Why the Democrats got stomped on Tuesday
Two solid reasons why it happened.
1) The Wellstone/Torricelli debacles
A nationwide survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a GOP firm, found a “late surge to Republicans,” much as was the case in the GOP landslide year of 1994.
Interviews showed that “the handling of Senator Wellstone’s memorial service and the way the ballot situation was handled in New Jersey was clearly a factor in helping drive Republican intensity this election,” the firm said.
Republicans were justifiably furious at the sleazy way Torricelli dropped out of the race, allowing Lautenberg to run. And in Minnesota, remember that Governor Jesse Ventura walked out of the Wellstone memorial service because he was so disgusted by the blatant political posturing.
The events surrounding Wellstone’s death changed the entire equation, nationwide; and it was through the mass media, especially rightwing radio and cable news that the issue was used to motivate Republican leaning voters against the Democrats.
Democrats, when they see Republicans use patriotism or warmongering for political purposes react cynically, but it doesn’t make them mad. Republicans, when they see Democrats acting partisan at non-partisan events, become morally indignant, extremely agitated, caustic, and utterly activist.
In Minnesota, it turned a 5-10% Wellstone victory into a 2% Mondale loss, and it happened due to massive turnout, above Presidential levels in Minnesota; and it resulted in a large enough Republican surge in the states of MO and GA to oust Carnahan and Cleland.
2) The party’s over
From Sam Smith at Progressive Review (excerpts)
What happened on November 5, 2002 was the culmination of a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party that began more than a decade ago under the leadership of a group of conservatives, corporadoes, and con men who convinced their political colleagues that the salvation of the party lay in destroying its purpose.
Called “moving to the center,” the recipe had certain similarities to a Saturday Night Live sketch in which an actor pretends to be George Bush or Trent Lott, but unlike the sketch, it was neither funny nor convincing. It was conceived by the “Democratic Leadership Council,” a group whose underlying message was not leadership but abandon ship and which chose as its agent a conservative governor of Arkansas of salesman-like charm and conviction.
No Democratic president since the 19th century suffered such an electoral disintegration of his party as did Clinton.
In the full article Sam Smith details precisely how bad Clinton was for Democrats and how the number of elected Democrats dropped drastically during his eight years. Not to mention the continual lurch to the Right that Clinton engineered.
This unreported truth helps to explain why the Democrats didn’t do better in 2002. The Republicans merely continued their successful assault on a party that had become hopelessly weakened by an exploitive, ungrounded, self-indulgent elite that had swept through Democratic politics.
For the party to recover, it must divorce itself from the con men who have done it so much damage. It must find its way back to the gutbucket, pragmatic populism that gave this country Social Security, a minimum wage, veterans’ programs, the FHA, civil rights, and the war on poverty. It must jettison its self-defeating snobbism towards Americans who go to church or own a gun. It needs to be as useful to the voter in the cubicle as it once was to the voter on the assembly line. It must find a soul, a passion, and a sense of itself. Most of all, it must get rid of those false prophets and phony friends who have not only done it so much damage but have left the country fully in the hands of the cruel, the selfish, the violent, the dumb, and the anti-democratic.