Democrats & Liberals Archives

Why We (Apparently) Lost

While a lot of the votes have not been counted yet, it appears that Bush has probably been (re-)elected. If this is the case, Democrats and left-leaning fellow travelers need to ask ourselves what went wrong. The easy answer is that Kerry and his crew are idiots and ran a lousy campaign*. Before we run and get the ropes, however, we should think about the obstacles that they were up against.

Popularity of Bush - It pains me to write this, but Bush is a pretty popular guy. Not as popular as Clinton, but enough to make him tough to defeat. The last two incumbents who lost, his father and Jimmy Carter, went into their re-election campaigns in much worse shape.

The Iraq War - Kerry had a real dilemma here about whether to make an issue of the war. It is clearly the biggest issue on people's minds now, but it is difficult to campaign against a war. As many people have pointed out, George McGovern had the good fortune to campaign against an extremely unpopular one, and still couldn't get any traction on it.

As Goering explained during the Nuremberg trials, it is easy to defend a war. "All you have to do is tell [the people] they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." (NOT comparing our leaders to Nazis, just quoting an expert.)

"Democrats are weak on defense" - After 9/11, it was imperative to weaken this deep-seated impression that lingers from the latter part of the Cold War. Kerry bent over backwards in this area, proposing to substantially expand the military. The fact he was a former antiwar protester was probably a liability, but we knew that when we nominated him.

Gay Marriage - Whether they intended to or not, the Massachusetts Supreme Court gave the GOP an real election-year gift by legalizing gay marriage. This one was probably impossible to neutralize, short of endorsing Bush's proposal to write bigotry into the constitution. I wager that when historians ask why Democrats did so lousy in the South this year, this issue will be a big part of the answer. One reason is that it was particularly damaging to Kerry, I think, is that it made it harder for him to campaign on the issue of keeping radical right-wing judges off of the Supreme Court. The Massachusetts decision made a lot of people worried about radical left-wing judges.

The Other Shoe that Didn't Drop - Despite the massive holes in our country's security structure, there has been no attack on US soil since 9/11.

*It is strange to me how many Republicans have already said this about Kerry, as they did about Gore. Seeing how close the outcomes were, doesn't that imply something positive about the Democratic platform?

Posted by Woody Mena at November 3, 2004 9:46 AM