Opposite DayMarc Cooper in the LA Weekly is deeply critical of Kerry’s campaign. While I agree with a few of his points, I can’t help but think that his major substantive criticism, that the democrats lose because they are too far right, relates little more than how out of touch he is. Let’s take on of his least cogent moments of analysis:
In locating the roots of this defeat, you are free to dig as deeply or as superficially as you care to. We could start this particular narrative, I suppose, in 1993, when a newly elected Bill Clinton gambled all of his political capital to bully and ultimately divide his own party, forcing passage of the pet project of Bush 41—the job-shredding NAFTA…Or perhaps you’d prefer to begin…when the same Democratic president signed the Republican abolition of federal welfare…or Maybe in ’98, when Democrats reassured America that all presidents lie, and why pick on [Clinton]?
That’s right folks, Arkansas support for Bush is a message loud and clear “please send us a candidate to Kerry’s left!” Never mind the substantive disagreement I have over Nafta with Cooper, his analysis is so far outside of reality one wonders how it even got printed (well this is the LA Weekly). It includes hyperbole (did you know Clinton killed welfare, it no longer exists!) and strange leaps of logic (by not supporting the impeachment of Clinton, Democrats made the American people think lying was ok). But most importantly, only a writer for the LA Weekly who never spends much time outside the blue states could possibly believe that the bible belt is voting for Bush because they are just waiting for a good ol’ leftist to come rolling into town. People, Bush’s strategy was to label Kerry as the most liberal senator in the country. He did that for a reason.
And obviously, the first place the Democrats should look for a source of their troubles is a presidential candidate who won by three times Bush’s margin and actually managed to carry some states in the South. The source of all the Democrats troubles is the only president they’ve managed to get elected to two terms in office since FDR. Why learn from Clinton’s overwhelming success? It’s more fun to pretend his success was really a failure because he wasn’t as far outside the mainstream as Marc Cooper.
Cooper continues by making some inroads into analyzing most recent history and a Democratic lack of backbone. But his conclusions still don’t lead anywhere all that interesting. Would Democrats have really benefited from opposing what was at the time an immensely popular war? I’m skeptical to say the least.
Cooper I think is representative of the left’s problem at the moment. The issues he is talking about, Iraq, welfare, and NAFTA just don’t appeal to enough voters. They don’t. Maybe you think they should (heck with the exception of NAFTA I think they should), but it’s quite clear they aren’t working.
That leaves two options. First you can try to change people’s minds through rhetoric, and a comprehensive grassroots movement. That’s a difficult task but it can be done. The religious right appears to be quite good at it.
Second, you can switch issues to things people care about. Kerry failed miserably with health care, but if a sensible reform could be produced in clear and simple language that might work. Additionally some of the personal freedoms that the religious right is none to happy to endorse might appeal if framed correctly, a shift from moral values to a respect for privacy.
Ultimately I don’t have the answers, and if I did the Democrats would pay me big bucks to fix their party. But I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t Bill Clinton. He may be the only image the Democrats have left which still has broad appeal.