New Democrats, Changing Democrats

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 01:26


I'm looking over the 2008 and 2004 Iowa entrance polls right now. Four years ago, 79% of the Iowa electorate were Democrats. This year, 76% self-identified as Democrats. The huge turnout was just about as Democratic as the 2004 turnout. The new voters were Democrats, not independents.

No real surprise in the core of Obama's support. The younger a voter was, the more well-educated a voter was, the higher income a voter was, the more self-identified liberal a voter was, the more likely that voter was to support Obama. It is the same coalition for Obama that people have identified for months. Obama won on the back of the creative class vote.

Also, while I loathed the vacuous nature of the "change vs. experience" narrative during the run-up to Iowa, I can certainly see how it helped Obama. Right now, how can an argument that you have "experience" in Washington possibly be superior, or even equal, to an argument that "change" is needed in Washington? Not only is Bush still in the White House, but Democrats don't even like the way their own party is operating in Washington. Obviously, if that is the decision forced upon a group of Democrats, then change easily wins out.

As I wrote in my positive post tonight, Obama is clearly change in some regards (cultural, generational, etc). However, as I said in my more negative post, I thought that about Clinton back in 1993 as well, and yet the change I really wanted--progressive policy and political culture--didn't materialize. In many ways, as Sirota wrote earlier tonight, it is unrealistic to expect broad cultural change in American politics to be swept in by one person, even if that person is the President.

My point as follows. Unquestionably, I want to see change in Washington, D.C., too. Who doesn't? While every President will result in some change, and while on some ideological (compared to Bush) and identity (new class, new generation first African-American President) levels an Obama Presidency would bring sweeping change, the kind of change we all seek is never going to come from one man or one election. As Matt wrote four days ago:

In other words, we are not electing a dictator, we are electing a President.  And that means that we have a responsibility to pay attention, to speak softly or yell, to get involved, to stay involved, and to vote, again and again.  America can drift into an extremely dark period, or we can build our dreams, it really is up to us and our choices.  While we debate the big ideas in the Presidential contest, we make the choice of defining who we are every day, even when our favorite candidate doesn't win, or even when George Bush is in office.

It isn't about just being optimistic for progressive change, or cynically expecting that little progressive change will come. In the end, it is just one election, and our fight goes well beyond the Presidency. Assuming he wins the nomination for a moment, we need to keep fighting both to help Obama because of the change he represents, and to help improve Obama, because of the change he does not yet represent. And even beyond that, we have political fights in many other realms, too. This isn't just about one or one election. It is a long-term fight, and the 2008 Democratic nomination is just one small step in the process.

Chris Bowers :: New Democrats, Changing Democrats

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What I've been saying tonight (0.00 / 0)
And, I think, what you're saying, is pretty simple if in some ways disconcerting.  What matters isn't Obama (or whomever) much at all.  What matters is how people react to Obama (or whomever).  Running with the notion of an Obama nomination, what matters is not the policies he espouses but the behviors he inspires.  As advocates of people powered politics, I'm sure we'd have it no other way.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

Mister Bowers. (0.00 / 0)
I admire you, Chris, I really do.
I'd say you're the most logical and deep-thinking voice the bloggers have to offer (maybe not in the entire blogosphere, but definitely among bloggers).

exactly: (0.00 / 0)
we need to keep fighting both to help Obama because of the change he represents, and to help improve Obama, because of the change he does not yet represent.

This election needs to be woven into the fabric of the progressive ascendancy, so it becomes simply the next milestone. It obviously can't be the last.

In addition to helping improve him, we need to persuade him that he needs the progressive wing of the Democratic party. He and it are the only things breathing life into the party right now.


Obama (4.00 / 1)
"In addition to helping improve him, we need to persuade him that he needs the progressive wing of the Democratic party."

It's hard for me to see how he would think he needs us. His support is from self-identified liberals, but these are wealthy liberals. It's the same base of support as Gary Hart in 1984/1988 along with college kids. Neither group realizes the importance of organized labor to a strong progressive movement (and I don't think Obama does either).

I guess my hope at this point is that if Obama wins the nomination, he picks a real progressive (economic) for his running mate like JFK did with LBJ. 


