TCS Daily

Unanswered Questions

By Duane D. Freese - November 16, 2004 12:00 AM

One question left unanswered two weeks after November's election is this: Augustinian, Dominican, Jesuit or Franciscan?

Conservative website NewsMax asked George Soros by e-mail which monastery he would enter, and they got one of those too-busy-to-reply responses. But it is a delicious contemplation; especially if the Hungarian-born multi-billionaire -- who spent millions to defeat George W. Bush and said he'd enter a monastery if he didn't -- chose to be a Franciscan. Would he, in the wake of taking their vow of poverty, give his $7 billion or so to a decent charity; or to, America Coming Together and Campaign for a Progressive Future?

If the former, some good might be done. If the latter, well, the more noise they make, the more Republicans are likely to win in the future.

Analysis of this year's presidential campaign will never end; it will branch out like some old tree into ever shakier limbs to stand on. But here are three things Soros and his ilk might contemplate as to why Democrats lost, or why Bush won:

1. Underestimating Bush and his Supporters

Bush, like Ronald Reagan, is far more savvy than his liberal critics like to give him credit. Those critics -- such as filmmaker Michael Moore -- have preferred to see the electorate that votes for him as bigoted, or dumb, or naïve, anything but sentient, intelligent human beings. In general, Stupid White Males, as more titled one of his best-selling books.

Well, in the last election, that disparagement covered more than 60 percent of white male (and more than 55 percent of married women). And as long as Democrats continue to disparage these voters they will lose more elections than they'll win.

The reason is simple: These people are asset owners. They have a stake in America. And progress means that there will be ever more such people in the future. Why do immigrants flock to these shores -- except in order to get a piece of the rock, so to speak. And as they increase their stakes in American society -- especially if they work in the private sector -- the more they vote Republican.

The Hispanic vote in this election demonstrates that. While it still went for the Democrat Kerry, George Bush increased his share to 42 percent -- a 20 percent increase over 2000. As long as liberal Democrats fail to appeal to this aspiring class they will lose.

2. Living in the past.

On election day, Virginia residents crossing the Roosevelt Bridge into the district were greeted by young campaigners with umbrellas emblazoned: "REDEFEAT BUSH." What about "VOTE FOR KERRY"? It was nowhere to be seen.

Too many Democrats were refighting the election of 2000 and earlier, rather than looking at the realities of 2004. They dredged up the past, trying to make this election a referendum on Vietnam.

Terry McAuliffe, head of the Democratic National Committee, was especially inept. He claimed Bush was AWOL from his Air National Guard Service. That was more than 30 years ago. John Kerry was no better. He made too much of his Vietnam service.

What they forgot is what Robert Penn Warren's character, Willie Stark, in All The King's Men, said: "Man was conceived in sin, and born in corruption. There is always something." When you start throwing mud, you can expect mud to be thrown back - there is always something. And in mucking about in the past - something liberal Democrats in the past had held to be unprincipled - they opened the doors to the Swift Boat veterans responding. They made their attacks about Kerry relevant.

3. Forgetting about tomorrow.

You remember the song Bill Clinton played when he won in 1992? "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow." Well, liberal Democrats have forgotten about that.

There was little in Kerry's campaign that looked forward to the future. While Bush was talking about tax reform and the ownership society, Kerry was out scaring seniors that Bush would take 45 percent of their Social Security away with privatization -- blowing a $2 trillion hole in the deficit in the process with private accounts.

Well, seniors didn't buy it. They voted for Bush. And meanwhile Kerry aligned his party against young workers who pour an eighth of their income into Social Security that they otherwise might use to create a real stake for themselves in the economy.

New Democrats don't do that. As a "What's Next"-forum at the New America Foundation made clear on Nov. 10, Social Security reform is on their minds. They may not buy all of Bush's prescription, but they know that without reform towards something along the lines Bush has outlined, there will be a $10 trillion hole in Social Security that will make his personal accounts look miniscule. The issue for the new Democrats, as opposed to the backward looking ones who want to just raise Social Security taxes on the rich, is how to make an investment plan fair for everyone.

The new Democrats also want tax reform, knowing that the current one punishes savings. Again, the issue for them is how to make it fair.

The lesson of the last election for Democrats is that those who like to fight old wars and live in the past will lose those voters looking to the future. Those Democrats who will rejuvenate their party will think as FDR and William Jefferson Clinton did about giving people hope for the future, rather than harangues about the past.

The big question is whether George Soros, Michael Moore and others like them will now move on and out of the way. If not, bet on Republicans to keep on winning.


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