After a disappointing loss in the Nov. 5 election, Democrats go back to the drawing board to figure out what went wrong.
The Democrats’ biggest problem was their mainstream, centrist tilt, which failed to offer voters an alternative message to Republicans.
In fact, because of the party-parity, voters couldn’t tell the difference between the two.
Most Democrats are no longer outspoken Wellstone liberals.
In fact, many have become moderate, business-friendly politicians who are more interested in preserving their party than making the world a better place.
New Democrats have abandoned talk of a higher minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and other initiatives that benefit minorities, the poor and the working class.
Instead, they have repackaged their party’s agenda to appeal to the rich and the middleclass, who are usually white Americans who go the way of the Elephant.
The New Democrat Coalition, with 74 members in the House and 20 in the Senate, is more interested in mainstream views and bipartisan solutions than pushing a liberal agenda.
Instead, their legislative agenda focuses on free-trade initiatives, new economic policies and greater investments in national security.
But what really hurt Democrats was the absence of a strong leader.
Democrats desperately need a party leader who can bridge their ideological gap between an agenda that promotes social and economic equality and one that abandons race and class-based appeals.
Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle failed to get his party’s core policies across and market himself as an effective leader, mistakes that cost Democrats the Senate.
Daschle hopes to remedy his mishaps by seeking the top spot again in 2004.
After eight years as House Minority Leader, Congressman Dick Gephardt is stepping down.
In four election cycles, Gephardt was unable to capture the small number of seats needed to lead Democrats back to majority status.
A vital cog in the Democrats’ strategy to regroup and regain is House minority whip Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi, Gephardt’s replacement, is among the most liberal House Democrats.
She led the fight against Bush’s unilateral action on Iraq.
She also opposed the president on tax cuts and welfare reform. And she supports social issues like abortion rights, gay rights, expanded health care and economic programs.
Pelosi supporters hope that she will energize the party’s liberal base, and show voters just how different Democrats are from Republicans.
But there is also concern that that plan could backfire.
Democrats will need to pick up about a dozen seats in the 2004 election to gain control; consequently Democrats have moved to the right in 2002 while the Republican party has kept control of the House and regained the Senate.
If Democrats veer too far to the left, there is worry that they will alienate many moderate voters in 2004, and fail to win back a majority.
If Democrats hope to survive, they must quell the internal debate that prevents them from setting a clear and distinct message.
And they must find a Clinton-style leader to bridge the gap between Old and New Democrats.
If not, being stubbornly divided and ineffectively mainstream will led to the demise of their party.