Letters at 3AM
Screw the rhetoric, dig the numbers
The gab doesn't jibe with the numbers. The numbers don't say, "Democrats lost on moral values." The numbers say, "Democrats were out-organized and didn't play hard enough to their base yet still almost won."
Scan the results and imagine the possibilities (stats are from Nov. 7's New York Times unless otherwise noted):
Since the election I've heard a lot of Democrats spew a lot of whiney, simplistic nonsense about "the red states" ignoring that in those states millions voted their way. (Stats are from CNN.com.) Texas: 4,519,023 for Bush 2,827,756 for Kerry. Do we just write off nearly 3 million Texans? Mississippi: 671,027 for Bush 445,596 for Kerry. Do we just forget nearly half a million Mississippians? Kansas: 717,507 for Bush 420,846 for Kerry. Alabama: 1,174,348 for Bush 691,993 for Kerry. Virginia: 1,662,484 for Bush 1,396,269 for Kerry. Georgia: 1,889,832 for Bush 1,345,198 for Kerry. Wyoming, Dick Cheney's state: 167,127 for Bush 70,620 for Kerry (nearly one out of three). About the same percentage for Nebraska: 485,766 for Bush 234,236 for Kerry. These are states that Democrats, and their oh-so-bourgeois helpers (MoveOn.org, etc.), utterly ignored. If we hadn't, the numbers would be better.
In smaller cities and towns (population 10,000 to 50,000) Republicans went down a whopping 9% of the vote, from 59% in 2000 to 50% in 2004. Democrats increased 10% 38% in 2000, 48% in 2004. We came within 3% of winning these areas, and might have won more if we hadn't all but ignored them. Again, we shouldn't soften our positions; but we need to communicate more widely, more directly, and in terms these areas relate to.
You might say, "What's the point of playing to the red states; we still wouldn't have won them?" Two reasons: Our general vote total would have increased instead of losing the popular vote by 3% we might have lost by 2% or less. Which might mean that elected Democrats would be a little less timid. But more important: Red state Democrats would have felt supported instead of isolated; might have felt inspired instead of ignored; and they might now feel more reason to organize and fight for next time. Instead, most feel lost and mocked. Surrounded, without help.
To discount them is to desert them. You can't build a grassroots base by ignoring people who agree with you. This country is seriously divided, but the numbers prove the divide isn't as bad as the talking heads would have us believe. And the numbers prove something more: The divide is not irreversible. But it will be, if Democrats don't take all their constituents seriously.
The Democrats forgot their roots, too. And that, without question, is what lost it for Kerry. The numbers are as irrefutable as they are stunning:
For the next four years Democrats in Congress are probably going to run scared. Many terrible things will come of that. But Democrats on the ground had better run tough. Organize. Educate. Lead. Be ready ready to take advantage of the certain disasters that await us. The numbers don't lie: Our country is divided, but it's not as black and white (or red and blue) as the pundits say. It will be if we don't act, if we don't reach out to all our constituencies, if we don't learn to talk plainly and with respect to people who are different culturally, or are uneducated, left out, left behind. Organize. Educate. Lead. On the very street where you live. And on the street where you work. And on the streets where you're most needed. There is no other ground for the future.