[ Parent ]
Edwards the Economic Progressive (0.00 / 0)
The unfortunate thing is that 'Creative Class' liberals united behind Obama, while Clinton took to too many economic prgressives away from Edwards.  If Edwards can figure out a way to unite them he still has a shot. 

[ Parent ]
Recipe for broad cultural change - new Senate Minority leader (4.00 / 3)
You don't need 60 Democrats, you only need to swat the Republicans hard enough in an election that they no longer trust the modern Dixiecrats (McConnell, Lott, Allen, Kyl) that lead their party. I've been reading a bit on the 1964 Civil Rights Act coalition and some of Paul Rosenberg's links to Professor Keith Poole who studies partisanship and here are a few thoughts on change.

- this modern US Senate is the first majority without a racist component
- the recent and current Senate GOP leadership teams have been dominated by the modern equivalent of Dixiecrats (Lott, Allen, McConnell, Kyl)
- the 27 Republicans in the '64 Senate that voted for the Civil Rights Act largely still exist in the modern GOP, just outside the leadership
- McConnell is ranked 29th of 49 GOP Senators, 5 spots to the right of center (see Poole)
- Chuck Grassley is ranked 12th of 49 GOP Senators, 12 spots to the right of center of the GOP Senate

http://voteview.com/ (see Senate rankings at left)

The key to a "working majority" isn't getting 60 Democratic Senators, which while nice hasn't happened since before 1979. The key is to beat the GOP just badly enough to swing the GOP Senate leadership out of the hands of the modern Dixiecrats and into the hands of somebody like Grassley who, while conservative, is actually interested in governing. Then, BOOM, the Senate switches from a party-based coaliton  model to an issue-based coalition model that is more in line with the intent of the founders.

Obama has taken a lot of guff for being naive but it's historically naive to think 60 Democratic Senators is on the horizon when that kind of majority hasn't existed since 1979  and even that included a sprinkling of Dixiecrats.

The short path to broad cultural change is A) Take out Mitch McConnell, B) win the presidency in a landslide, and C) have President-elect Obama press for an ethical conservative replacement as Senate Minority Leader -- somebody like Grassley. If the GOP manages to pick somebody like Grassley or Lugar then as leader of the Democratic Party President Obama can call a truce on the bloodsport party ops, no more campaigning against the opposing Senate leader, inside voices, govern like you campaigned, respectful, dignified, blah, blah, blah.

If the GOP picks Jon Kyl as new Minority Leader you bury their ass in 2010.

John McCain


If we defeat McConnell (4.00 / 1)
and Obama is president 55/45, then I'd say Alexander has maybe an even chance of beating Kyl for Minority Leader.  And Minority Leader Alexander would get it.  We could work with him.

Of course, I don't think we'll beat McConnell, though I hope we will.


[ Parent ]
The power to enact progressive change (0.00 / 0)
As we've seen with Bush II, the presidency can achieve almost dictatorial power. But that is only if it is backed -- even quietly -- by entrenched elites.

Progressive change, by a progressive president, is much more difficult. We've seen that with attacks on Democratic presidents and nominees who seemed to be even mild threats to these entrenched elites. (ie, Carter, Clinton, Gore, & Kerry).

We need a sea change, involving overwhelming amounts of citizen activism on many levels, to put a dent in the power of those elites. Are we on the cusp of that kind of sea change and is Obama the kind of tough pragmatist who can lead the nation to the kind of progressive change we all hope for?

That's the question I'm asking as I watch the progress of this election season.


I was a precinct co-chair in a suburb of Des Moines (4.00 / 2)
And it felt like I was present at a revolution.

I am for Edwards, and when I got there the split was about even between Clinton and Edwards.  Over in one corner of the Gym a couple of young Obama supporters began to hang signs:
Unity
Hope
Change

I nearly laughed. 

About 30 minutes before the caucus I noticed that the Obama corner was filling up.  10 minutes later their corner was completely filled. 

And they kept coming.  Younger: with ipods and cell phones.  Most of the Clinton people were over 60, most of the Obama people were under 40. 

In the first round we found it out the turnout was 371 in my precinct.  In 2004 the turnout was 124.  Obama had nearly half the first round vote.  They cheered the loudest when their speaker gave the pro-Obama speech.  Enthusuastic.  People cheered when we gave the Edwards speech, but it was not as loud. 

