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The Democrat failure


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The Democrat failure

George Will

November 4, 2004

    ``I think the Union army had something to do with it.''          -- Gen. George Pickett, years afterward, on why his charge at Gettysburg failed.


    WASHINGTON -- John Kerry's liberalism had something to do with his defeat. Hence so did this: By Jan. 20, 2009, all the elected presidents for 44 consecutive years will have come from three Southern states -- Texas, Arkansas, Georgia -- and Southern California.    

Kerry ran a high-risk ``biography candidacy'' based on a four-month period 35 years ago. His contrasting silence about his 20 Senate years echoed. He was an anomalous kind of challenger. The most important changes he promised would be either restorations or resistances. That is, he campaigned as the candidate of complacency, albeit a curdled, backward-looking complacency. Regarding foreign policy, he promised to turn the clock back, to the alliance-centered foreign policy prior to the intrusion of the ``nuisance'' of terrorism. Regarding domestic policy, he promised to stop the clock, preventing any forward movement on entitlement reform to cope with the baby boomers' retirements.

    Never in this marathon did Kerry himself do anything to change the campaign's dynamics. He counted on events in Iraq, and on the power of his party's unconcealed belief that Bush is an imbecile. But Democrats cannot disguise from the country their bewilderment about how to appeal to a country that is so backward, they think, that it finds Bush appealing.

    Democrats, notoriously cold toward losing candidates they have improvidently nominated, resemble Dallas fans as described by quarterback Roger Staubach: ``Cowboy fans love you, win or tie.'' They should rethink their compressed nominating calendar -- Kerry was effectively selected by the 135,000 who voted for him in Iowa and New Hampshire -- and the fetish of allowing those two states, rather than, say, Michigan, to dominate the process.

    As part of its penance for nominating a senator -- it is 44 years since one was elected president -- and one more liberal (according to the liberal Americans for Democratic Action) than Walter Mondale, the Democratic Party should purge its Michael Moore faction. Moore, the vulgarian who made the movie ``Fahrenheit 9/11,'' is unhinged by his loathing of Bush -- and of the country that has now re-elected him. Moore and the hordes of his enthusiasts are a stain on the party -- as are those Democratic senators and representatives who last June made a merry festival of the movie's Washington premiere. Moore illustrates the fact that the Republican Party benefits -- it is energized by resentment -- when the entertainment industry and major journalistic institutions (e.g., The New York Times, CBS News) enlist as appendages of the Democratic Party's advocacy apparatus.

    Never have Americans felt less affinity with Europe, but never have their politics been more European, meaning organized around ideologically homogenous parties. Just 25 years ago there were many liberals and conservatives in both parties. On Tuesday, four moderate-to-conservative Texas Democratic congressmen were defeated, the result of a second redistricting since the 2000 census. A conservative Georgia Republican won a Senate seat vacated by a conservative Democrat and a conservative Louisiana Republican won a seat vacated by a moderate Democrat. This continues -- and very nearly completes -- the process of producing a perfect overlap of America's ideological and party parameters.

    Unlike the two most recent incumbent presidents re-elected, Bush did not run on rhetorical froth -- ``Morning Again in America'' (1984), ``A Bridge to the 21st Century'' (1996). He will feel vindicated in his foreign policy and empowered for his well-advertised domestic agenda of tax cuts, tort reform, entitlement reform and conservative judicial nominees.

    In the 37 elections since 1860 -- the first won by a Republican -- Democrats have won only 14. Only twice in 15 post-World War II elections has the Democratic nominee achieved 50 percent of the vote. American politics has known many oscillations; some scholars have discerned an almost metronomic regularity in its political cycles. Now, however, there is an astonishing stasis, immune even to the winds of war.     

    Since 2000, the issues driving civic discourse have changed radically but the electoral map has changed negligibly. The only 2000 red state that turned blue this year -- New Hampshire -- made the Northeast, from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Maine, monochrome. New Mexico, a 2000 blue state that turned red (or seems to have, as this is written Wednesday morning), completes a red swath from California's southeastern border to the Atlantic.

    The nation's population center did not cross the Mississippi until the 1980 census. Today it is in Phelps County, Mo., heading southwest, away from the Democratic Party with its apparently metabolic impulse to ignore such realities.


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