Friday, November 12, 2004
Hitherto and beyond - I
The first question is, why exactly we need this exercise. Are the Democrats down, and out? Have they been trounced so much that nothing less than a Goldwater-esque change in philosophy, and audience would turn things around for them? Has this been a defeat for everything that Democratic party stands for? Have the people judged the party as being out of touch with reality?
The short, and precise, answer for those questions would be, "No." As much as the Republicans and conservatives would want to trumpet the mandate, it was, at best, a slim one. Sure, Bush did get more votes than any Presidential candidate in history. But then, Kerry got more votes than any Presidential candidates - including the winners - in history, except George W. Bush of 2004. Had 75,000 voters chosen Kerry instead of Bush, we would be talking about the Kerry cabinet now.
And as much as the Republican support has solidified in the red states, the Democrat support has solidified in blue states. A good illustration of this are the states that were considered vulnerable blues this time - Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota - all of them had Kerry winning Bush by bigger margins than did Gore in 2000 - and Kerry was running against a sitting "war-time" President.
The real reason why we need to take a hard look at where Democrats are (possibly) wrong can be summed up by two facts about the results of Election 2004:
1. The turnout touched a record high, with people being highly energized, and there is a realistic doubt as to whether it could ever touch this fervor again any time soon.
2. The red-blue map of the US of A looks exactly as it did four years back - with the minor exceptions of New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico, which were close even in 2000.
What these two mean together is that the parties have reached a sort of saturation point - they cannot do much beyond these. That is why there is no recrimination of Kerry, beyond the expected jeremiad that he was such a bore. No one is really able to convincingly argue that he screwed up.
And under these circumstances, the Republicans have narrowly taken all three branches of the government. If this settles into a status quo, democrats will be relegated to the status of a permanent opposition party. And remember, it is the Democrat voter base this year that is widely seen as the more vulnerable - because of the presence of a high number of moderates in their midst. Moderates tend to be less enthusiastic than the base in turning up at the booths - they do not mind either one (except if they are faced with "four more years" of Bush) very much anyway. So, even if this does not settle into a status quo, there is a bigger threat of the Democrats losing than the Republicans losing.
Now, that, is a long term problem we need to analyze.
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