Ok, so a few days ago we all voted, and the results came in, and we're stuck with Bush for another 4 years. Apparently America preferred the evil we knew to the evil we didn't. And by that, yes, I mean that Kerry was in no way a desirable choice on his own. He looked ok when compared to Bush, but then again, I look tall standing next to a midget. Anyways, it was an issue of perspective - if you looked out of your right eye Bush looked slightly better, and if you looked out of your left eye, Kerry looked slightly better. And most people seem to look out of only one eye, so we had a severe divide, and most people are now either ecstatic or upset. I, personally, am neither. But I don't really care to talk about what happened (for a terrific review of the "collapse of the democrats" check out my friend Zhubin's blog: http://zhubinness.blogspot.com/ ). No, instead I want to talk about new direction.
As many commentators have suggested, the Democratic party seems to be wandering around, without a clear direction, devoid of any moral position, simply trying to win on the basis that they aren't Republicans. I don't know that these commentators are completely accurate, because I am convinced that there are plenty of democrats out there who have a focus, who understand and identify with religious and rural voters. These are people who care about the working class, who want to see farmers get subsidies and homeless get homes. They want factory workers to get better insurance and inmates to get educations. They want schools to have computers and minorities to have civil liberties. These, my friends, are the members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Now I realize that I've got a Minnesota-centric view of the world, and that your typical liberal doesn't really understand that America isn't just the coasts. But all the same, I think the DFL is where it's at, and I'd like to suggest it as the saving grace of the Democratic party.
After all, it's been strong enough to keep Minnesota voting Democrat longer than any other state in the nation. Minnesota has always had one of the better education systems in the nation. Some of the best labor and farm policies. And some of the best social programs, such as healthcare and welfare. All because of the DFL. Because these three things are the focus of the DFL and should be the focus of every Democrat. Education, Labor, and Social Programs. This is the heart of the party. Any other focus - abortion rights, anti-war, broader economic policy, etc. - needs to take a back seat.
I realize that with certain issues, for example abortion, this might be hard. It's a divisive issue which people tend to focus on because the positions are so crystallized. So what to do? Soften. Democrats need to be willing to avoid a hard-line on abortion. Accept pro-life members. I for one often feel rejected by other Democrats because I am pro-life. I often feel ostracized for being opposed to gay marriage (civil unions another story? I don't know yet, I haven't decided, and probably won't for a while. Don't rush me.). This is a huge problem with the party. Anyone who does the least bit of moralizing is either tossed out or pressured to run for cover. So I say soften. Sure, we all know the Republicans are pro-life. Why does that mean Democrats must be pro-choice?
Which brings me to another point about the contrast in parties - it seems lately the Republicans have stolen a lot of the Democrats' fire. Democrats were always the education/healthcare people. In the last 4 years, however, the Republicans pushed through major education and healthcare bills. And though neither is even close to satisfactory, the Republicans have something to point to, and the Democrats lose their strongest point of contrast. So the party needs to get back to those roots, regain a point of strength, and build from there. The DFL is the perfect place to start. Most Americans have children, work hard at their jobs, pay too much to see their doctor, and are sympathetic to the plight of the poor. Education, Labor, and Social Programs are the things that will have an effect in their daily lives.
So I say crystallize. Focus on Education, Labor, and Social Programs. Make these the big three. Soften on everything else.
The gun-totin' pro-lifer who wants his kids to get a good education will now have a home.
The poor farmer with a conscience will now know feel free to vote in his best interest because his candidate just might think gay marriage is a sin too.
There are many more out there like myself - just waiting for the Democratic party to invite us back in. Until they do, we'll be casting longing glances at their candidates and votes for Republicans.