word.  Air America is finally getting the ball started but as far as I know they are only in liberal markets with no plans to go into conservative markets and slug it out with Mark Davis, Rush, and the others.
by liberalintexas 2004-11-12 07:24AM | 0 recs
Very much what Howard Dean did.  It always made me angry when I saw media pundits spinning Dean as a Extreme Lefty when I knew he was just fiercly defending the positions we already have.  Weak moderatism will only push the country farther right.   Very Strong Liberalism will scare away the moderates.  A Strong, and forceful Center-Left approach would be the best.
by pdc90dem 2004-11-11 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent
The post above is a explanation of exactly why we need Howard Dean as DNC Chair.
by badpolitiks 2004-11-11 05:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent
You made an important point - they did spin Dean as a wacko. What better way to marginalize someone and keep the flow of the dialogue going your way than to paint your greatest adversary as a nut who doesn't deserve to be heard. By doing this repubs got us to capitulate and offer up a candidate (Kerry) who would run sheepishly till about August 25th - at which point he adopoted all of Dean's talking points to get himself back in the race.

We fall for it everytime. When are we going to quit looking for the republican opinion/approval of our democratic leaders...
by cgilbert01 2004-11-12 07:48AM | 0 recs
Who we are
Excellent. This "move to the right," no, "move to the left" arguing is pointless. Liberalism is actually closer to how most people see things than they realize. The majority of Americans are in favor of either civil unions or marriage for homosexual couples, for example.

But since "liberal" has become an epithet, they don't realize it--because they don't know what "liberal" really means. Here's a step in the direction from a guest editorial in our local daily (today's Austin American Statesman):

"I think it's immoral to arrest people and hold them indefinitely in secret prisons without charging them with a crime or giving them any access to an impartial legal system, no matter what they're suspected of.

Honesty and compassion are also values that I think are worth upholding, so I am morally offended by leaders who strategically manipulate people's fears of terrorist attack for partisan political advantage.

But, for me, the ultimate moral value is, "Thou shalt not kill," which I am pragmatic enough to understand not as an unconditional commandment but as a solemn obligation not to take life -- or to send young surrogates to take the lives of others and lose their own -- except in genuine self-defense."

Read the rest at: Who decides which values will be called moral values? by Evan Carton.

It would be better if he had said clearly, these are liberal values, but as I said, it's a start.

by Janet Strange 2004-11-11 05:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Who we are
Hi Janet

Those immoralities you mention are important, but what about:

it's immoral to price more and more people out of the higher education market when our country is rich enough to support it.

it's immoral to let big employers squeeze more and more out of the working class, while doing nothing to help control their cost of living.

It's immoral that we're doing nothing to control the out of control health care sost

We have government because we know that we have to work together to protect each of us against the injustices we'd othewise be powerless against. We work together to defend our nation against those who would attack us, we ought to work together to defend oursleves against economic injustice as well. We've had great liberal Presidents like FDR, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson who fought and won against that injustice. Even Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton fought for the principle that we are in this togther, against the lie that we can better ourselves by stepping on our neighbors. When conservatives convince us to embrace their anti-american philosophy of selfishness, it's they who do the stepping. That's immoral, that's unchristian, that's anti-family. And that's exactly the philosophy that conservatives have used so effectively.


by keith johnson 2004-11-11 07:05PM | 0 recs
Moving Right
There is a technical challenge, faced equally by the Republicans, namely that if a party moves too far toward the center a gap opens on the outer (left for Democrats, right for Republicans) flank.  And I mention both parties to remind readers that the other guys have their problems, too.

On the other hand, the Bush position is such a  scramble that at some point it may be possible to persuade Buchanan or other old right conservatives that they are not theocons, and that the Democratic Party gives them more of the items they want.  

The Republicans helped put Mr. Nader on the ballot.  In 2008, friends of liberalism could return the favor by helping put on the ballot Mr. Peroutka or others of his persuasion, to split the Republican vote.

