Democrats Should Not Shift Left? The Smog of DC Traffic is Having an Effect at the WaPo

Here we go again. Conservatives (alleged Dems) warning us that the Democratic is too far left for Americans and that there aren’t enough liberals to justify “appealing to the base” of the party. In a blog post in today’s Washington Post, two folks who worked in the Clinton White House are issuing another “report” that the shift to the left among Democrats is hurting Dems chances with “swing voters” and that socially liberal upscale voters are hurting the Dems among “average voters.” There is of course the usual whining about “growing GOP appeal to Hispanics” and how Dems need to follow the Clinton 1992 method of “appealing to the center” (e.g. when Clinton executed a mentally retarded black man in Arkansas and embarrased Jesse Jackson at a Rainbow Coalition gathering).

Nevermind that Clinton also called for a massive jobs program, a rise in the miniumum wage, and for national health insurance in 1992. Oh yeah, he also got 43.0% of the popular vote 5.3% less than John Kerry. Clinton’s 1996 campaign only got .9% more of the vote than Kerry, while Gore got virtually identical amount of the popular vote to Kerry (48.4% for Gore, 48.3% for Kerry).

The online comments are even more pathetic, referencing alleged “sabotoging” of Howard Dean’s campaign. Oh well, at least some commentators pointed out that under Clinton we lost the House, Senate, and governship majorities and haven’t gotten them back. In his book Locked in the Cabinet, former Labor Secretary Robert reich derided what he called “amorphous bulls–t.” A simple examination of the election results bare out that Reich is right and that the WaPo and the DLC are wrong.

Kerry won Hispanics by a margin of 64%-35%, 2% greater margin than Gore’s in 2000.

Kerry beat Bush among registered independents 49%-48%. No Democrat (except LBJ) ever got this great a percent of the independent vote.

Kerry won the total popular vote in the battleground states, he just didn’t proportion them out correctly.

Finally, nearly 60% of Americans come from households making less than $50,000 annually. Unfortunately, they only made up 45% of the voting electorate. Was Kerry too liberal for poor, working class, and middle class voters? Not according to the NY Times (11/7/04)

Less than $15,000: Kerry 63%-36%
$15,000-$29,999: Kerry 57%-42%
$30,000-$49,999: Kerry 51%-49%.
Total under $50,000 vote: Kerry 55%-45%.

Kerry WON each of the bottom three quintiles and in each quintile he did better than any Democratic nominee in the last two decades. Given the fact that the Dems popular vote totals in 1968 1972 and 1980 were 42%, 39% and 41%, it’s likely Kerry’s totals in the bottom 3 quintiles were better than those candidates also.

Additionally, Kerry won the under $50,000 vote in every blue state and every battleground state except Colorado (Bush 50-49%) and West Virginia (Bush 55%-45%). Middle and working class voters are moving TOWARD the Dems, not away from them.

So why did Bush win the popular vote? Simple, turnout was up big time in battleground and red states, but was NOT up appreciably in blue ones. Indeed, in the most populous blue state, California, turnout was DOWN from 2000. It’s not a guarantee, but wouldn’t you want to see the election popular vote totals if turnout had been up big time in the blue states? Especially given how some of the most populous states (e.g. California, Illinois, New York, etc) are blue states. Maybe getting the base to turnout will help the Democrats win the popuar vote after all (and defeat some blue state GOP governors, Senators, and Congressmen like in California or Maryland).

Finally, it’s not as though appealing to the base and swing voters are mutually exclusive. Things likes being tough on terrorism while not fighting a war that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, national helath insurance, and making sure the rich pay their fair share of taxes is popular with the Democratic base, and if Bush’s approval ratings are any indication, they’re also popular with non-Democratic base voters too.

Bookmark and Share

About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Democrats Should Not Shift Left? The Smog of DC Traffic is Having an Effect at the WaPo

  1. ifk Editor says:

    You make some valid points in your post, but don’t you think the findings of the report are more accurate than not. Far from being critical of Kerry I think they vindicate how his campaign was trying to reach toward the center. (and doing a good job to some degree). While many liberal supporters rallied toward Howard Dean in the beginning, most Primary voters found Dean too left leaning to represent the Party, and nominated Kerry instead.