More than 2/3's had never been to a caucus before.  Over 100 changed party registration.  In fact, the precinct before the caucus had 600 registered Democrats.  And 371 ATTENDED the caucus.

I must confess I don't fully understand what the young see it, but the concerns that have been expressed by blogsphere seem to me this morning as relevant as the Clinton signs that had fallen to the floor and were stepped on as people exited the caucus.


Young people have a different view (4.00 / 2)
From us older folks, as best I can understand.  Think about it--all you have known politically is Clinton, especially the impeachment, Bush/Rove attack-fear politics, and wimpy Dems.  They don't have a lot of faith in the 2-party system, since they have never seen it really work.  Try to imagine the impact of someone credible saying that we can transcend all that acrimony, that we can come together, and that we could all feel good about America again.  That there would be something to look forward to, not just war, depression and global climate catastrophe.  That we could have a society in which people aren't divided by identity and reviled on account of it.

One of the biggest shortcomings of liberals is to mistrust the politics of the heart.  Most Dem leaders are either technocrats or self-promotion machines.  I'm not saying we don't need policies, but at this juncture I do think that want we need most is inspiration.  Anything that isn't demagogic that inspires people and brings them in has to be seen as good by progressives.  As someone said last night, Obama is going to be changed by this race as much as changing it.

I think what he is really trying to do is to make the GOP irrelevant. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.


[ Parent ]
Not only an issue of the youth (0.00 / 0)
" They don't have a lot of faith in the 2-party system, since they have never seen it really work. "

Think about it, Watergate hearings and the end of the Viet Nam war are the first encounter with national/international politics, then to watch the way Carter was abused and Reagan/Bush the First lauded and raised as icons - all the while scheming schemes of world domination and domestic oppression (by any means necessary) - The hopeful tomorrow of Clinton/Gore literally sucked dry by the end of the '90s.  And what did it teach us anyway?  That personal crimes of the heart (or genitals, as the case may be) are punishable, while crimes of the state are pretty much left unspoken - until AFTER the fact - until AFTER it much matters at all. Then Bush the Second - along with a cabal of orginal Imperialists - he can pull off - IN BROAD DAYLIGHT - what schemers and and neo-cons had only dreamt about in the danker corners of some undisclosed location.  And what of those celebrated and "oppositional" Democrats?  Why - they figure they'll just GO ALONG, to GET ALONG - let's be serious.  This is politics.

Never mind that we actually had a chance to stop the war BEFORE it began - that's all water under the bridge - just trust me when I say that I'll stop it tomorrow.  I've apologized haven't I?

No - you don't have to young to see the rot of our political system - just awake and paying attention.


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
I want to respectfully disagree (4.00 / 1)
I think the points you make about personal vs organizational are good.  However I have to admit that I have changed my mind about Obama based on the results (turnout etc.) and after listening to his speech. 

I think that there is a way to think about his bipartisan rhetoric that explains a lot.  Democrats of the Blogosphere (Crashing the Gaters) feel that we have to stand up to the bullies of the Republicans and certainly just taking it is the wrong thing, however by constantly being angry and distrustful we alienate people who don't feel like they are being beaten up for being Democrats.

Remember, most of the youth audience doesn't remember have lived through 7 years of Bush.  How much do you remember of the political struggles when you were 11 to 15 (18 to 22) ?
What they see of politics is the trainwreck of the Republican administrations and Bush.  The Democrats have not been able to change things enough in the last year (for whatever reason: tactics, courage, numbers, inertia, special interest). Dean's scream, Gore's lies, Clinton's victories are all history without emotional impact to them, like my experience of Harry Truman.

You can say they are deluded but they want to back someone who will bring them peace and a government that works for them. They know it's not the Republicans because their rhetoric and tone is always nasty and mean.  Obama's tone and rhetoric are positive and that is a huge attraction, both within and without the party.  Now if you are young all you remember is the vitupuration of the Republicans who effectively have had the only voice on TV for years.  I think that is his appeal and if he can continue it through the General Election, it will have an amazing effect.  A generation of Democratic voters and an election on the promise of doing progressive things. 

