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.