The Self Made Pundit
Monday, November 11, 2002
CRAFT ME A MESSAGE, VOTERS SAY: Post-election polling is confirming the view (expressed in last Wednesday’s Self Made Pundit, among other places) that the Democrats’ dismal showing in the midterm elections was more a result of their failure to craft a message than a rejection of any Democratic message.
A Newsweek poll of Americans finds that the Democrats’ failure to offer “clear alternatives” to Bush and the Republicans was a major factor in the Republicans’ electoral success:
FORTY-EIGHT PERCENT said one “major” reason was “the Democrats didn’t offer a clear alternative to the Republicans on the Bush tax cuts and other economic issues.” They said three other reasons were “major” factors: “The Democrats didn’t offer a clear alternative to Bush and the Republicans on the issue of war with Iraq” (51 percent), “President Bush’s willingness to use military force, if necessary, to disarm and remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq” (59 percent) and “President Bush’s personal popularity and campaign efforts” (53 percent).
Far from giving the Republicans a ringing endorsement, the respondents of this poll also viewed the prospects of Republican control of Congress with less than enthusiasm:
Asked about the Republicans winning control of both houses of Congress, 30 percent of those polled said it was a “good thing,” 34 percent said it was a “bad thing” and 29 percent believed it will be make “no difference” either way.
Considering that only 30 percent of respondents considered it a good thing that Republicans won control of both houses of Congress, the Democrats certainly had the potential of doing much better in the election if they had articulated a clear Democratic program.
I think much of the debate now underway about whether Democrats should move to the left misses the point. The Democrats should forcefully fight for policies they believe will benefit Americans without getting bogged down in overly analytical arguments about whether a given policy is “liberal” or “conservative.”
Having a responsible economic policy that seeks to benefit the great majority of Americans strikes me as more conservative than a radical right-wing agenda that seeks to redistribute wealth to the super rich with tax cuts geared to the top 1 percent. Fighting corporate crime may be a progressive issue, but it is also a law and order issue.
The Democrats are certainly capable of crafting a message that voters will find attractive. In order for voters to hear that message, however, the Democrats need to be passionate and fight for it rather than to act shy and dispirited as they too often have during these past two years.