Democrats Should Regroup, Reach Out to Voters
Tuesday, August, 30, 2005; 8:16 PM | | |
Remember the Democratic Party? No? How about the 2004 presidential election, where their candidate met a decisive loss against the incumbent President Bush? Ring a bell? It?s no real surprise that their current run of bad luck seems to have caused this formerly-reputable party to all but fall off the map. After news networks and talking heads decided to streamline presidential election coverage down to color-coordination, the branding of ?blue-state? (Virginia not being one of these, FYI) on those that turned their electoral votes to the democratic side has helped to nurse an irrational level of political division. Now, to be a blue-state Democrat one must face having your party?s credibility slowly being eroded away as the ?Bush years? progress. It seems now the typical apolitical American places the Democratic Party in nearly equal status with disparaging terms such as left-wing liberal, extremist or otherwise. This perception polarizes them as possessing principles and plans for the nation that are far removed from that of the typical voter. Many are starting to wonder aloud: When will the democrats start to move closer towards an equal status with the dominant republicans? It?s tough to say for sure when or even if it will happen. Although the arena of ideas and influence in politics is forever changing, there is no question that the current political climate in the United States will make for a tough climb before they can take another swing at winning the top office in the 2008 election. It bears reminding that the democrats have endured a great deal lately. Not only are they subjugated by minority seating in Congress, they are constantly under pressure from division in their own ranks over issues as varied as stem cell research and finding an agreeable exit strategy for the Iraq war.
Arguably the biggest problem facing the democrats is promoting leaders with whom the American public can readily identify and ultimately vote for. After the 2004 loss, they were nearly rudderless. John Kerry was out of the picture to a certain extent; his national clout tarnished, but still with a Massachusetts senate seat to fall back on. The same could not be said for his running mate, John Edwards, who was not reelected to the Senate after the election, although rumors still abound about Edwards trying again in 2008.
Other democrats the public generally recognizes are Sen. Hillary Clinton, the tentative pick for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, and Howard Dean, the one-time 2004 front-runner whose overzealous yell in Iowa bafflingly served to sink his campaign. But Dean is, as many Democrats still consider, a solid leader: he was appointed to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year. But how would these leaders fare campaigning against popular Republican powerhouses such as Rudolph Giuliani or Sen. John McCain (both heavy favorites for the 2008 G.O.P. nomination)? It remains to be seen, but the opposition is stiff to say the least.
In order for the democrats to hope for future success, alterations of image and action must occur. Much of the work remains in the plans that the DNC, along with state and local office-holding democrats, will be compelled to enact as election time rolls around once again. But certain current events may also help to sway voters away from the G.O.P. The United States? continuing involvement in Iraq is proving to be a huge thorn in the republicans? side; the latest setback being the rejection of a U.S.-backed Iraqi constitution by Sunni Muslim leaders.
When the president returns to D.C. from his five-week vacation he must face approval ratings riding on a downward slope where they currently sit around 36 percent, right around the numbers Richard Nixon was getting during Watergate. This may be the best time for the reclusive Democratic Party to come out of hiding and make their move. By uniting their politics and displaying the key differences between them and leading republicans while emphasizing the improvements they intend to make over the current administration, they can expand their base and win over voters who had, as of last year, all but written them off.
There is still time left to continue to rebuild their images and strengthen their platforms to take the focus off what has gone wrong for them in the past and concentrate on appealing to as many Americans as they can.