The Right Coast

November 15, 2004
Why the Democrats Lost
By Mike Rappaport

Over at Opinion Journal, Brendan Miniter has a pretty good column offering another reason why the Democrats lost:

It's time to let Democrats in on a little secret. America is a land of perpetual rebirth and reform--always has been. That's why George W. Bush gets a pass on whatever he did before he found Jesus and swore off drinking. And it's why Bill Clinton received the benefit of the doubt over his "youthful indiscretions" in 1992. As Democrats search for an American value they can embrace, they also might want to consider that voters tend believe in American exceptionalism--that this nation is a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. Put these two ideas together and what Donna Brazile will discover as she mixes with the common folk at Denny's and Applebee's is while Americans may complain about the daily struggle of their lives, they expect hardship on the path to a better life.

What Americans will not tolerate is pessimism, defeatism and stagnation. It's not for nothing that Jimmy Carter's presidency ended amid an era of "stagflation." When Mr. Carter put a sweater on in the Oval Office and told Americans to get ready to start accepting less, he might as well have resigned.

What all this means for Democrats now, is that if they want to start winning elections again they need a reform agenda. Fighting the war on terror, bringing democracy to the Middle East, protecting Social Security, ending an era in education dominated by the soft bigotry of low expectations--it's hard to find a contentious political issue that is devoid of fundamental moral judgments. And on each one of these issues, it is the Republican Party that has been offering fresh ideas, a chance for a new beginning. Democrats need to get a reform agenda and start thinking about ways to be born again.