Sunday, July 23, 2006

What Ails The Democratic Party, Part 379

I continue to be fascinated by the ongoing frustration of the Democratic party here in the United States. Despite facing an opposing party led by one of the most unpopular Presidents in history, many of whose leaders are tainted by corruption scandals (no offense to Republicans, just stating the facts), there is an overwhelming sense that the Democrats will once again self-destruct in both 2006 and 2008.

To add fuel to the fire comes this scorching article from American Conservative: "What's Wrong With the Democrats."

Bear in mind that this is a piece written from an explicitly conservative point of view. It also includes liberal sprinklings of passages that are guaranteed to offend. Take this doozy for example:

Many elements within the Democratic Party can’t actually stand each other. The white “lifestyle” liberals welcome minorities as allies because they believe being on the same side as African-Americans against the white majority validates their feelings of self-worth. Yet to be frank—not that they would ever say it in so many words—they also regard blacks and Hispanics as scandalously reactionary on such crucial issues (to them) as gay marriage.

Meanwhile, the racial minorities are heavily Democratic both for newfangled identity reasons and for old-fashioned ethnic clout purposes that St. Tammany himself would have understood, but they are also more culturally conservative and view their white allies as smug, out-of-touch, and patronizing.

Moreover, although this is kept out of the press except when the occasional Jesse Jackson “Hymietown” outburst breaks through, more than a few minority Democrats disdain the lifestyle Democrats as Jews or perverts or Jewish perverts.

Nonetheless, the piece is filled with perceptive insights and statistics that illustrate the author's main point: Because the Democrats have defined themselves in opposition to the white male oppressor, they can't attract a majority for the simple fact that white people account for 79% of actual voters.

Crucially, the Democrats garner the votes of merely one out of three of America’s wedded white guys—the demographic segment that, to a fair if impolitic approximation, not only runs the country but also keeps the country running. Because Democrats have increasingly alienated the group that, more than any other, gets things done in America, it’s become implausible for Democrats to portray themselves as the natural governing party. Thus they have become dependent upon Republican miscues, which, luckily for the Democrats (although not for the country), have been abundant.

The piece also touches on another characteristic which I think is counter-productive, the tendency to look down on "the flyover states" or what Nixon once referred to as "the silent majority."

(As a side note, shouldn't Nixon's crimes have given the White House to the Democrats for a generation? As moral and kind a man as he seems to be, Jimmy Carter's disastrous presidency has to take some of the blame for 25 years of Republican hegemony.)

The Democrats’ fundamental weakness is that even after four decades of their strenuously celebrating the moral supremacy of every organized minority, our political system remains, more or less, one of majority rule. It’s hard to win a majority if you don’t personally want to be part of the majority because your ego centers around visualizing yourself as better than the average American. If you don’t like the American majority, either in principle or in person, the majority won’t like you.

While many "red state" residents also look down on the "blue staters" as perverts on the bullet train to Satan, moral censure has always been easier to swallow than snobbery. We Americans may dislike a good two-shoes, but we hate snobs even more, which is why every 4 years we witness two millionaires who went to Ivy League schools competing to burnish their "common man" credentials.

A few other tidbits:

On the tendency for Democrats to sympathize with exactly the folks who turn off heartland voters:

Although we are constantly assured today that America was unified throughout the Cold War in opposition to the Soviet Union, the public at least vaguely recalls that during the Reagan years much of the Democratic Party wanted to beg the Soviets for mercy, almost up to the day the evil empire collapsed.

The Democrats’ other mark of Cain is the horrific 1964-1996 crime wave unleashed by the Great Society. After almost a quarter of a million excess murders and the reduction of great American cities like Detroit to wastelands, it was finally quelled by the old conservative nostrums of cutting welfare and locking crooks up and throwing away the key.

These were not fluke mistakes. Instead, they explain the unpopularity of the Democrats. Their common denominator was the Democrats’ tendency to sympathize more with foreign enemies and domestic delinquents than with their own country and their fellow citizens.

On why uniting behind a hatred of George W. Bush is not enough:

The Democrats can seldom appeal to one of their blocs without offending another, so the main message they can all agree upon is how much they hate George W. Bush. The problem with that strategy is that, yes, admittedly, the president is a national disgrace, but that also reflects badly on the nation that twice elected him, so a large fraction of patriotic Americans don’t want to hear it.

And an absolutely fascinating statistical fact that links housing costs with votes:

Housing differs sharply in price between red and blue America. Bush carried the 20 states with the cheapest housing costs, while Kerry won the nine states with the most expensive. And the mortgage gap has been growing. Bush was victorious in the 26 states with the least home price inflation since 1980. Kerry triumphed in the 14 states with the most.