Truth in advertising.  I oppose the war in Iraq, conscription, the racist war on drugs which through disenfranchisement costs the Democratic party hundreds of thousands of votes, the antiabortionists...this makes me a Libertarian, a party that draws roughly evenly from liberals and conservatives.

by phillies 2004-11-11 05:08PM | 0 recs
Very logical and well-argued
by sTiVo 2004-11-11 05:12PM | 0 recs
Re: lord help us do you mean?
by Erin in Flagstaff 2004-11-11 05:21PM | 0 recs
we almost knocked off a wartime incumbent.
the country needs a few more yrs to get sick of useless war and we have to accept this.
we will win, and soon.
by joehat 2004-11-11 05:23PM | 0 recs
We actually won the last presedential election, and barely lost this one, so I do not feel a major change is needed. So many people want to vote Democrat, but they are conflicted. They are beginning to see the lies of conservatism, but we have failed to show them the truth of liberalism.

I have been saying for some time that the message we should craft should be true, simple, and populist. We have to show people how certain policies hurt them and how the opposing policy helps them. And we have to back it up. We must stand by our principles (which should not be interpreted as moving further left). We MUST tell these people what we really feel, tell them why we feel that way, and why the other side is wrong.

We as a group tell discuss these principles open and honestly, and then our candidate gets up there and starts playing to the middle. Plus, we cannot continue to support policies that go against our platform. As pro-labor, pro-worker, we cannot whole-heartedly support expanding global trade agreements. If we support a national health care system, we cannot keep the big insurance lobby in the loop. If we are against tort reform, we cannot acknowledge in any way that lawsuits are part of the problem.

What we have to do is be ourselves. The majority of Americans agree with us on nearly every issue when it is presented at face value. They want environmental regulation, national health care, corporate regulations, progressive taxation, and civil rights. We have to stop muddying the water by saying that we agree with some of what the other side proposes, but our plan is better. If we disagree, then let's just say we disagree,and show the people why.

The voters want a clear cut choice. If we tell the truth and stand up for our convictions, we can give them one. If we try to ride the fence, that just drives them harder to the other side and solidifies their belief that Democrats are flip-floppers who will say one thing to get elected and then do another.

We are fighting for the common folks. We just have to show them why and how, and dare the other side to do the same.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and we are right. Let's just tell them why.

by crowbar317 2004-11-11 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Agree/Disagree
You got it! Conservatives are firm in their conviction that cutting taxes is wonderful, banning the future happiness of loving couples is great, and that aiding wealthy CEOs and corporations at the expense of the people who work is just dandy. Well, I don't think most people in this country would agree...okay, maybe they might need convincing about the future happiness of loving gay couples.

We just need to have the same firm conviction that taxes are a social responsibility and can help children, the downtrodden, and our security; that limiting the rights of people is un-American; and that corporations and CEOs do NOT need help from us taxpayers.

by Erin in Flagstaff 2004-11-11 05:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Agree/Disagree
Right on! People do agree with us because our basic principles are that we are all in this together and that the conservative moral relativism of selfish egoism tears our country apart. But when we don't articulate our values, when we just propose the policies and assume it's obvious what values they represent, conservatism is able to talk about God, country and family for example while at the same time granting the unregulated free market  license to work against all three (sorry to let my Christian bias come through here:-). As you just said, that's un-american.

BTW, it seems to me that most people want to mind their own business wrt gay relationships, and even though anti-gay prejudice is still too strong, most people don't buy the radical homophobic view of the theocrats. Clinton did OK when he defended gay rights as part of a general argument against bigotry, saying "we don't have a person to waste". I thknk that's how we should defend equal rights--as part of a general principle of equality.


by keith johnson 2004-11-13 11:26AM | 0 recs
too much analysis
ack i shuld be doing reading for class but this post has been bugging me.

We are doing it over again.  Chris, love your posts but i have to say it's not that difficult.  Majority of Americans want 5 things:

  1. Food
  2. Safety
  3. Shelter
  4. Jobs
  5. Opportunity

platform centered on those things wins.  Keep It Simple.   The goal of this government to perform at peak efficiency, to create safe environment for people to live and to help those that have been unable to help themselves, ensure opportunity for all.

Left, center, right........all meaningless.  Progressives need to learn how to talk to people.  Our ideas work and our ideas are better.  Give people hope, involve them in a grand vision of a stronger, wealthier, more just, safer america.  DREAM A LITTLE.  Not a blurb in some speech about a some beacon on a hill.....people don't buy into that BS.  It needs to be a part of the essence of progressive, the essence of a democrat.

Passion, Dedication and Effort.  Right, Center Left......not one, not a single person in america can deny those virtues.

