Jewish World Review Dec. 14, 2004 / 2 Teves, 5765

Peter A. Brown

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Minority party still ducks basic problem | In 1991, I wrote a book that suggested unless most white, middle-class Americans once again decided Democrats cared about them, the party was heading toward minority status, absent a strongly favorable political environment or a spectacularly gifted candidate.

"Minority Party, Why Democrats Face Defeat in 1992 and Beyond'' admittedly was poorly titled. It went out of print after the election of Bill Clinton, who so understood its message that he had written a back-cover blurb lauding it.

Yet Democrats still duck their basic problem. The election of Clinton, a rare political talent, was the exception that proved the rule. Even with 2004's favorable environment of an unpopular war and questionable economy, they still lost.

Democrats continue to bank on a demographic fix - a declining white population as a share of the electorate - as their salvation. They find that easier than dealing with the reasons their message doesn't resonate with the nation's largest voting bloc.

In 2004, whites were 77 percent of the electorate, and Bush won 58 percent of them. Since World War II, Lyndon Johnson in 1964 was the only Democratic presidential candidate to win a majority of white votes.

Reversing that trend would require that Democrats re-examine their premises. Instead, they try to knit together enough aggrieved constituencies to make a majority.

But the math doesn't work.

Donate to JWR

When they fall short, Democrats argue that changing census numbers will eventually put them over the top.

That day remains far off, and there are serious questions whether the strategy is viable even as the U.S. electorate becomes more diverse. The white share of the population is projected to decline, but most of that reduced market share will go to Asian-Americans and Hispanics. Neither votes as heavily Democratic as do blacks, who usually give 90 percent of their votes to party candidates.

Hispanics were 8 percent and Asians 2 percent of the 2004 electorate. Exit polls showed Bush won 44 percent of both groups. Historically, except for blacks and Jews, immigrants' Democratic allegiance lessens the longer they are in the United States.

Democrats see themselves as standing up for the victims of capitalism's excesses. They back organized labor (union members were 14 percent of the electorate) against business and racial minorities (blacks were 11 percent) against alleged discrimination.

They fight for the poor against the rich, but they wrongly assume how much smaller that group is than the middle class. In 2004, 55 percent of voters had incomes above $50,000; another 22 percent from $30,000 to $50,000. Median U.S. family income is about $42,000, and the poverty line for a family of four is $18,850.

Democrats oppose what they see as rising U.S. militarism and unilaterialism, yet Americans see Republicans as much stronger on defense, even if a narrow majority does not think the president's Iraq invasion made us more secure.

Democrats may argue they are following their moral compass, but large chunks of the middle class view that mentality as arrogance. They think Democrats see some voters as more important than others.

Joe and Jill Six-pack believe they rank too far down on the Democratic Party's priority list. When it comes to dealing with societal problems, they believe, Democrats instinctively opt for policies that help the most obvious victims of social Darwinism over the ones that help the largest number of people - the middle class.

That is the Democratic rationale for larger domestic-spending programs and their mantra that everyone must pay his or her fair share through taxes. Of course, middle-class Americans often have a different view about what constitutes their fair share.

Election returns don't lie. Those charting the party's future need to have a serious talk with themselves. The see a different world than their neighbors do.

Nothing illustrates this gap than the signature speech of their recent vice-presidential candidate, John Edwards. He stirred the faithful with his "Two Americas" stump speech, which described a country where the few powerful Republicans victimize the vast number of the powerless, who, if they knew what was good for them, would flock to the Democratic Party.

But the middle class sees a different world and has other priorities.

Democrats can continue to believe they are on the side of angels and hope time validates their hope that demography will become destiny. That day may come. But they'll be waiting a while to regain power unless they deal with America's here and now.

Peter A. Brown is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Comment by clicking here.


12/07/04: U.S., Canada: Joined at hip if not heart
11/24/04: Why does U.N. get free ride in scandal?
11/15/04: Gonzales lives America's promise
11/09/04: A Bipartisanship does not mean 50-50
10/26/04: Al-Qaeda adopts Viet Cong's Tet strategy: Don't' fall for it
10/19/04: Even in '91, Saddam cowed Kerry
10/13/04: Patriot Act, preemptive force here to stay
09/15/04: Kerry bets on Iraq change over consistency
09/07/04: Miller's treatment shows media bias
08/31/04: Europeans discovering value of work
08/17/04: A home where wolves don't roam?
08/10/04: Public interest vs. minority rights
08/10/04: Kerry deserves an A in history, and in his willingness to mimic the mantra of those he has spent an entire political career vilifying
08/03/04: Kerry's challenge: Closing the deal
07/29/04: Note to Prez: Customer's always right
07/20/04: If Kerry doesn't tell, voters should ask
07/14/04: PSST, pass it on, Kerry & Crew no longer think Iraq war was a mistake. Really!
06/29/04: Hostile media, prickly president — a troubling mix
06/22/04: With Kerry's choices, you'd want McCain, too
06/04/04: A debt unpaid to D-Day warriors
05/25/04: America has a bad attitude!
05/20/04: Surprise! A thank you to Bill Clinton
05/06/04: Corrupt U.N.? Shine a light
04/28/04: Kerry not weak on defense — just wrong
04/22/04: No attacks in U.S. since 9-11: Why?
04/16/04: Schools should focus on boys — now
03/16/04: Scalia recusing could give Kerry a bruising
03/04/04: Abortion, gay marriage show hypocrisy
03/01/04: Politicians can't repeal economic laws
02/19/04: The question prez, Kerry won't debate
01/21/04: Dems trying oh so hard to keep tired issue alive
01/21/04: Can whiners ever see positive side?
12/23/04: UN proves yet again it's dangerously misguided
11/18/03: U.N. oversight of Internet: Dumb idea
11/11/03: Absent change, GOP trend continues
10/28/03: Soft-on-defense stereotype — no wonder
10/22/03: Bet on Bush and the economy
09/23/03: France's time to decide: Friend or foe
09/16/03: Alabama no fluke in rejecting tax hike
09/03/03: Why Bush, Dean will win big in California recall
08/12/03: Hypocrisy from anti-death-penalty crowd
08/05/03: The rule of law or the Golden Rule?
07/22/03: A cautionary tale for those who naively believe that political posturing can override the laws of economics
06/24/03: Let seniors make their own choices
06/03/03: Bush bucks NRA to woo soccer moms
05/28/03: Bail out states? It's not D.C.'s job
05/20/03: Lawyers' party hits a new low
05/13/03: Bush mimics Nixon, Reagan by going against the political grain

© 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services