Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Democrats 04 = Republicans 92; Democrats 06 = Republicans 94?

That's the take from Arianna Huffington (link):

In 1992, the Republican Party found itself in very much the same position as Democrats do today: out of power (with the opposition controlling the White House and both houses of Congress), lacking a compelling core message, and facing the prospect of becoming what any number of pundits at the time deemed — all together now — “a permanent minority party.”

Indeed, reading the post-mortems of the 1992 election is like coming across the original template for the post-mortems of the 2004 election. If you take away the names, you would swear that the Republican quotes from back then were being delivered by the Democrats from right now.

Take this Bill Bennett quote from November 1992 placing the blame for the Republican drubbing on “the lack of a clear, coherent, compelling core message.” Doesn’t it sound like any number of Democrats complaining about 2004?

Or how about this ’92 analysis from John Ashcroft, then governor of Missouri, writing in the Washington Post: “The Republican Party needs to shake itself loose from top-down management, undergo a grassroots renewal and adopt a vigorous, positive agenda that flows from the priorities, views and values of citizens who involve themselves in that process. . . . Our party needs to frame its priorities more in terms of what we’re for rather than what we are against.”

These are precisely the sentiments now being echoed throughout Democratic circles.

And then, just as now, a sense of long-term gloom and doom hovered over the losing side. “All that is clear about the GOP’s future,” forecast the Los Angeles Times in November ’92, “is that its comeback trail will be long and rigorous.”

It turned out to be short and sweet. Just two years after being given their political last rites, Republicans rose from their deathbed and seized control of both chambers of Congress, picking up 52 seats in the House and nine in the Senate. The shift was so dramatic that President Clinton, in the wake of the GOP victory, felt the need to insist at a press conference that he was still “relevant.”

She goes on to give some advice:

  • Go after the issue of paper-trails and voter suppression
  • Kill all the consultants
  • Build a well-funded message machine
  • Nationalize the '06 Congressional races
  • Train better candidates

To all of which I say amen. The real work ahead of us is to fill in the details of these (and other) steps. Can it be done in time to turn things around dramatically in 2006? I don't know, but history says it can be done.


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