Democrats: Born or made?

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Nov. 15 2002 12:34 AM

The Democrats' Blank Slate

Can you make people vote Democrat, or are they born that way?

Born free, but they are everywhere in jeans, holding clipboards, ringing the doorbell while I'm trying to keep my risotto from scorching: Lurking behind Joe Klein and Robert Reich's argument over the Democrats' future is an unresolved question about voter preference: how much isinherent, how much can be done about it? The Fray took on a version of this earlier this week in the Chatterbox discussions of whether demography would ride to the Democrats' rescue. In the Politics debate, the question is whether candidates should move to the center, where the votes are, or whether candidates should move mobilizers. Publius thinks Democrats who want to drum up new constituencies are all wrong here:

[T]here is the hope that the younger non-voters, 18-30, will break Democratic if they vote. But this is a bit of a will-o-the-wisp too that is mainly based on the experience with the young of a generation and two ago, who are now older. Today's young -- except at Harvard and other places where guys like Reich teach -- give every sign of holding views that are sufficiently complex and divided to place them squarely in the center.

Nothing good will happen to the Democrats nationally until they realize that Reich's eternal hope that the triad of minorities, labor and liberals can be fashioned into a sustainable majority is simply out of date.

On the other side of this made-not-born divide is dyingbreedlefty who thinks left mobilization can work for the Dems as it has for the Working Families Party in New York, or PIRG, or ACORN. What makes lefty's post especially interesting is what he means by "work for the Dems":

Give one of [these activist groups] some real money, a la the Christian Coalition, and let them become the activating force mobilizing people around one or two key issues (I like tax cuts for the working and middle classes and universal health care myself). Don't let a single politician from around the country get away without taking a stand on those two issues, and back it up with op-eds, articles in the political magazines, studies, rallies, lobby visits, and press.

They'll draw fire from the right wing, but they'll give cover to the moderates, and create a buzz on those issues. They'll also give rise to the next generation of political activists and politicians. Its a lot easier to mobilize people around issues than around something as wishy washy as a party.

Turnthe left into the DLC's difference while making them do the legwork? Jesus-of-Nantucket suggests Nancy Pelosi is already providing cover for a moderate presidential candidate in 2004. This all sounds so Machiavellian, so Vin Weber. Things may be looking up for the Democrats. ...

Jack Kemp with cred: Jimmy the Celt likes Klein and Reich's "low boiling points," but supports Reich's claim that the Democrats don't have the Republican's discipline with a story about privatizing Social Security:

About ten years ago, the conservative foundations and think tanks (Heritage, Cato, American Enterprise, Manhattan) got together and decided on a long-range plan to transform the idea of privatizing Social Security from a fringe obsession (akin to a return to the gold standard) to a respectable, viable public policy option. They did it. ...

[T]he Dems are disciplined, kind of, only about focus-group mush messages and other here-and-now tactical considerations. They are poor -- in every sense of the word -- at building a durable political force.

America the Prize: One of the more difficult things to do in any discussion of what the Democrats should do now is to keep it focused. Take this thread where four smart posters—Captain Ron Voyage, Zathras, Godels Yodel and Geoff—offer several possible explanations for the Democrats' failure—strategic error on taxes and Iraq, poor candidate quality, lack of emotional appeal to voters (policy, people, persuasion)—and several prescriptions. Now, if someone would PowerPoint this brainstorming session (Laurent Murawiec?). ...

Fighting Back:Christopher Hitchens responds to Fray critics with his typical verve: "It's an honor to be misunderstood by some people." Because his is a global response, I have not posted it in The Fray proper, but here at the bottom of the article, below my initial Fray selections. ...

Like, totally: In the Today's Papers Fray, Bruce has begun an important discussion of William Safire's piece decrying the super-snooping "Total Awareness Initiative" at DARPA here (The thread stops, and starts up again here.) ... 8:30 a.m.

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