Friday, June 30, 2006

The Trouble With Democrats

First we have Democrat Howard Dean saying something smart for the first time in his pitiful life and now the Dayton Daily News' Martin Gottlieb?

This column is about how awful Democrats are. But it's not about how they are failing to position themselves to win this year, when they seem to have an opportunity. There are bigger questions to be looked at.

Question 1: What's the party for?

Once, Democrats were the party of "working people." That's gone. President George W. Bush beat John Kerry and Al Gore soundly among whites in the $30,000 to $70,000 annual income range. One study concluded that the presidential candidates of the two parties got about equal support in the lower half of that range, and that the Democrats had more support only well below the $30,000 figure.

Meanwhile, the party is becoming more attractive to other kinds of voters. Whereas college graduates used to vote overwhelmingly Republican, in 2004 Bush only beat Kerry by 3 points in that category, near as the pollsters can tell.

Fine. But the Democratic college grads are largely the voice of the party. Broadly speaking, they are the ones who are angry about the war, against the Bush tax cuts, focused on civil-liberties issues and big into the environment. They care a lot about abortion, favor gun control and are at war with the religious right. They typically are not very religious. And they just don't like Bush's style, or Dick Cheney's.

Little in that list connects with the people who are struggling economically. And a lot falls flat with working people whose instincts on social issues are conservative.

While the Democrats keep their egos inflated with memories of the past, the Republican Party is (too slowly!) becoming the populist party of the regular guy -- and I mean defending him, not big government.

Question 2: How does the party do what it does?

George Will wrote a column this year about former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, who makes poverty his big issue. Will said that Edwards didn't recognize the name James Q. Wilson. He implied that this makes it difficult to take seriously the notion that Edwards studies poverty.

That happens to be true. Those who do read widely on poverty issues can tell you that Professor Wilson's name keeps coming up.

This is more than an anecdote about one guy. It's about the party. After all, Edwards ran in a string of hot presidential primaries. Yet nobody ever noted this. It took a Republican.

Watch Democrats in the U.S. Senate confront Republicans in, say, a confirmation hearing. They take an honest difference of opinion about a small issue and twist it into some grand measure of commitment to equal rights. They fail to sway anyone who isn't on their side. They embarrass some who are.


I am so used to those on the left saying dumb and just plain wrong things, I am almost speechless.

I need a drink...

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