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A Letter to the DNC
November 7, 2002

Democratic National Committee
7 November, 2002
Mr. Terry McAuliffe, Chair
430 S Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC, 20003

Dear Committee Members,

I am sure that, in order to serve the Party well in the future, you will be examining the issues that led to such a disappointing result in this election cycle. I am writing to give you the perspective of a lifelong Democratic voter, who has in the past participated in local Party leadership, and is active in supporting the Party's candidates with contributions and volunteer time. I think that, on occasion, it is easy for leadership to get caught up in the technical details of strategy and tactics, and in the apparent concerns of those outside the Party whom we hope to attract. In doing so, we may be losing sight of the perspective of the vast majority of our registered membership who are not as active in the process. I am writing in this spirit, and I am hoping that many of my fellow rank-and-file Democrats will also write to provide you with their own insights.

Leadership and the DLC have focused on wooing a hypothetical "center" of American voters, in the belief that therein lies a substantial block of support which can be mobilized to support Democratic candidates. In this election, it hasn't paid off. Why? I can think of two reasons. Either or both may be factors:

First, there seems to be an assumption about what the "center" wants, as though the large number of Americans who decline to identify themselves with the left or the right all want some consistent, well-articulated set of goals-goals that are delineated by the success of the GOP and the popularity of President Bush. This could be an erroneous assumption. It is possible that, rather than having a well-defined pattern of concerns that the GOP has uniformly appealed to, each member of the "center" has a unique personal agenda which encompasses some goals that are aligned with GOP philosophy, as well as other goals which may not be as consistent with the prevailing right-wing ideology.

If this is, in fact, the case, then people may be casting votes for the GOP simply because the GOP has been positive and consistent on one or two of the particular issues that may be important for each voter (and the issues may be different ones for each voter.) Being intimidated by the GOP's successes may have made us, as a Party, fail to adequately define our differences from the GOP. By not presenting a positive and consistent array of issues upon which we clearly differ from the GOP, and pointing to a record of behaviors consistent with those differing issues, we have failed to offer the voters a chance to make their voting decision based on issues other than whether the President is doing a "good job" in dealing with international terrorism and delivering showy, bogus "tax cuts."

There may be many of those "center" voters for whom those two issues are critical. But there may also be many who are firmly aligned on only one of those issues, and who could see the appeal in a properly presented opposing view on the other. And there could be many whose concern for those issues is strong, but could be outweighed by clear, decisive positions on an array of other issues.

Secondly, the overall rightward shift of the Party over the previous fifteen years may indeed be reflective of a rightward motion in the electorate. But if so, why should they vote for "Republican Lite," when the real thing is doing such a splendid job of displaying itself for a corporate-controlled media? How far rightward can we tilt before we destabilize altogether, losing our substantial leftward base as well as the right-leaning folks who seem to be consistently voting Republican?

We know that national ideological sentiment operates on a pendulum swing. If we are positioned too far to the right when the pendulum begins moving back leftward, we will have created for ourselves a whole array of problems in credibility and consistency, and lost a valuable voting base to leftward third-party movements.

The results of this election do hold a silver lining of opportunity. The GOP's well-established tendency of overreaching perceive "mandates," plus Mr. Bush's commitment to send young Americans over to die for the possession of Iraqi oil fields (it is clear that the "nuclear weapons" issue is not the prime motivation, since fellow evil-axiser North Korea has admitted the possession of such weapons and there are no plans to force a "regime change" in Pyongyang,) will lead them into a morass of unpopular decisions. They will not have the Demon Democrats to blame for their fiscal mismanagement and pathetically ineffective response to voter concerns such as health care, living wage employment, and retirement security.

We must be prepared to exploit this opportunity, but continuing a "business as usual" policy of attempting to occupy a hypothetical "center" territory ideologically indistinguishable from the GOP will not accomplish this.

I hope you can accept this input in the spirit it is offered: a genuine, deep concern for the Party that, above all, has done more to improve the lives of ordinary Americans than our grandparents would ever have believed possible. Thank you for your hard work and concern on our behalf.


Democratic Voter

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