Why are Democrats fading? They are divided and conquered.

The Democratic Party still clings to a lot of power in Washington — they control the US Senate and the White House, after all — but there’s a growing sense that top leaders have no idea what to do next.

Republicans are stalling every Democratic maneuver, blocking votes on widely popular initiatives (ending Don’t Ask-Don’t tell, raising taxes on the wealthy), preventing the confirmation of Federal  judges, and dead-ending debate on common-sense treaties such as the new START deal negotiated with Russia.

The reason for the Democrats’ impotence is that the Big Tent coalition that they cobbled together in 2006 and 2008 is in complete disarray.

There is, quite simply, no consensus about a reasonable platform or program for their party or the nation.

You have a still-sizable coalition of Blue Dog conservatives, many from rural states and congressional districts, who have little cultural or political loyalty to the Democrats’ big urban voting base.

Then you have a big cadre of gay and lesbian activists, who view their issues — ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, legalizing same-sex marriage, boosting funding for AIDs care and research — as paramount.

Then there are the greenies, who see climate change as a real and present danger, a cause which trumps all other concerns and issues.

Next you have a growing Hispanic caucus, who want very liberal immigration laws, but are generally disinterested in environmental concerns and often hostile to liberal social causes.

Also in the big tent is a big faction of women voters and politicians, who see abortion rights and gender equality in the work place as fundamental issues.

And don’t forget the crucial African American voting bloc.  Black voters generally support a large social safety net and poverty reduction programs — key Democratic policies — but are increasingly hostile to liberal social policies.

There is the unpredictable and fickle youth vote.  Polls show that young people prefer Democrats by large margins, but except in rare instances can’t be bothered to actually go to the polls.

Finally, you have the liberal blogosphere, a media culture that lacks the message discipline and coordination of conservative media.

In a sense, of course, none of this is new.  Democrats have always been a herd of cats. But Democratic leaders knew this and failed to establish clear rallying points.

They were unable to craft any sort of central message — any sort of unified vision — that would keep the wheels on the rails.

In 2008, the Big Vision was a shared loathing of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  I’m guessing that Mr. Obama thought that revulsion would linger for a while longer.

He was wrong.

Until Mr. Obama and his team come up with a broadly appealing program that gets the big tent cheering again, their movement will continue to unravel.

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17 Responses to “Why are Democrats fading? They are divided and conquered.”

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  1. dave says:

    “The reason for the Democrats’ impotence…”

    You properly answered this question the paragraph before, not after.

    Here is the reason:

    “Republicans are stalling every Democratic maneuver, blocking votes on widely popular initiatives (ending Don’t Ask-Don’t tell, raising taxes on the wealthy), preventing the confirmation of Federal judges, and dead-ending debate on common-sense treaties such as the new START deal negotiated with Russia.”

    Even a largely unified Democratic party would be unsuccessful in this political climate. When the other half of congress is determined to do nothing – as in, that is their actual political agenda… stopping anything from getting done – how do you expect the other half to actually do anything?

    I haven’t seen anything like this since I’ve been following politics. One half of our government actually wants the government to fail, and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. It is astounding.

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  2. Mayflower says:

    All true, I suppose. Much of the same could be said of the Repub tent too…and they have played a similar card, i.e. revulsion against a common enemy. They seem to have noticed that President Obama isn’t quite the hate-magnet required; hence they slotted Nancy Pelosi (and, to a lesser degree, Harry Reid) into the central role. And that worked: is there a successful Repub candidate who DIDN’T rally the vote against Obama/ Pelosi/Reid??? The haters won handily.

    Personally, I’m prepared to rally with equal revulsion against Mitch McConnell, the Hell-No Man, the Koch brothers, the homophobes, the K-Street thugs, etc. etc. etc. Come on, Party: We need a drum beat to keep the step. Geez, at least give me a good bumper sticker.

