The Democratic Party is at a crossroads. They have suffered big defeats, both in presidential and congressional elections. In the rehash party, leaders are trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Were they too liberal? Were they too moderate? Most importantly, if they want to win next time, should they move to the left or the right?
Considering how well the Republican Party did in the 2004 elections, a number of Democrats believe that if the party becomes more like its opponent they will see results.
This mentality will only dig the Democratic Party deeper into their hole until they become the minority party Republicans want them to be. As Howard Dean said in a Dec. 8 speech at The George Washington University, “We cannot win by being ‘Republican-lite.’ We’ve tried it; it doesn’t work.”
Democrats must embrace a liberal platform if they want to distinguish themselves from their Republican opponents. Now that the Democratic National Committee Chair is up for election, Dean, a definite liberal, would be the perfect candidate to get the party back on track.
Remember last year’s presidential debates when President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry had almost exactly the same stance on certain issues? Kerry was trying to lure members of Bush’s Republican base over to his side, but it didn’t work. In the process he came off as what he was so often called – a “flip-flopper.”
The electorate does not want a candidate who changes his position just to gain votes. What the electorate responds to is a clear, strong, consistent message. Bush gave voters that message; Kerry did not. If Kerry maintained a more liberal position, but presented it with clarity and distinctness, he would have been much better received.
Democratic candidates should not worry that embracing a liberal platform will alienate them from the much talked about “values voters” of the 2004 election. “Liberal” has become a dirty word, akin to “radical,” but the truth is that all liberal really means is thinking progressively. Many aspects of a liberal platform, when presented correctly, would actually appeal to religious voters.
Democrats should emphasize their work to help the poor and their non-judgmental attitudes, both virtues advocated by none other than Jesus Christ, one of history’s greatest liberals. Many religious people are for social justice, and Democrats, who support the welfare system, maintaining Social Security and Affirmative Action, could make a strong argument that they are the better party to pursue these goals.
Democrats traditionally have had a strong working class following due to their liberal economic policies. Democratic candidates need to emphasize this because it is likely their most appealing attribute.
While Republican economics help a tiny percentage of Americans with high incomes (something Dean and other liberals have repeatedly criticized), the Democrats’ liberal economic policies benefit a sweeping majority of workers, giving them a much larger base. Even if voters don’t wholly agree with the Democrats’ social platform, they will likely vote for a candidate who will benefit such an important a part of their lives – their jobs.
The next big election for Democrats is that of the DNC Chair. Although the party system has been weakening in the United States, who the Democrats elect as their chair will still have a great influence on the type of platform they will pursue in the future.
The only viable option is Dean. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool liberal and if Democrats want to take a step in the right – or should I say left – direction, they should elect Dean. He is the only candidate tenacious enough to move Democrats toward a liberal platform that is clearly distinguished from the Republicans’.
The liberal Democratic platform doesn’t need to change; only the way it is presented to the people does. A direct, artfully expressed liberal campaign message will be the most effective weapon against republican candidates.
The GOP won’t know what hit them if they have to compete with a clearly distinguished opponent. Democrats must remain liberal in order to strengthen themselves into viable contenders, ensuring the continuation of the strong two-party system that is essential to America’s democracy.
Emilie Haertsch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.