Thursday, November 04, 2004


Dan Kennedy, senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix, asks that Democrats not throw the baby out with the bathwater:
Already we're starting to hear a lot of blather about how the Democrats need to change in order to win the 2008 presidential election. Of course the Democrats have to try something different. But let's not get carried away. The story of Tuesday night is that the Republicans and the Democrats each represent about half the country. The red half - especially white middle-class families and evangelical Christians - are more reliable voters than is the infinitely more diverse blue half: African-Americans, gay men and lesbians, Latinos, white liberals, young singles, and the like.

To some extent, I suppose the Democrats are going to have to take some action to neutralize the Republican appeal to "moral values." But the last thing they should do is alienate their own base. What would the critics have had Kerry do differently? Endorse a constitutional amendment against gay marriage?

In the weeks and months ahead, there is going to be way too much emphasis on what the Democrats have been supposedly doing wrong, and way too little acknowledgement that the two parties simply represent radically different constituencies at this point in history. If the Democrats had nominated a moderate Southerner whose opposition to gay marriage seemed less forced than Kerry's, would it have helped? Probably. But Democratic primary voters could have chosen John Edwards if they'd wanted to, and they didn't. (I happen to believe that Edwards would have done far worse than Kerry because of his inexperience and his easily lampooned background as a trial lawyer, but that's another matter.)

What the critics are looking for is a Democrat who will compromise his party's own moral values and sell out some of the party's most ardent supporters - oh, just a teensy little bit - in return for flipping one or two red states his way. Tactically, this might make sense. That, after all, was what eight years of Bill Clinton were all about. It might make sense morally, too. Would gays and lesbians today rather have the DOMA-signing Clinton or the Constitution-amending Bush? But Kerry shouldn't be criticized for being more principled than Clinton.
And let's not forget: Both Clinton wins were with Perot splitting the conservative vote.

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