Wednesday, November 03, 2004

In my humble opinion, this is the central question the Democratic Party needs to wrestle with: why are we unpopular at the national level?

Don't throw out the knee-jerk response, "Oh, people loved Bill Clinton! The real job is to find the next Slick Willie!". Look at these facts.

Since the end of the Second World War -- i.e. over the last 15 presidential elections -- the Democratic nominee has won a majority of the popular vote just twice.

2004 -- John Kerry -- 48.0%
2000 -- Al Gore -- 48.4%
1996 -- Bill Clinton -- 49.2%
1992 -- Bill Clinton -- 43.0%
1988 -- Michael Dukakis -- 45.7%
1984 -- Walter Mondale -- 40.6%
1980 -- Jimmy Carter -- 41.0%
1976 -- Jimmy Carter -- 50.1%
1972 -- George McGovern -- 37.5%
1968 -- Hubert Humphrey -- 42.7%
1964 -- Lyndon Johnson -- 61.1%
1960 -- John Kennedy -- 49.7%
1956 -- Adlai Stevenson -- 42.0%
1952 -- Adlai Stevenson -- 44.3%
1948 -- Harry Truman -- 49.6%

Note that in 1964 when LBJ won in a landslide, his challenger was an extremely weak and quite frankly insane Barry Goldwater. The only other election in which the Dem won a majority of the popular vote was 1976, when Jimmy Carter just barely squeaked over that bar with 50.1%.

Note also that extremely unusual events were required to propel the Democratic candidate to each of these wins -- Kennedy's assassination and Watergate.

Republicans, on the other hand, have won a majority of the popular vote seven times (2004, 1988, 1984, 1980, 1972, 1956, 1952), with >55% (a true landslide in any book) four times (in 1984, 1972, 1956 and 1952).

In short, the Democrats are a rather unpopular party at the national level. Why? What can the Dems do to change this very long-standing situation? After all, this is not a post-Bill Clinton or even a post-civil rights phenomenon. It's a post-FDR phenomenon -- 60 years and counting.

Not only is no answer forthcoming, as far as I can tell people aren't even asking the question. Time to proudly assert membership in the reality-based community and wrestle with this unpleasant fact.

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