Thursday, December 02, 2004

Another take on why we lost: Kerry had no "economy" message

Harold Myerson writes that the big problem for Kerry was not that he was tolerant of homosexuals, but rather that he offered no way to improve the economy.

In other words, the Democratic presidential candidates have triangulated themselves out of having a message to non-college-educated lower-to-middle-income voters.

Democrats will raise your wages. If voters don't believe that (or if Democrats don't tell us that), then it's hard to earn that majority.

The article is here on the LA Weekly website and it is definitely worth a read.

Here are the best parts (but click over there anyway since I'm stretching fair use here):

The group which saw the biggest shift in sentiment during the campaign, says Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, was white women over 50 with no college education. They supported Kerry last spring, particularly favoring his position on health insurance over Bush’s. But as Kerry came under attack in August and September, his support melted away, and these voters ended up backing Bush by 18 percent.

These were just some of the voters who were still in play this fall — the majority of them white, downscale, worried about the economy, worried about terrorism, and worried about the condition of the cultural climate. Kerry was still an option for them in October, but then came the October surprise.

No, not the Osama tape. It was the failure of Kerry to wrap up his campaign with a strong Democratic populist message. Perhaps the most astonishing nugget in the exit polling and the hardest to find, since the most commonly available version of the poll, on the CNN Web site, doesn’t contain this information, is that when asked which candidates voters trusted more to handle the economy, they preferred Bush to Kerry by a 40 percent to 37 percent margin.


Time was when the Democrats had no trouble devising and conveying an economic security agenda. In a national economy, the institutions of the New Deal and the unions that arose during that time turned a low-wage working class into the most highly paid working class in human history. Today, though, the Democrats have lost most of the levers with which they used to raise living standards. The destruction of unions, the openness of the U.S. economy to a global labor market, the ideological de-legitimation of government — all these have made it much harder for the Democrats to present a plausible solution to voters. Addressing the destruction of decent-paying manufacturing jobs by ending the tax deductibility of outsourcing, as Kerry proposed, is the kind of policy you put forth when you don’t really have a policy at all.

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