We are not in trouble.  This is democracy for god's sake.  Serve the people!  Listen to them, inspire greatness in them, promise greatness in them and then fight like hell to give it to them.  

by Chavez100 2004-11-11 05:30PM | 0 recs
Shamelessly plugging a diary
I believe that we must let people know that they are liberal, even if they do not even know it.  I have a diary at dailykos about a strategy for education of the people of this land with regard to the meaning of liberalism.  Here's the link:

by nanoboy 2004-11-11 05:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Shamelessly plugging a diary
I did a paper on how people identify themselves. The increase in people self-identifying as conservatives happened in the 1980s with Reagan and the Republican's rise.  Yet the normal indicators of being a conservative or a liberal didn't match how people self-identified. In other words, you believe in women's rights, civil rights, a living wage, governmental programs for people who need them, and a host of other indicators, but you call yourself a conservative.  

Conservatives won on fiscal responsibility, which many of the people self-identifying agreed with. Of course, conservatives in power no longer believe in this, or at least, never live up to it. Hmmm...maybe that's where we should start hitting them. My brother-in-law probably votes Republican because of this belief.

by Erin in Flagstaff 2004-11-11 05:52PM | 0 recs
Embrace the Extremes
Instead of moving to the left or to the center in order to attract voters, I think the solution might be to embrace the extremes.  Reorganize the party into progressive and centrist wings who will be able to play off each other in public debate.  

Have the progressives focus on issues such as the environment, social justice and minority rights, and all the good liberal issues (including some radical proposals like Kucinich's Dept. of Peace).  Have the centrists focus on fiscal responsibility, corporate ethics and responsibility, quality of life issues (education, health care, child care, fair trade and fair wages), etc.  The two wings should compliment each other to create broadly liberal policies that are fiscally sound.

Make the leaders of each wing visible and prominent in the public debate.  Allow the progressives to be the attackers of Republican policies, and the centrists to be the voices of reason and moderation.  Do as we saw Bush and Cheney do...Bush attacks equality in marriage rights with the FMA while Cheney offers a more moderate state's rights argument.  Progressives attack GOP policies while centrists offer moderate responses.

The goal is to expand the base.  Having more progressive voices will help solidify the liberal base and may even expand membership by appealing to Greens and Socialists.  Having centrist voices speak about responsible policies will draw in more of the so-called conservative voters, Libertarians, and maybe even enable those moderate Republicans like Chafee, Snowe, et. al. to switch parties.

Whatever happpens, someone should introduce legislation to make voting day a holiday at both state and federal levels, along with a national campaign about the responsibility and obligation to vote.

Just my $0.02.

by letao 2004-11-11 05:56PM | 0 recs
Calm Down!!!!!!!!!
Liberal is a prejorative, conservative is not, in the last three national elections, we have beaten our repug opposition by 5 million votes.  The south is going through a realignment we expected after Southern senators retired, Graham, Holings, Breaux, aaaand Zell Miller (if you want to call him a Democrat).  Consider this, we'll pick up Bill Frist's seat with Phil B., and Liz Dole's with Mike Easley, two very popular southern Democratic governors.  We're OK.  Everyone just keep working and we will get this country back on the right track.
by partyguy708 2004-11-11 06:12PM | 0 recs
Growing Liberalism Piece By Piece
You won't get people to adopt a modern liberal set of beliefs wholesale.

Step one is to get people to identify with modern liberal economic policies no matter their stance on social issues.

This is not the same as moving toward the center.  What we are about is building a liberal coalition.  I think a better solution is taking a base of people who are liberal on both economic and social issues and concentrating on adding people who are liberal on economic issues but not on social issues rather than people who are liberal on social issues but not on economic issues.

A clear progressive economic vision is what is needed.

The former group might be harder to pull out of the Republican big tent, but once they are ours, they are ours.  They are a larger group and they are better positioned geographically to help the Democratic Party win.

