Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

THE POLITICS OF POLARIZATION....I went ahead and read William Galston and Elaine Kamarck's "The Politics of Polarization" last night, and I was....underwhelmed. It's not so much that it's wrong, but that it's not really interesting enough to spend much time arguing with.

Their main point is that there are more conservatives than liberals in America, which means Democrats have to carry a large majority of the moderate vote in order to win. Fine. I've made the same point myself a couple of times this year. So have a few thousand other people. In addition, G&K rightly decry several common liberal myths: Mobilizing the base is the key to victory. Demography is in our favor. Lakoffian framing will save us. Voters still love us for our stands on healthcare and education.

I'm fine with all that too. There's a kernel of truth in all these things (as G&K concede), but overall they do more to cloud the truth than reveal it.

So what are the key issues for Democrats? The paper becomes a bit of an electoral mishmash at this point. We're losing support among married women and Catholics, and the way to get it back is for our candidates to stress personal integrity. We need to be friendlier toward religion because "less educated voters...respond positively to candidates who present themselves as sincere believers." We should pay more attention to the Midwest although their definition of Midwest (Table 24 on p. 55) seems a mite peculiar.

And their recommendations? Get tough on national security. Give up on gay marriage and quit opposing parental notification laws. Advocate "nothing less than a 21st century economic and social policy." And nominate candidates who are personally appealing.

I dunno. Some of this I'm OK with, some of it I'm not, but it doesn't strike me as a very coherent response to the issues they raise. G&K insist that Democrats need to demonstrate that they believe in something, but the entire paper is rooted in conventional slice-and-dice electoral polling analysis. It's not really clear precisely what they think Dems should believe in or why they should believe in it aside from the fact that poll numbers suggest it might be a good idea. Color me uninspired.

In the meantime, I guess for 2008 we need to find a charismatic midwestern Methodist who's not averse to starting foreign wars. Let's get cracking.

Kevin Drum 5:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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