[I] obviously want to win as many seats as possible, but if I have to choose, I would prefer a moderate gain in the blue areas combined with a shocking success in the red. Yes, this will leave us with imperiled and scared rabbit Democrats, but it will give hope and momentum to the 50 state strategy and bode better for our Presidential chances in 2008.
Moreover, what I really want is for the GOP to get over its sickness so it isn’t a life or death matter whether they win elections. In order for that to happen, they need to gain some moderate strength in the blue areas, not become totally relegated to the south and plains states.
Long-term, I’d like to see a ruling majority Democratic party with big enough majorities to sustain a lot of more conservative members. Kind of like how the party was under LBJ. I’d rather have a progressive majority that involves cross-over Republicans along with Democratic defectors, than one big ideologically pure Democratic Party opposed by one smaller ideologically insane Republican Party.
Marisacat suggests that what I am calling for is a return of the boll weevils. Would I like to welcome Richard Shelby back into the Democratic Party? No. However, I’d like to see a plan for beating Shelby. If he walked into Harry Reid’s office on Wednesday and offered to caucus with the Dems I’d recommend giving him the chair of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress and count it as a victory.
My analysis is based on long-term and electoral college considerations. I’d rather have 67 Democratic Senators that includes people like Harold Ford and Jim Webb, but also with a Republican Party that includes people like Jim Jeffords, Lincoln Chafee, and Nancy Kassebaum than have fifty-three Senators that are all reliable Democrats and no progressives in the GOP. Why?
First of all, any Democratic coalition that has 67 members is going to be able to stop almost all filibusters, prevent the worst judges, and pass progressive legislation. If they can do it with some bipartisan cover and some internal defections, so much the better. Second of all, the Democrats have not been competitive in far too many states in recent Presidential elections. McGovern and Mondale were unable to win more than one state. What are the chances of any Democrat winning 49 states? We simply are not viable in a large chunk of the country. We need to get away from this huge red/blue divide that puts us in a hole in every Presidential election.
To do that, we must win state-wide elections in places like Virginia, Tennessee, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming…
That’s what we are on the verge of doing in these midterm elections.
But this shouldn’t be misinterpreted. What I am saying is that it would be nice to wipe New York and Connecticut free of Republicans, but it won’t mean a thing for our chances in 2008. Winning in Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia? It’s a start in the right direction. As hard as it is to imagine a Democrat winning one of those states in 2008, we simply cannot continue to concede all of them to the Republican nominee. Bush campaigned in Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin…Cheney campaigned in Hawaii. Kerry didn’t campaign at all in 23 states. That’s a problem.
In the long run we need the Democratic Party to be huge. But in order for it to be huge, it cannot be as ideologically pure as it is now. It has to be more nebulous and its appeal has to be populist. That’s what I meant when I said I’d like to see a Congress more like the ones under LBJ. No, I don’t want to welcome back segregationists. I want to win back conservative values voters by improving their wages, their education, their health care, their pensions, and their environment.
I also consider the current ideological makeup of the GOP to be extremely dangerous. I fear cornering them in the Old Confederacy will make matters worse. And they will always have at least a 40% chance of winning any Presidential race. We can’t afford to have a mental patient as one of our two major viable political parties. The GOP needs to heal itself and come back to sanity…it’s essential to the future health of our nation. It’s hard to see how the process can be helped along by a total wipeout of what passes for their moderates in the northeast and upper midwest.
So, given an alternative between moderate gains in the upper midwest and northeast along with strong showings in the plains and mountain states, or a total wipeout in the northeast, I would opt for the former.
Chris Bowers disagrees, arguing plausibly that we will have a more reliable congress that is easier and cheaper to defend if our gains come in blue states rather than red. I don’t dispute that. And I don’t like watching Dems cross the aisle to vote against us. I’m thinking longer term.
We live in partisan times and we must react accordingly. That means we have to go after people like Joe Lieberman that undermine what little leverage we have. But, at the same time, we do not go after Ben Nelson even though he votes with the President 54% of the time. That’s the difference between Connecticut and Nebraska (not to mention a mediawhore and a quiet Senator). Lieberman and Nelson would be a lot less annoying in a Senate with 67 Democrats.
Ultimately, I am a Democrat, but I am more interested in the health of country and our political culture than I am in the purity of the parties. I’ll take a progressive majority over a Democratic one anyday. It may seem counter-intuitive to welcome conservative Democrats in conservative districts over moderate Democrats in moderate districts, but if you think about the health of the country and the electoral college, it begins to make some sense.