Yes, yes, I know there are things we would want different or better but a landslide can move a lot of things in its path.


What I was trying to say. (0.00 / 0)
Should have read you first.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Changing Dems, Case in point: Gov. Spitzer on CMCE (0.00 / 0)
Setting aside his political stumbles in his first year, Spitzer is at heart a pretty solid progressive.  That said, when he first began running, Clean Money/Clean Elections was not on his radar.

Through groups like Citizen Action NY, who helped organize CMCE rallies at each of Spitz's campaign stops, his awareness was gradually raised until, ultimately, it was a key point of his inaugural address.

We even got the NY State Assembly Dems to NOT pass their yearly window-dressing, crappy, election reform legislation, leaving them open to pass a much better CMCE bill (when it's done being drafted).

(Now all we need to do is flip the NY State Senate this year, where all good NYS progressive legislation goes to die.)

So improving Dems can be done, even in the entrenched, dysfunctional incumbancy culture that is NY State government. It's hard, continuous work, but well worth it.

Rochester Turning - turning the tide upstate


Yes (0.00 / 0)
This is a very important message -- the President has a lot of power, especially if he is backed by Congress, the Supreme Court, the media, corporate lobbyists, and the wealthy elite as Bush has been. But the president is just one piece of the power structure and one of the most difficult for progressives to elect or influence.

As progressives, our task is to elect the best president we can, but also (1) to elect a Congress that will support progressive issues and pressure the President to move in a progressive direction, (2) to pressure the media to provide better coverage and present progressive perspectives, (3) to reduce the power of corporate lobbyists and contributions (by enacting Clean Money election rules and regulating lobbyists more), and (4) to build a powerful progressive movement that can continue to elect progressive politicians and hold their feet to the fire over time.

joejoejoe thinks we don't need 60 Democratic Senators -- just enough to scare the Republicans into working constructively instead of being obstructionist. He may be right and it is a comforting idea. But I'm still hoping that in this election Democrats can pick up 9-10 Senate and 40-50 House seats and that many of these new Congressfolks will be real progressives. I think we can make this happen if we work really hard over the next 10 months. Bush and the Republicans in Congress have given us a great opportunity -- they have shown how terrible they can be and how horrible their policies are. Over the next 10 months, the economy is likely to be poor, the healthcare situation will continue to deteriorate, the Iraq war will continue to be a quagmire, and more bad weather will symbolize the poor environmental policies of Republicans and their disastrous response to disasters. Bush will continue to lie, Republicans will continue to steal, and some of this should be revealed. We should be able to capitalize on all this. This could be a watershed election.

Let's make it happen.

And then let's continue pushing into 2010 and beyond.


Hard to see this about Senator 'Change'..... (0.00 / 0)

............when you take a look at this:

http://opensecrets.o...

Same, Ol' same Ol'....how does it help the progressive movement to have all these new voters flooding in based on....

A misconception of who the campaign they are supporting really cares about? Who's money that campaign has to have to fund the 6 to 1 spending advantage it had over Edwards?

I think this thing has to play out more and...

If Obama reaches the WH we'll get to see the real point of his campaign.

Consolidation by the same forces that backed Bush.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.


How convenient Chris...you ignore the other (0.00 / 0)
groups that Obama won...

No real surprise in the core of Obama's support. The younger a voter was, the more well-educated a voter was, the higher income a voter was, the more self-identified liberal a voter was, the more likely that voter was to support Obama. It is the same coalition for Obama that people have identified for months. Obama won on the back of the creative class vote.

He won women. He won Union households. AND he won lower income households as well. He also won progressives and self-identified liberal Democrats.

In other words, name me a group Obama didn't dominate - older voters? Conservative Democrats? Clinton and Edwards respectively won those because THAT is who their campaign represents.

Obama is talking to a WIDE group of Americans...therefore he has a broad base of support among ALL Americans.

Keep on denying him credit every shot you can though - I'm sure eventually you guys will wake up and realize that you're a bit out of touch with what actual voters want to see happen. Voters want action instead of rhetoric. Obama has a record of action...he says he's going to do something and he does - and he gets people to work together to do it regardless of how controversial it is. This is waking people up all over the place. Maybe bloggers with big-name blogs will wake up at some point.


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