5 comments:

MJ said...

This just echos the blue city/red hinterland dynamic that we've seen in the last two elections. Cities vote blue. Hinterlands vote red. In states were the urban vote can carry the state (NY, IL, MI, CA, etc), blue wins. If not, red wins.

All the rest is BS and based on the fact that voter turn-out in the US is 50% in a good year, so the party that's organized to get 26% can win.

John Waste said...

"a quarter of a millon excess murders..."

Excess murders? As opposed to the proper number of murders?

Chris said...

"Excess murders" seems to be used to refer to additional murders that would not have taken place except for the Great Society program.

There is always an underlying rate of murder, just as there is cancer, heart disease, etc. We can do the same analysis for the number of "excess heart attacks" prompted by the success of KFC.

One famous series of articles highlighted heart attacks and suicides among those laid off as a result of LBOs...without considering that in any large population, heart attacks and suicides occur.

My old professor, Mike Jensen, ran that analysis and quipped that it seemed like LBOs were good for the health, since the reported number of heart attacks and suicides was actually lower than what would be expected from a control group.

MJ said...

Just revisited this and actually clicked through and read the article. This is an interesting assertion that Mr. Sailer makes with no back-up data:

"Less crudely, important white liberal constituencies such as the antiwar movement, the wealthy but fading mainline Protestant denominations, and the environmentalists are quietly becoming annoyed by the Jews who provide about half of the party’s campaign contributions."

Jews provide more than half the Democrats funding? (A) What in the world is that based on, and (B) any time someone on the right starts talking about the corrosive effects of Jews and their money, I get very nervous.

Another thing that's missing here is the fact that there is a broad liberal consensus that underlies this country. People believe in social security, progressive taxation, and effective federal programs from Medicare to a functional FEMA.

Sure, there was a marriage gap in 2000 and 2004. But how about 1996? How big was the marriage gap for Clinton?

I think this framing is BS. In addition to the wedge social issues, I think the primary issue is which candidate/party radiates competence. The Republicans are good at projecting this image. The Democrats (since Clinton) are not.

Also, any time anyone uses the phrase "white birth rate" -- be very scared. The fixation on the white birth rate is an attempt to distract from the point that the red states are losing their educated young to the coasts, and an attempt to de-value the immigrants and minorities that make up a larger share of the population on the coasts. But anyone who argues that these people are less valuable Americans has a frightening agenda.

Chris said...

Matt,

As I mentioned in the original post, this piece is from American Conservative, and various portions are definitely written to offend.

I explicitly did not want people to equate his thinking with mine. Nonetheless, I thought his position on the fracturing of the Democratic party interesting enough to reference.

On anti-semitism:
Yes, we should be very afraid. This guy seems like he might give Mel Gibson a run for his money. But his repugnant beliefs in this regard do not invalidate the other points he makes.

On the liberal consensus:
As many a libertarian or progressive would cheerily point out, the difference between the two parties in the US is not that large in a world where both Singapore, Russia, and Venezuela technically count as democratic governments.

I don't think that Republicans disagree with social security, progressive taxation, and effective federal programs from Medicare to a functional FEMA (though the progressive versus flat tax debate is a red herring, given the presence of other distortions like the mortgage interest deduction, the marriage tax penalty, the earned income credit, farm subsidies, etc.). It's more the definition of "effective" that is in play.

Clinton won in 1992 and 1996 because 1) he is the greatest politician of his generation, 2) the economy sucked in 1992 and was going gangbusters in 1996, and 3) he successfully triangulated by stealing Republican thunder on issues like welfare reform while still supported Democrat party principles.

Nonetheless, if the DNC were to ask me (not that they are), Gore should have won in a landslide in 2000, and Kerry should have won in 2004. The fact that they didn't is a huge red flag that the Democratic party is not pursuing a coherent, effective strategy.

If the Republicans win again in 2008, despite coming off what may be the most unpopular administration since Nixon, and before that, Hoover, the DNC's leadership should be summarily executed.

The Republican party may have been better at radiating competence, but any such image has been shattered by the combination of sleaze (Abramoff, De Lay) and incompetence (Iraq, Katrina). Can you honestly say that the American people view the Republicans as more competent? If so, the Democratic party is in even more trouble that anyone thinks.

Finally, neither party has a monopoly on anti-immigration politics. The Democrats are just more subtle, as in the Dukakis call for a higher minimum wage to squeeze out the swarthy people. Both are types of racism and xenophobia that should be denounced.