John Judis and Ray Teixeira are a couple of smart, interesting political thinkers and writers. Two years ago, they argued in their book The Emerging Democratic Majority that a structural realignment of the American electorate is now taking place that would essentially rebuild the old New Deal coalition, though in very different ways. The key take-away: Dems could once again regularly begin winning presidential races.
After the election, of course, they've had a little explaining to do. They took a first crack at it in a short, quickie piece in The New Republic. Since the article is stuck behind a subscriber-only curtain, I'll reprint a key portion here:
'Bush recreated the Reagan-era coalition by combining Brooks Brothers and Wal-Mart, the upper class and the lower middle class. He won wealthy voters, those making over $200K, by 63-35%. But he also won voters who had not completed college by 53-47%...The Democrats need to find a candidate that can talk to both Ph.D's and tractor-trailer drivers.'
Teixeira lays out his arguments in greater detail in his blog, Donkey Rising. Among his earliest reactions to the Bush victory were these: we now know the limits of both Democratic voter mobilization and anti-Bush rhetoric. And we need to garner far better support among the white working class. "The fact of the matter is that Democrats cannot win when they do so badly among this very large constituency," he writes.
As I considered all the talk about a Bush mandate, I've gone back and forth about whether this election really was close. Yes, as the Wall Street Journal's stalwart Al Hunt was the first to point out, Bush received the slimmest winning margin of any incumbent president since Woodrow Wilson. But in the end, I think this map of how the counties voted helped the Dems, at least those who are honest with themselves, understand what a solid thumping this really represented for them. Red and blue counties were far more imbalanced even than the state electoral map, which looks pretty bad itself.
At the same time, there are indeed some promising trends amid the rubble for the Dems. Among the most important, I think, is the emerging power of web fundraising, first touched off by the Dean campaign. When the final numbers came in, it showed that the Kerry campaign raised $82 million on the Internet alone, or $32 million more than Gore raised four years earlier from all individuals through any channel. The Bush forces raised just $14 million that way. A single well-connected and widely read blogger, also a Democratic consultant, raised $750,000 for Dem candidates from 6,500 contributors. These numbers are simply incredible, and they should be heartening to the Democrats. I think they've received far too little attention amid post-election wallowing. But as Judis and Teixeira go on to note in their TNR piece, all that money won't help much if the Dems can't find a candidate next time who can connect with average people at least nearly as well as Clinton did. In this department, it's clear, the stiff and chilly Kerry wasn't really any better than Gore. Sorry to break this to you folks, but most Americans vote with their heart and their gut, not merely with their brain. And that fact probably isn't subject to realignment anytime soon.
Novak Gunning for Seinfeld's Job. Conservative columnist Bob Novak, long ago dubbed the "Prince of Darkness" for his glowering temperment and dour bully-boy politics, seemed to be trying his hand at comedy a day after the election. In what might have been the most idiotic thing said on any of the post-election cable chat shows, he told his CNN Crossfire colleagues that of course the Dems won, since Kerry was a lousy candidate. They should have instead nominated Dick Gephart, he said. Can you just imagine what a ball the Republican attack machine would have had mangling the labor movement's annointed candidate, a man who also served as the Democratic party's point man in handing Bush Congressional authority to invade Iraq? Gephart's the son of a milkman, but by the time the sleaze machine was done with him, he wouldn't have been recognizable as a major party candidate. Nice try, though, Novak. But maybe you should save your revisionist histories for the federal grand jury looking into which Bush operative used you as a willing pawn in leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent. Just be careful, Bob: In that forum, you'll be under oath.