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  3. Pete Klein says:

    There is a possible advantage the Dems might have over the Repubs. Each part of the Dems could compromise to see their top two issues gain traction while the Repubs seem caught up in NO orthodoxy, very much like a religion, where compromise is impossible.
    The Republican attitude of “my way or the highway” reminds me very much of the Johnny-one-note Islamic terrorists.

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  4. Mervel says:

    It was interesting in looking at your analysis (which I basically agree with) that not one group you mentioned felt that economic growth; new jobs, lowering poverty and a secure economic future for the average joe in the US was paramount.

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  5. JDM says:

    “Republicans are stalling every Democratic maneuver”

    They had better!
    Stall Obamacare!
    Stall Cap and Tax!
    Stall Net Neutrality!
    Stall All Spending!

    Stall it until Republicans get the Senate and the White House!

    As far as the Dems divided, they saw the shellacking of 2010, and there are more Democrats up for Senate in the next election. They don’t want to see their futures go bye-bye!

    There is the liberal do-and-die faction headed by Reid and Pelosi (Yes!)

    Then, there are the survivors who don’t wish to get voted off the island in 2012.

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  6. scratchy says:

    An interesting question is how did the Democrats lose control of the state Senate when they have a 2:1 voter registration advantage? Could if be upstate and Long Island voters gave a thumbs down to one region (NYC) rule?

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  7. Bret4207 says:

    So why is it just awful that the Repubs are doing the same thing the Dems did under Bush? Kinda the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it? I don’t think either party is any better or worse across the board than the other, but at least be honest with yourselves folks. The Dems did everything they could to block Bush. They were the party of NO then. Why do you expect the other side to act any differently?

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  8. TurdSandwich says:

    Democrats need to grow a set. They have the majority and should use it like the repulicans did. 51% is the majority not 60. Dare the fillibuster.

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  9. TurdSandwich says:

    Stall net nuetrality? Isn’t this about paying taxes for internet? Not sure I want to stall that.

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  10. JDM says:

    Isn’t this about paying taxes for internet?

    No, it’s about net censorship. Stall that!

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  11. TurdSandwich says:

    So you’re saying you want the internet censored?

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  12. TurdSandwich says:

    Ya net neutrality is a good thing.
    - Network neutrality (also net neutrality, Internet neutrality) is a principle proposed for user access networks participating in the Internet that advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication.
    - The “tax” would be charging additional money for “value-added” services like P2P and FTP. Like a cell phone. Wiki.

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  13. TurdSandwich says:

    START? Come on Brian we’d only have enough nukes to blow up the entire world twice instead of 3 times. You’d be missing out on a lot of fun.

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  14. DBW says:

    I wouldn’t get too caught up in the moment, party support ebbs and flows, and may swing like a pendulum every two years or so for a while. Polls indicate that the voters are not enthused by the Republican Party.
    If growth had been 4% over the past two years, Dem losses would have been within historical averages.

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  15. dave says:

    Bret, there is a difference between being a party of NO, and being a party of HELL NO.

    And no, it isn’t semantics. The Dems did block a lot of Bush’s agenda… until concessions were made and compromises reached.

    The current republicans have no interest in getting anything done. Even if it is stuff they agree with or that they themselves proposed in the past.

    That is the difference, and that is a serious, serious problem for our political system. No amount of cooperation or compromise will turn their NO to a YES. Their political strategy is to completely grind government to a halt, make Obama a one term president, and deny the ruling party any progress or perceived victories.

    This, they have come right out and said… so it is not like we need to read between the lines here.

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  16. Mervel says:

    But there is a huge political cost to grinding the government to a halt. If they want to play that game the Democrats should call their bluff. No one said compromise was pretty. But for them to call their bluff they may have to take Carvell’s advice.

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  17. Bret4207 says:

    I don’t see a problem with stopping spending growth guys. I don’t see a problem with making The King a one term Prez. I don’t see a problem with asking the Dems to compromise, Lord knows Bush compromised, why can’t the Dems? They made their bed just as much as Bush did. I see little real difference.

    For goodness sakes, you have major Democrat political advisers recommending Obama use the MILITARY to force his agenda. I’d say HELL NO too!

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