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So Where Do We Go From Here?
November 16, 2002
By Morgan M. (Rocker)

Following the disastrous results of the midterm elections, where Republicans established their grip on all facets of the federal government, the Democrats are at odds over what course of action to follow next. Should the Democratic party “lurch to the left,” maintain a “centrist” posture, or push ever more towards the right? Democratic politicians are searching for an answer to this question as they chart the new course for the party.

There is little doubt that political discourse in this country has increasingly shifted towards the right in the last decade. Aided by the demise of the Fairness Doctrine in the late 80’s and the passing of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, conservative-by-nature corporations have tightened their control over the national media. One night of surfing the cable news landscape or the talk radio stations makes this perfectly clear. Conservative voices dominate the airwaves. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the electorate has shifted its ideological dispositions. This is a red herring argument put forth by an increasingly corporate and dissembling national press corps.

By any sober analysis of the available facts, one would have to conclude that most Americans remain unmoved by party loyalty or political ideology. Voter turnout in the midterm elections was in the range of 25%-50% of all registered voters depending on location. This indicates that over half, or a majority, of registered voters didn’t even bother showing up to the polls. Hardly a ringing endorsement of any political party, let alone today’s ultra conservative Republicans. It is more likely that, based on voter turnout figures, the voting Republican base headed for the polls in good numbers while base Democratic voters had a lackluster showing. Now consider that this scenario only applies to registered voters, ignoring the millions of citizens who are eligible to vote, but choose not to partake in our democratic process. This is the untapped political goldmine.

Conservative and “moderate” Democrats argue that the battle for plurality lies in the political center, where independent and swing voters wallow in indecision. In the short term, that may or may not be true. It also depends on what is meant by “the center”. Does being “centrist” mean that one must support President Bush’s skewed tax cuts for the wealthy? Does being “centrist” mean granting President Bush unprecedented war powers befitting an authoritarian? Does being “centrist” mean supporting the abominable and unconstitutional Patriot Act? Does being “centrist” mean rubber stamping the President’s right wing activist judges? If these positions define a “centrist” in today’s political discourse, then it can be concluded that being centrist will not help Democrats get elected. Max Cleland held all of these positions in his Senate race in Georgia and despite being a decorated war hero, he lost his race to the chickenhawk, Saxby Chambliss. Senator Jean Carnahan also lost her election while pushing these same “centrist” themes.

So if the positions outlined above are consistent with a centrist strategy, what exactly defines this much maligned and mythic “leftist” agenda? Is tightening regulation of corporate malfeasance and empowering regulatory agencies “leftist?” Is environmental protection “leftist?” Is opposing tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy “leftist?” How about pushing the development of alternative fuels and improving fuel standards in order to lower our dependence on foreign oil? Is addressing the racist and failed “war on drugs” a “leftist” issue? How about living wage legislation? Is providing healthcare to our children a “leftist” issue? Is supporting our unions too leftist? Supporting our international treaties on arms proliferation? Hate crime legislation? Women’s reproductive rights? Supporting teachers? Supporting veterans? Real campaign finance reform? Unemployment protection? Are all these positions too “leftist?”

There is a crisis in the Democratic Party, but it’s not whether to abandon traditional Democratic positions as being too “leftist” or staying a “centrist” course. The real problem is how to educate the population on the importance of participating in our democracy. Take a look at the “leftist” and “centrist” positions and determine what agenda would appeal to the average American who makes do with about $35,000 a year. No, the crisis is not a “lurch to the left” as some gutless, poll-driven Democratic politicians like to insist. Democrats must focus on the ultimate prize - the vast pool of citizens who cannot be bothered to vote and how to attract them to the polls. Compared to this mass of humanity, the perpetually confused “swing voters” are irrelevant. In order to accomplish this, Democrats must encourage grass roots support networks and voter recruitment drives. One way to accommodate this is by providing new voter packs with easily digestible information on Democratic positions and how they can directly help the citizen benefit from the political process. But most importantly, Democrats must claim a share of the national media discourse. The Democrats need a news network that accomplishes for their party what Fox News does for the Republicans. The Democrats should also make use of their liberal network of celebrities to get the message across to people who tune out politics altogether.

The populist message has always been the bread and butter of the Democratic Party. Ignoring this fact will further erode the liberal base of the party resulting in declining voter turnout and defections to other parties. There is a solid populist, Democratic majority out there. They just don’t know it yet.

Morgan, or "Rocker" from the DU and Bartcop Forums, is a Chicago-based Digital Artist, outraged Democratic activist and the lead singer/guitarist for rock trio The Deans - He invites comments at:

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