    I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I supported Kerry becasue I found him sensible on most issues. Unfortunately since Kerry held positions of common sense, yet nuance he was portrayed as pandering to both sides, which of course was republican spin if you bothered to look below the surface, but it was hard to create soundbites to get that message across. Complex issues have complex answers except in the world of American politics.

  2. ifk Editor

    I don’t think Nick was saying they were being critical of Kerry. It’s most likely more a case of who and where the report came from that Nick might be objecting to. I’m just guessing, but the report seemed to me like a bid for Hill.

  3. Ron Chusid says:

    ifk Editor,

    “Unfortunately since Kerry held positions of common sense, yet nuance he was portrayed as pandering to both sides,”

    From there you realize that it was all Republican spin. I’d take it a steop further and leave out the line about the positions Kerry held as this was irrelevant. No matter what positions he held, or what he said, the Republicans likely would have portrayed him as a flip flopper. It’s a tactic they commonly use as it is so easy to twist anyone’s votes or statements from different times.

  4. Ron Chusid says:

    In looking at such issues, people often confuse the positions they think are best with what is best politically.

    There is considerable evidence that in terms of electoral strategy a moderate has an advantage over someone from the left. That still leaves a decision as to whether it is worth compromising principles in order to win, or to hope that over time an increasing number of voters can be convinced to vote for more liberal principles.

    Confusing matters is that these terms are so unclear. Polls show a majority will support a generic moderate over a liberal or conservative, but once their is an individual named they might have different feelings as to how moderate they are.

    Note that the Republicans didn’t beat Kerry by telling people he wouldn’t be liberal enough for them. Their tactic was to make Kerry appear even more liberal than he was. For example, they distorted the National Journal’s rankings to claim he was the number one most liberal Senator. They attacked his health care plan by claiming it was a big government take over.

  5. Mass says:


    Sadly, the report in fact, when read in his totality is very critical of Kerry (and Gore and Dukakis), repeating the myth of not being connected to people as well as the idea that we need to be Republicanlike to win.

    Also, I would be careful of this report whose main goal seems to be to promote a certain type of personnality. Given that he was promoted by an organization created by Bayh and that Bayh does not hide his presidential ambitions, one may justly wonder how objective it is.

    Ron, I agree totally. Kerry said it very well at Seattle a few weeks ago: we do not need a second Republican Party. That does not mean that you should not try to attract the most people possible, but that you should do so without renouncing to your principles.

  6. Nick says:


    I agree that Democrats have to appeal to more than just liberals, and like you I supported Kerry from the get-go in part because I appreciated his sense of nuance. The debate about do Dems “go left or appeal to the center” is a phony one really. To win they have to do both. You can’t win if your viewed as a radical.
    At the same time Dems must fire up their base. Being liberal also helps th Dems in that it gives swing votes a chocie not an echo. I thought so then and I think so now that Dean would’ve been crushed by Bush. But I also think that Lieberman would’ve been crushed by Bush as well.
    Kerry was the only major candidate (okay maybe Gephardt and Edwards also fit this profile) who struck the right balance: Liberal on economic issues, socially moderate but not libertine, and strong on defense-but in a Jimmy Carter, Humphrey, John Kennedy sort of way: A hawk on defense who is always ready to fight but understands war is the last of the last options (i.e. “America never goes to war because we want to, we go to war because we have to)”.
    I admit one personal bias here: I ‘ve read many of the writings of Elaine Kamarack and Bill Galston. They’ve been attacking liberals as the cause of all the Dems problems since the 1980s. Their ire has been particularly forcusd not on the Deaniac types, but labor unions. No unions are not perfect entities, but as a union man myself I think you can guess how I feel about their attacks.
    Oh yeah almost forgot: remember a couple of weeks ago when Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon laws for New Orleans workers, specifically the right of workers to get higher or “prevailing” wages on public works projects? Yes Bush was a bastard for doing this but there’s something you-AND EVERYONE HERE- should know:

    Galston and Kamarack wanted to repeal the entire Davis-Bacon law when they were working in the Clinton Administration. You don’t have take my word for it. Read the 2000 Robert Reich article “Why business should love Gore?” where Reich talks about just this.

