Two articles on the Internet this afternoon show that the Democrats and their candidate still have no clue why they lost the presidential election, even after eight weeks of soul-searching. Adam Nagourney reports on the analyses promulgated by party leaders about their loss and what it means for their future:
With exception of a few Democratic outliers in Ohio, few people dispute that the election for president is done and decided: President Bush won and John Kerry lost.
But as the new year begins, no such consensus exists among Democrats about why Mr. Kerry was defeated, and the party is locked in a battle of interpretation over just what went wrong. Was it values? Terrorism and Iraq? A better Republican get-out-the-vote operation or a rush of Hispanics to President Bush? A gawky candidate with little to say?
Presidential elections often produce a clear story line, a lesson for winners and losers alike. Not this one, at least not yet, and that is a matter of increasing concern for Democrats who would like to learn from the past as they face a series of critical decisions, including picking a new party chairman and laying out a plan to avoid even more losses in the 2006 Congressional races. And there is the immediate tactical question of how stridently to push back against Mr. Bush’s efforts to change Social Security and the tax code.
Harry Reid tells Nagourney that the Democrats failed to speak to rural voters, noting that the Republicans blew Democrats out in rural Nevada. Well, that’s hardly news; anyone who looks at a county-based red/blue map could provide that analysis. Reid doesn’t explain why, nor does he pretend to know:
“We all have come up with our individual thoughts, but as far as coalescing on what happened – I don’t think there’s been a determination about what really happened,” said Harry Reid, the new Senate Democratic leader. “It’s not that easy to figure out.”
Isn’t that why they pick party leaders — to figure these things out? Thus far, Reid has hardly distinguished himself on any particular issue ever since succeeding former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle. He started his career as the Democrats’ point man by issuing a bizarre statement calling Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment” as a Supreme Court justice, without specifying exactly what Reid found embarrassing. In the same statement, he dismayed a large section of his party by endorsing Antonin Scalia for Chief Justice.
Now we understand just how badly the GOP damaged the Democrats by chasing Daschle out of office.
On the other hand, the Democrats’ other Congressional leader hardly does any better. Nancy Pelosi can’t come up with anything better than claiming that GOP lies did them in:
Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said that Democrats, despite their best efforts, had been outgunned on voter turnout by Republicans and that they didn’t push back hard enough against what she described as false attacks.
“I don’t subscribe to any of these notions that we have to examine our conscience as to who we are,” Ms. Pelosi said. “We know who we are. We know what we stand for. We’ll make it clearer in the non-presidential election year what the differences are between the Democrats and the Republicans.”
Of course. The only explanation that Pelosi can ever come up with is that Republicans lie, led by the eeeeeeevil Karl Rove. The Democratic leadership shows itself about as inept as any in recent memory. Nor does their candidate have much to add. Matt Drudge reports on an upcoming Newsweek article that has John Kerry sounding just about as clueless as the rest of the Democrats:
While he quarreled with descriptions of his speaking style as “soporific,” Kerry tacitly acknowledged that he failed to connect with enough voters on a personal level. Jose Ferreira, Kerry’s nephew, told his uncle, “Some people are saying that your candidacy was driven by ABB [Anything But Bush].” Kerry replied: “Do you think so?” Ferreira said that once people got to know Kerry, they were intensely loyal. “Those are the people I let down,” Kerry said, falling silent. In conversation with Newsweek, Kerry seemed particularly interested in trying to find a way to speak to ordinary voters that didn’t sound too grandiose or “political.” Though Kerry did not directly criticize his friend Bob Shrum, it’s clear he did not feel well served by his message makers and speechwriters.
The deeper problem may be Kerry’s personality, which may be too distant or reserved to win mass affection. As Thomas left Kerry’s house in November, Kerry called out and followed him down the street. Kerry wanted to show a letter from a schoolgirl that had been left on his stoop. The letter read, in part, “John Kerry, you’re the greatest!” Kerry looked into the reporter’s eye. “The pundits have never liked me,” he said. “Is it the way I look? The way I sound?” He seemed vulnerable for a moment, then caught himself, smiled and walked home to his empty house.
So for Kerry, the problem was Bob Shrum or possibly the pundits who “never liked” him. So far, no one in the Democratic Party seems willing to take ownership of the lousy campaign run by Kerry this year. Not only did the superior intellect get snookered on multiple occasions by the supposed doofus of George Bush, but Kerry changed positions on almost every important issue in the campaign. Even on abortion — about as safe an issue as the Democrats have amongst their faithful — he managed to bone it up by claiming to believe in life at conception while approving of late-term abortions.
Ill do the Democrats a favor and explain it. Kerry made himself into one of the most untrustworthy candidates ever fielded, and the Democrats’ surrender to the radical leftists in this campaign made them untrustworthy to a large number of centrists. Those voters may not like Bush’s approach to abortion or to health care, but they weren’t going to give the national-security reins to a candidate and a party that couldn’t tell the truth if their lives depended on it.
When the Democrats finally figure it out, they may start reversing their six-year slide into minority status. I doubt that time will come with their current leadership.
UPDATE: Newsweek has released the article to the Internet. If you wanted a picture of Democratic cluelessness, you couldn’t find any better example than this:
He never quite came out and said it, but Kerry sounded very much like a man who was running for president again. He has a mailing list with 2.9 million names and an organization in every state. His moneymen have not backed away. By and large, Kerry has not been blamed for the defeat, at least not the way former vice president Al Gore was after the 2000 election. Some of Kerry’s followers are already plotting how Kerry can defeat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses in 2008. The conventional wisdom, already congealing before Bush’s second Inaugural, pictures Kerry and Clinton as the early Democratic front runners.
Conventional wisdom by whom? Teresa and Bill? If the Democrats think that John Kerry remains blameless for the terrible candidate that he was, whose fault is it? He couldn’t beat Bush in an election that had their far-left base fired up instead of defecting to the Greens. Had the Democrats picked someone with any credibility on national security — like Joe Lieberman — they might have won this election. The GOP can’t wait to run in 2008 against Kerry again.