The latter group is probably flakier and more willing to foresake a left-of-center coalition if they don't get their way, yet they can also be lured torward a quixotic Nader-ish right-of-center third party effort that can sap votes away from the Republicans much more than the Democrats.

by Anthony de Jesus 2004-11-11 06:31PM | 0 recs
several points
We need to get fewer people voting party-line R, especially in the South and border states. That means getting fewer people to call themselves conservative (in other words, getting them to stop assuming that they'll agree with R positions). We can do this in part by defending something called liberalism, and I don't want to stop anyone from doing so. I'll defend it myself if asked (though I'm not running for office in a border state). If we can get a chunk of conservatives to re-identify as moderates and split their tickets, we'll be in much better shape. That means attacking "conservatism" as an ideology, whether or not we defend something else called "liberalism." It means having every talking head in America (and every local figure of note, from sports heroes to local TV commentators) labeling powerful Rs as "extreme conservatives," "fanatical conservatives," "intolerant conservatives," even fake Christians. It also means using messengers who won't repel, and can attract, some segment of self-identified conservatives. In other words, everything Chris says seems exactly right, but I still think we need a standard-bearer with a Southern accent, or at least a midwestern populist with border-state appeal.

My ideal candidate would be someone with a Southern accent who's proud to stand up for environmental regulation, women's rights, unions, and a higher minimum wage, and who has shown he can stand up for those things and win in a Southern or border-state climate. I'm taking suggestions. Fortunately, we've got several years to find him or her.

by accommodatingly 2004-11-11 06:36PM | 0 recs
The Great Depression
The great progressive base in this country was formed not by the progressive movement in the early 1900s, but by the Great Depression.  

Alas, 30 years of right wing propoganda combined with the failure of the left to teach each successive generation about the need for the New Deal has caused the majority of Americans to forget the hard learned lessons of the Depression and WW2.

So, history will have to repeat itself.  The proposals here for selling of liberal/progressive ideas are good ones.  They should be polished and practiced.  But until the Republicans drive the US economy over the cliff (again), Americans won't be listening to liberals/progressives.

by AmberChaos 2004-11-11 06:57PM | 0 recs
liberals and self-identification
Can someone answer me this?  

Half of the comments argue that people's real values are liberal values, they just don't identify it as such.  
The other half argue that liberalism is a lost symbol, that most people react negatively to it.  
Putting these thoughts together, might we consider the possibility while that self-identified LIBERALS are few, many people who don't self-identify as liberals will still tend to vote democrat?  

My concern about these statistics is that the argument equates liberal self-identification with regularly voting democrat.  Given the negative image liberalism has had in recent years, it seems certain that the latter category is much greater than the former.  

by dialusis 2004-11-11 07:16PM | 0 recs
Re: liberals and self-identification
We live in an increasingly anomic world.  With Christian conservatives who strongly identify as Christians, as conservatives, and as Republicans, the GOP has found a base that defies the trend of rootlessness.

There is a relationship between decreasing party identification and decreasing religious affiliation.  The left is increasingly filled with people who see themselves solely as individuals and not also as part of groups.  This trend is hurting the Democrats.  The people who might be inclined to vote Democrat don't identify as anything.  And it's not because they have been cast out of society so much as they have abandoned society.

It is good for the left if the Democrats can create more partisan ideologues as counterparts to those on the right, equal in spirit and fervor and blindness to their own personal self-interest in favor of some conception of a greater good.

So, we do not seek to create more self-identified liberals, we seek to create more liberals willing to identify with something.  The result will still be more self-identifying liberals, but it is not the same thing.

by Anthony de Jesus 2004-11-11 08:09PM | 0 recs
Liberal and conservative are just labels. Ideas and candidates win elections. We will win with the right  message and the right messenger.
by coldeye 2004-11-11 07:58PM | 0 recs
Changing our approach

What I think Chris is arguing for is that we make a foreground/background switch in our political approach. Much of Democratic strategy over the last few years has been based on the idea of shifting a movable foreground object (the Democratic party) in one direction or another over an immovable background scene (the American political landscape). Unfortunately, it hasn't worked and, as Chris so ably illustrates, it probably never will.

But, if we switch our conception of foreground and background and instead treat American political opinion as the movable object through the landscape of Democratic ideals then maybe, just maybe, we might have a chance.

This is what the Republicans have done so well. They fleshed out the details of their landscape and have taken the American electorate on a storybook ride through that landscape. They have asked the voters to come along for the ride on their Jungle Cruise and have left the Democrats standing at the docks pathetically waving our public opinion polls and demographic studies.

No wonder the Democrats have developed the reputation for being weak-willed and indecisive. It's a reputation that is based on truth.