  7. Nick says:

    Here’s the Reich quote: “Gore’s “reinvention” team even tried to get rid of Davis-Bacon, which requires that the federal government pay “prevailing wages” on construction projects instead of shopping for the best deal (the effort failed, but Gore’s “reinvention” captain, Elaine Kamarck, hasn’t given up).

  8. Marjorie G says:

    Nick, love your head for minutia. Wish Bush understood that God is in the details.

  9. KJ says:

    Nick, I answered your question about what I thought about Mel Carnahan on the “John Kerry on Bush Speech and President’s Attacks on Critics” thread, except I addressed it to “Donnie” instead of “Nick.” (Don’t feel bad, I call my husband “Jim” and his name is Ken. I’m sort of odd that way. d;-)

    As for this post, am easily confused by numbers and minutia. I do think that good old common sense can be sold, however packaged, to the swing voters, as long as the message is clear and tied directly to their lives.

  10. KJ,

    Who’s Jim? You better warn him Ken might be coming after him soon 😉

  11. Dave from Princeton

    Was I dreaming the other morning or did you post that you had emailed me something? If you did, I never got the email. I must have been dreaming, ’cause that same morning I could have sworn you proposed or something… 😉

  12. LMAO the Goddess has quite a memory!!

  13. Hi Pamela,

    I don’t remember posting that I e-mailed you something. If I did, I don’t know what it was. But don’t take my word for it. I hope you don’t think I actually pay attention tom myself and what I say? Sheesh, I had me figured out a long time ago and have me on my ignore list! I sure hope I wasn’t infiltrating your dreams. Talk about nightmares! I don’t want your daughter mad at me, if she finds out I was the cause of her mother’s screams during the night of “Make him stop!” 🙁

    I did propose the other day though. Always got my eye our for the next ex-Mrs. Dave from P . 😉

  14. Nick says:


    LOL, no problem about Donnie. Thanks for the heads up about the response. I had a feeling that Mel would win in 2000, but there’s always that nagging doubt. It sure was terrible what happened to Mel. First and foremost the Carnahan family lost a great man, father and husband, while the country lost a great leader. What’s more if he’d live to beat Ashcroft there would never been a 2002 special election and no possiblity we’d here people utter the words “Senator Talent” now.

  15. That’s right Democrats, keep being Republican light. Keep getting your news from the conservative MSM. Keep voting with the Republicans in Congress. Keep supporting the illegal and immoral ‘War OF Terrorism’ in Iraq. Keep thinking the word Liberal is a dirty word. Keep running inneffective campaigns. Keep losing more Congressional seats to the Republicans. Keep being spineless cowering wimps.

    There is a battle going on within the Democratic Party between the old guard Democrat DINOs and the new breed of truly moral and Liberal Democrats led by Howard Dean and the DNC.

    It’s not enough for the Democrats to take back the majority in Congress next year, the new breed of Democrats must come out on top.

    October 9th, 2005 at 12:14 am

    Did you forget to take your meds today? Don’t make me tell your mommy and daddy on you!!

  17. Nick says:

    Northern Va. anti-war social liberals? Couldn’t nominate Eugene McCarthy in 1968, (he later endorsed Reagan in 1980 and almost cost Jimmy Carter the 1976 election) couldn’t even get Dems to nominate Howard Dean, and their one nominee (George McGovern) lost in a landslide.
    Hmmm, all this and Va. remains a right-to-work state.




    John Kerry is FAR MORE liberal than Howard Dean. I have the utmost respect for Howard Dean. I don’t bash him anywhere. Take your bashing somewhere else.

  19. Dave from Princeton

    You ignore yourself? That’s silly… you always add a lot to the conversation… including proposals of all sorts!