Did John Kerry Really Lose the West Because He Was Too Liberal?
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 10:04:51 AM EST
In today's issue of The Washington Post, T.R. Reid takes a look at the growing success of Democrats in the Mountain West, focusing specifically on the party's decision to host its nominating convention in the heart of the region, Denver, in 2008. Reid lists off the Democrats' achievements in the Mountain West in recent years -- gaining control over five of the region's eight governnorships, picking up five new congressional districts in the House, winning two new Senate seats -- while also mentioning their setbacks on the presidential level, which some apparently chalk up to the ideology of the party's nominee.
"There was nothing wrong with that strategy [of focusing on Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico]," said Denver-based Democratic consultant Terry Snyder. "The votes could be there, for the right candidate. But a liberal senator from Massachusetts turned out to be the wrong guy to make the sale in the West."
While at least some of the culpability for Senator Kerry's inability to carry any states in the Mountain West in 2004 must lie with the candidate himself and even some of the stances that he took, both during the campaign and over the course of his career in the Senate, it's not clear to me that it is necessary for a Democratic consultant to reinforce Republican talking points by specifically blaming liberalism.
This fall, Jon Tester ran as a decidedly not-conservative candidate, opposing the Patriot Act and supporting a woman's right to choose, to take just two examples, yet he won a Senate election in Montana, a state supposedly more conservative than others in the region like Nevada or Colorado. In Arizona, which was the birthplace of Goldwater conservatism, two unabashed Democrats won House elections, the Democratic Governor won reelection by a wide margin and a ban on same-sex marriage went down in flames this year. Wyoming saw a Democratic Governor reelected and a fairly progressive Democrat nearly elected to the U.S. House. In short, Democratic candidates who have been true to their beliefs, be they progressive or liberal, have performed extraordinarily well in recent cycles -- not losing as a result of their departure from third way centrism.
I understand that what plays in Foxboro might not always play in the Phoenix. Yet liberalism (or progressivism) is not the type of drag on Democratic candidates in the Mountain West, or indeed other regions of the country presumed to be more conservative, that conventional wisdom might indicate. And Democratic consultants in the region would be well served by trying to build on the party's successes rather than sniping at the ideological underpinnings of the party platform.