At the moment according to CNN, Bush is up 254-252, with Ohio, Iowa, and New Mexico unresolved. Unfortunately, Bush leads in all three states, so he will probably win the presidency 286-252, with about a three million vote advantage in the popular vote. All focus is now on Ohio, because its 20 electoral votes make Iowa and New Mexico irrelevant (unless one of the called states like Wisconsin flips). Essentially, Kerry is holding out hoping for a miracle. It won’t come. Bush will be the President, and his election will be legitimate.
What does this mean about America? What does this mean about the Democratic Party?
As many people have noted, America is very divided between two different worldviews. It seems Bush won in spite of the problems with the economy and the war in Iraq because he won on the cultural and “moral” issues. Particularly in the Midwest, many people voted for Bush because they agreed with him on gay marriage, abortion, religion, and God. With the increasing belief that America should be guided by conservative Christian principles instead of by respecting differences of opinion and allowing scientific inquiry and logic to guide decisions, where should the Democratic party go from here?
Democrats haven’t won a regular Presidential election since 1964. Carter’s win in 1976 happened in the aftermath of Watergate, and both of Clinton’s wins were greatly aided by Ross Perot’s candidacy. Even in 2000, when Gore won the popular vote, he lost the Presidency. Now, the Democrats have lost the second straight election despite significant strength in the Northeast and West Coast and a slight advantage in several Midwest states. However, the Democrats currently have no chance in most of the South and the Great Plains. Unless the Democrats can reach out to church-goers, rural votes, and Southerners, we will not be able to lead nationally, and we risk becoming the permanent regional opposition party.
After Goldwater’s decisive loss in the 1964 election, the Republican party was left adrift and directionless. However, a new movement was started to remake the Republican Party as the low-tax, socially conservative party. Over the decades, several large conservative think tanks were formed that helped convert these ideological goals into useful tactics and strategies for campaigning, governing, and advocating conservative principles. Now, forty years later, the Republican Party holds all three branches of the federal government and most local government across the country. Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation develop ideas and an organized conservative media and religious right spread those ideas to the country. Overall, the Republican party has been remade in the last forty years, and it has been very successful.
The Democratic Party has started to emulate these moves with organizations like the Center for American Progress and Air America Radio, but we are not organized or unified enough to present a sufficient challenge to the conservative movement. Unless we change, we are doomed.