TCS Daily

Reality-Based Election Analysis

By Arnold Kling - November 10, 2004 12:00 AM

"We ran a good campaign against a bad president, and we still got beat."
-- Bruce Reed, president of the Democratic Leadership Council

If the Democrats ran a good campaign, then I suggest that their definition of a campaign could be borrowed from The Devil's Dictionary. With apologies to Ambrose Bierce, I would say that definition is this:

Presidential Campaign (n) - A process, starting about eighteen months prior to the election, by which the Democratic Party manages to alienate enough voters to hand victory to the other party

Reed and others suggest that the key to turning around the Democrats' fortunes is in learning to communicate with the Religious Right. But before the Democrats rush off to learn how to speak in tongues, let me offer another perspective on what might have gone wrong.

Below is a table of choices in various categories. One choice alienates more voters than others, particularly voters near the center.


Alienates More Voters

Alienates Fewer Voters

Policy Group

New America Foundation


Michael Moore

Jesse Ventura

Economic Spokesman

Paul Krugman

Martin Baily

VP Candidate

John Edwards

Joseph Lieberman

Advocacy for Church-State Separation

People for the American Way

American Civil Liberties Union

Media and Copyright

Motion Picture Association of America

Public Knowledge

This year, the Democratic Party cozied up to all of the individuals and groups on the left of the list. They lost my vote, despite the fact that I voted for Gore, Clinton, and even Dukakis. My guess is that none of the choices that the Democrats made in the chart helped them in 2004.

Bruce Reed and many other Democrats want to blame their loss on an inability to communicate with religious conservatives. To me, that seems as silly as Republicans berating themselves over not being able to communicate with Berkeley professors. I don't think that trying to fool the other party's base into voting for you represents a reality-based election strategy. A more modest goal would be to avoid waving red meat in front of them.

I hope that between now and 2008 the Democrats spend time thinking about the issue of voter alienation and the choices that they made in the chart. In my view, the main story of 2004 is how the Democrats could not tell the difference between the center-left and the loony left, and as a result they threw away their chances for victory.


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