How the Dems can get Over the Top
by Mathwiz, Wed Nov 03, 2004 at 11:53:43 AM EST
First off, we really didn't do that bad. This wasn't a blowout like in '72, '84, or even '88. We only lost by three percentage points, right?
That said, however, it's not immediately obvious where the Democrats can go for that last 3%. After all, we worked our a$$es off this year, like most of us have never worked before. And we still came up short.
Making matters even worse is that the difference apparently hinged on "social" issues, like gay marriage. This may explain why Democrats only got 60% of the Hispanic vote, when they usually get 65% or more. Many new Hispanic voters came to the polls, but they broke toward the Republicans on issues like abortion and gay rights.
This is going to tempt a lot of Democrats into that deadly "move-to-the-right" dance, which has gotten us where we are today. To become the majority party again, Democrats need to resist that temptation. Instead, we need to tap a reservoir of socially liberal voters we've failed to reach so far: youth.
This year, Democrats tried to motivate young voters to vote primarily by raising the spectre of a draft. But the Republicans neutralized that issue by pledging there would be no draft. Sure, they're probably lying, but the Democrats didn't make that case. Making matters worse, Sen. Kerry never explained how he was going to get those 40,000 additional troops without a draft. This let Republicans "flip" the issue against us.
This may not be a problem next time. The Republicans' militarism may well force a draft by 2006. But, we shouldn't count on that. We need to offer young voters more than just a promise not to draft them, but what?
I think we need to tap into young voters' social liberalism. Surely the GOP's sexual Puritanism doesn't sit well with youth - even if they aren't gay. But the Democrats have been conceding this issue since the Clinton era, mostly by favoring censorship technologies that target youth: Internet "filtering" in all public libraries, even for adults; "V-chips" to "protect" them; Tipper Gore's PMRC; etc. Kerry didn't expressly push any of these views, but he didn't renounce them, either. I doubt youth saw much difference between the parties on these issues.
It would also help to de-escalate the drug war. I'm not talking about coming out for marijuana legalization or the like, just some common-sense measures like: opposing suspicionless drug testing or random locker searches in school; supporting full repeal of the ban on financial aid to college students who have a run-in with the law due to drugs; and repealing other harsh penalties for said run-ins, such as mandatory minimum sentences.
Some may think these are non-issues because, by the time someone can vote, they usually are free of these restrictions. Not necessarily. First, someone who will be 18 in 2008 is only 14 today. Memories of the humiliation of having to pee into a bottle just to join the Chess club will be fresh in their minds. Second, many of these restrictions continue past high school and age 18 into college and the workplace, so this might help with the blue- and pink-collar vote too.
Of course, there's a risk in such a strategy. Democrats may frighten away more parents than the young voters they win. But I think the issues can be framed so as to minimize the risk. Besides, it's time to take some risks. What we've been doing has only gotten us close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, not elections.
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