Can the Dems ever recover?

Can the Dems ever recover?. So 62% of Californians voted for a Republican gubernatorial candidate (48% of them for Ahnold), and 35% for a Democrat. This in a state that was so Democratic in 2000 that candidate George Bush didn't even bother campaigning there.

I love the energy around Howard Dean and his Net-savvy tactics. I'm outraged at the constant distortions and recklessness of the Bush administration, which will eventually come home to roost. Yet I can't help but feel that It's Over for the Democrats as we know them. In 2004, and maybe for a long time to come.

The Republicans have always had a structural advantage in access to money. During the Gingrich years they seized the high ground in the realm of ideas, and routed around traditional media with a dominant mass communications infrastructure. Under George W. Bush, they have solidified their control with an evangelical confidence that the Right is right, whatever the costs of achieving its goals. Post-9/11, the Administration became convinced its interests were necessarily synonymous with America's interests. The Democrats have nothing to match that fervor.

Now, of course, the California recall wasn't a rerun of Bush vs. Gore. Schwarzenegger won because many California Democratic voters decided he would act like a Democrat on key issues they cared about. But he had the chance because a majority of the state was more enraged about Gray Davis' inaction during the energy crisis than the manipulative actions of Enron and other companies with close ties to the Bush Administration (and Schwarzenegger, it turns out).

Politics is about telling stories and getting people to care. The Republicans have better stories, and they are doing a better job of making people care. They are also abusing power and money for partisan ends, but that wouldn't be enough by itself. Those of us on the other side of the political divide (including a large number of moderate Republicans) need to understand that we are losing the war, not just the battles.

We need a new narrative. The Clinton-era narrative won't work any more. It brought the country eight years of extraordinary prosperity, but it is irredeemably tarnished by Lewinsky and Whitewater. And we no longer live in the pre-Internet world that nurtured that narrative. It's time for new ideas. We need a narrative that helps the Second Superpower recognize that it is the Hidden Majority. For only then will the next American political realignment occur.  [Werblog]

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