Democrats must come to understand that they have a landscape of their own. We don't need to change ourselves. We need to change the country. We need to develop a narrative that will allow the electorate to go on a journey through our landscape and see that it has something better to offer them.

by Chris Andersen 2004-11-11 09:32PM | 0 recs
maybe liberalism has seen its better days
Maybe the answer isn't to get more people to identify with liberalism.  I think it's possible that the word "liberal's" time has come and gone.  At this point, it may have too many negative connotations to really be an effective label for a party's ideology.  Face it, nobody wants to be liberal with their money - it almost connotes wastefulness.  It may be time for a new word for essentially the same positions.  I think the solution might be to work hard at changing the dichotomy from liberal - conservative to progressive (or any other "ive" that polls well) - conservative.  I think it may be a much easier task for Democrats to convince voters that they are truly, deep down inside, progressives than that they are liberals.
by poffurwh 2004-11-12 12:12AM | 0 recs
Go Big!
That's the defacto attitude that Democrats have adopted for the last 20 years or so. It hasn't worked. Time for something new. Time to take charge of the language. After decades of demonizing liberalism, all their eggs are in this basket. Turn it upside down, and just about everything falls out.  I say--go big.  Going small has only made us smaller. Let's go big instead.
by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-14 10:44AM | 0 recs
Fallacy of the Missing Middle
The whole post is wrong.  We don't need to "move" anywhere.  Its based on a simplistic assumption that there are right wing people and left wing people.  TV newsmen who want an easy story to tell use this logic.  

The country is about the same as it was in 2000 or 1996.  There are some things that each fringe wants, but there is a big middle ground where values are shared.  The idea is to capture the middle ground and be able to move an agenda which includes somethings from your side.

I think the common ground is good ol' American civic virtue.  Time to bring out the inner Kennedy in all of us.  We have a lot to offer this country and everyone is acting like we have to go out and watch "Passion of the Christ" or we are doomed.  This is wrong.  Were we to become something we are not we would be seen as panderers, not real leaders.

I think most Americans agree that religion is a private affair.  Although 20% of the people out there are anxious to convert others to their religion, most want to be left alone and to leave others alone.  

Time to remember why we are her, not immediately pander to a non-existent "side."

by Robwaldeck 2004-11-12 04:29AM | 0 recs
The Middle Is The Left
America is founded on political liberalism. Civic engagement is a typical example of this. It's not a moderate value, it's a liberal value. The parallel conservative value is "shut up and eat what's served."  
by Paul Rosenberg 2004-11-14 10:46AM | 0 recs
new] too much analysis (none / 0)
I agree with this comment.   The issue is not moving left or right, we must learn how to talk to people.  We cannot rely on using facts and figures to make a logical arguement to attract more voters.   We must use the facts and figues to analyze where we need to concentrate our efforts but we must have a message that appeals to all Americans and a messenger who can talk to average citizens.  Bill Clinton prevailed because he could relate to everday citizens and make them feel like their opinions mattered. FDR was elected because he could communicate with everyday working people. He enjoyed meeting and talking to citizens and they responded to him.  As I have stated before we must put the "ivory tower" in the back seat and develop a message that sells on "main street".   Our tent must be big enough to accomodate more opinions and we must stay united.  Both parties have parity and the electorate is basically split 50/50, our goal is to control the debate to win a few more voters to our side.  The 11th commandment for Democrats should be no fighting
by ncpatriot04 2004-11-12 05:04AM | 0 recs
Who will enforce our new memes?
I too agree with this solid post from Chris. I think many people on this board realize that we need to re-frame the debate, create some new memes, and repeat them ad nauseum until we start to sway some people.

But, as I said in a post in another thread a few days ago, Republicans have this innate loyalty that makes them come together in lockstep to support the message on any topic. We don't have that, partly due to our philosophy -- after all, if liberalism is the philosophy of tolerance, then we have to tolerate those who have different views and express different opinions, right?

So my question is, how do we get everybody on the same page, and staying there? Who "enforces" that among Democrats, or should there not be any enforcing, in which case will we really stay on the same page? This sounds ridiculous even to me, but I think we have to learn to do what the GOP has done so well -- create a party line, send it down, and have everyone repeat it endlessly -- in order to "re-market our brand" and re-frame the debate in the direction of our philosophy. We will be hard-pressed to win elections otherwise.

by scottso 2004-11-12 08:24AM | 0 recs


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