Via an old broker pal, whom I shall dub The Nealing Drummer (that's a pun only he and I will laugh at), comes this opinion piece by Joe Scarborough on the sad state of Democratic Affairs. And I'm not talking about Bill Clinton. Scarborough's basic premise is more or less what's been bandied about for a while now since the elections. Namely, that the Dems are out of touch with Middle America and if they want to get out of the electoral vortex they're in, they had better start talking to Red State voters.
He cites the big three: gun rights, abortion and war. To his credit Scarborough doesn't go so far as to call for the Democrats to start behaving like Republicans. We already have a Republican party and it's operating just fine.
What won the election for the Republicans this year - and something that most Democratic strategists still do not get - is that, to paraphrase the Drummer, the party realized that to win an election you don't necessarily have to win these issues outright. It is far more effective to neutralize the issue and portray the party as inclusive and welcoming of dissenting views. Witness the number of pro-choice Republicans at the RNC.
Now, of course, the argument will be made that putting Giuliani and Schwarzenegger, et al in prime time was just window dressing and belied the true Republican character. That may be so, to a certain extent. But where were the pro-life or pro-war Democrats? At the Republican convention, that's where.
Many polls show that the majority of Americans are pro-choice (as I am) but would rather there be some restrictions in place (on so-called partial-birth abortions and parental notification) and more focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies than terminating them. This is not a radical stance. This is the Middle. This is where all those "new" Bush voters came from.
Likewise on the war. If you were Democrat and pro war on terror, you were not invited to the party. The Democratic candidates had swung so far out to left field during the primaries that they never had a chance of convincing the majority of voters that they would and could prosecute a war.
Instead, the Democratic Party became The Party of NO.
NO you can't have a gun.
NO you mustn't think for yourself.
NO you won't be a Democrat and have reservations about abortion.
NO you can't support the war in Iraq.
NO you can't question the motives of the UN.
For the Democrats to regain their place as the party of inclusion they must work - and work quickly - to counter the perception that there is but one true Democratic belief and that belief is that the Democratic party knows more, and better, than you do. When they stop condescending to and belittling those with differing views, they can then start to become the national party that Zel Miller mourns.