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November 15, 2005


I really look forward to this series. The recent election of California, where all propositions, especially Schwarzenegger's spending cap, went down to defeat (the cap by over 24%), and Colorado's rejection of TABOR, shows a growing maturity on the part of citizens who seem to understand that government provides many valuable services. The Dems have also become smarter in the kinds of programs they are pitching.

While I do think the public is tired of grand crusades, it is open to efforts to expand the ranks of those with health care and adequate retirement arrangements, improve education, etc. Just as after the Civil War, the public wants competence and common sense solutions, not ideology and culture war. The Dems are poised to provide this, if they can seize the initiative. The signs are there.

One of the encouraging things about Carville's analysis is that he believes the public is actually hungry for some bold ideas. The Republicans could succeed for a while by saying that governement doesn't work, but after Norquist's crazy ideas and Gingrich's pique combined with Oklahoma City took away their momentum in 1995, people have come around to the idea that government can and often does work, and that we need it to work. Plus, as I'm going to try to explain soon, a lot of the anti-government sentiment was, for a long time, tied together with racism and animus toward those on welfare (and race and welfare were themselves intertwined in the minds of many "Reagan Democrats.") I don't think we're anywhere near a "color-blind" society, but race isn't as virulent a negative force as it used to be, so "big government" isn't seen as allied with race and welfare the way it was in the past.

DHinMI --

Pause to note Clinton's cynical - but very real - achievement here. Ending "welfare as we know it" doubtless hurt a lot of poor people in the short run, but it killed "welfare" as a salient issue in American politics. For practical purposes it has gone the way of bimetallism: you just don't hear about it any more.

-- Rick

Rick: You're 100% correct, and that is part of my analysis. The other big change that's helped Dems is the decline of crime, and it's corresponding decline in political importance. In the 1970's a lot of white suburbanites were less than a decade from "fleeing" to the suburbs because of "crime" (AKA black folk). But today, few white voters under 50 share that experience, for so many of them grew up in the suburbs. Few white suburbanites have been marked by traumatic, violent crime or significant property crime. Most crime today is isolated in urban ghettos or in rural areas (which typically have much higher crime rates than the suburbs). Throw in the fact that the baby boom--which, because of a "pig in the python" group passing through the high-crime age cohort of 14-30 in huge numbers, which increased the crime statistics--has passed the crime-committing age, and it's just not a huge issue for most white voters unless all they do is watch local news and worry about Scott Peterson.

Whereas Bush and the GOP got their juice jolt from 9/11. Now they have pissed it away - between Iraq and Katrina, I don't think even another attack would bail them out. (So don't waste your time, Osama; we infidels won't get fooled again.)

-- Rick

DHinMI -- So glad to hear you are going to take up how racism plays in this. I saw 1994 as simply the ratification of white flight from the Dems for becoming the party of those Black people. We are in another place today, in which racism has a more nuanced salience.

I do fear though that if most of the US (including middle class people of color) saw our (still dark) underclass not as victims of Katrina but more like alienated French youth, we'd be right back to white Republicanism.

As you procede with this, please try to take how Dems might deal with immigration issues into account. I look forward to more.

An interesting and hopeful beginning to a series I will read with great interest.

It seems apparent that the Democrats have at least the beginnings of a strategy for retaking Congress, and a tougher attitude that seems to be playing well with some of the megamedia. Methinks there is only one missing piece from the rejuvenation of the Democratic Party that the Republicans had post-1964: a unified vision. That (and residual hesitance due to past Democratic failures and mistakes) is the foundation of that 48% hurdle, in my opinion.

Rising above that obstacle will require, horrors, an agenda. This isn't the time or place to get deeply into it, but if there were to be only three items on that agenda, I would make them foreign policy, the economy and health care.

I think the Republican party will be making another mistake in using Immigration as another bogeyman in the coming cycles.

Immigration to states like Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, Georgia, etc., is growing. Xenophobia will alienate all but the core of the base.

I've long agreed with DH on this subject; in general, it's been smoke and mirrors for this "majority" for many years now.

As a historian, one of my great regrets is that I won't live to see an honest history of this period. (I tend to believe you don't even come close to honest history for at least 50 years.) I've long thought that the closing of the government in '95 marked the high water mark for the GOP planned transformation. Since then, the momentum has all been to the left although, as you say, the GOP has cleverly used deception, fear, and anger to steer the ship of state their way.

I will definitely be following your series with interest.

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