Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Keeping It Real Politik: Where We Headed?

The post-election hangover is over… for the media at least. Earnest and keen analysis of where we’re at in the US of A has been pouring in over the last few weeks, with observers and pundits trying to get a sense of what happened in 2004, and where the political signposts may be pointing toward the murky future.

Here’s a rundown of some of the best purely political analysis that I’ve seen of late.

Not surprisingly, the great Howard Fineman of Newsweek and MSNBC kicks things off with “Eyes on a New Prize”:

The Democrats are leaderless and reeling, seemingly bereft of inspiring ideas. They face a president who is the first since 1936 to win re-election while boosting his party's majorities in the Congress. The "mainstream" media, historically sympathetic to Democrats, are on the defensive, financially and journalistically; the GOP is even taking over the K Street lobbies, an Alamo of unrepentant Democrats.

The question now is whether the GOP can—or even wants to—try to govern from the middle… Rove and Bush have prospered by forcing voters to choose between sharply different visions, and there is no reason to think that they will stop operating in that fashion.

Adam Nagourney of The New York Times also gives a good go on the where we been/where we headed theme in “So What Happened in That Election, Anyhow?”

Presidential elections often produce a clear story line, a lesson for winners and losers alike. Not this one, at least not yet, and that is a matter of increasing concern for Democrats who would like to learn from the past as they face a series of critical decisions, including picking a new party chairman and laying out a plan to avoid even more losses in the 2006 Congressional races. And there is the immediate tactical question of how stridently to push back against Mr. Bush's efforts to change Social Security and the tax code.

It's hardly any wonder that Democrats these days seem to be marching in so many different directions. Post-loss squabbling between the party's left wing and its moderate faction is nothing new.

The Nation, long a bastion for left-leaners everywhere, is searching (and trying not to scramble) for answers as well. A run-down of various thinkers and columnists included this overview of the State of the Dems by Theda Skocpol:

Now Democrats are a minority party, with no center of national leadership. They need to get some visible spokespersons in place quickly, and begin a continuing campaign of organization and argument around carefully selected policy battles.

Ronald Brownstein, who, flat-out, might be the best political writer in the country, drops a masterpiece in his Los Angeles Times column entitled “GOP Has Lock on South, and Democrats Can't Find Key”:

The generation-long political retreat of Democrats across the South is disintegrating into a rout.

[Bush’s] overwhelming performance left Sen. John F. Kerry clinging to a few scattered islands of support in a region that until the 1960s provided the foundation of the Democratic coalition in presidential politics. Kerry won fewer Southern counties than any Democratic nominee since the Depression except Walter F. Mondale in 1984 and George S. McGovern in 1972, according to data assembled by The Times and Polidata, a firm that specializes in political statistics.

In Southern counties without a substantial number of African American or Latino voters, Bush virtually obliterated Kerry. Across the 11 states of the old Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma, whites constitute a majority of the population in 1,154 counties. Kerry won 90 of them.

By contrast, Bill Clinton won 510 white-majority counties in the South eight years ago.

"We are out of business in the South," said J.W. Brannen, the Democratic Party chairman in Russell County, Ala., the only white-majority county in the state that Kerry carried.

The results underscore the enormity of the challenge facing Democrats as they try to rebuild their Southern support. Most ominously for them, the patterns suggest that under Bush, the GOP is solidifying its hold not just on Southern white conservatives but white moderates as well, a trend also apparent in exit polls of Southern voters on election day.

Finally, blogging dynamo and Democratic stalwart Daily Kos tries to envision an electoral breakthrough for the Dems beyond the current red-blue stalemate:

The West is the new battleground. If we win in 2008, it will be because of these states. We cannot place all our eggs on the Ohio and Florida baskets… the battleground that is forming includes the Southwest as well. It's essentially CO, NV, AZ, NM, MT, and one or two CDs in Nebraska, which splits its Electoral Votes. That's 33-34 electoral votes.

And while I wrote off the south for a generation, it is true that Virginia and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina, are trending in our direction. VA, as a matter of fact, should be a bona fide swing state in 2008.

Whither the future? These fine pieces of writing are as good a place to start as any.

DB Note: I believe I finally got that little linking problem licked by way of the masterfully simple website Bless them.

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