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A look into the future for the nation’s Democratic party

Staff Reports

The election season came and went and while the window of opportunity for political involvement may seem ephemeral to some Americans, it is clear the consequences of this particular election will likely prompt a residual identity crisis for the Democratic Party. As both Democrats and Republicans alike begin to adjust to the lack of ubiquitous and divisive political rhetoric, one significant aspect will be separating the two: staunch Democrats will be forced to question the viability and vitality of their party’s platform, while Republicans bask in the sunlight, so to speak.The Republican Party’s success during these elections can be fairly described as sweeping. This was the first time since 1988 that a candidate won the majority of the popular vote and the Electoral College. Jimmy Carter in 1976 was the last Democrat to win both. The Republicans have strengthened their majority by at least four seats in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, and, of course, maintained control of the Executive Branch.These facts are bolstered by the widespread success of gay marriage bans. Eleven states passed constitutional amendments that codify marriage as a heterosexual convention. It is not surprising to most, however, that the majority of these states are in the South, the lifeblood of the Republican Party. What is surprising though, according to University of Colorado political science Professor Kenneth Bickers, is the amendment’s ratification in Oregon.”Oregon is known for passing legislation that can be characterized as being liberal or progressive,” he said. “The ban’s success was a significant blow to the national gay community.”Although Oregon passed the ban, the state went Democrat in the presidential election. On a national level, however, this cut against the trend. With the exception of Oregon and Michigan, Bush won all the states that passed anti-gay measures. This, coupled with the exit polls indicating moral values as a top priority for many voters, suggests that the success of the Republican Party can be attributed, at least partially, to their religious appeal. A large portion of American voters arguably view their religious values, mainly concerning gay marriage and abortion, to transcend the typical bread-and-butter issues.The Democratic Party, though also taking a stand on moral issues such as a woman’s right to choose and a healthier environment, has apparently lost touch with the values held by the majority of the country. Although Colorado became a kind of bright spot for the Democratic Party by electing a Democratic Senator as well as gaining control of the State Legislature, it hardly allows for bragging rights on a national level. This election brought record numbers to the polls, and if a surprisingly large percentage of voters viewed moral values as a top priority, it is not far off to conclude that the morals purported by the Democratic Party are not going to gain them any popularity. Have we encountered a social climate and political landscape that essentially has shifted to the right? These facts might indicate so.The Democrats have reached a proverbial fork in the road. They will be forced to endure an internal struggle to ultimately locate the most effective route in making the election map look a little less red. According Bickers, Democrats have two choices.”They can either move to the left, in the direction of the Michael Moore faction of the party, which can be characterized as maintaining environmental and international humanitarian efforts and championing gay and lesbian rights, or they can become more of a centrist party, which will hope to capitalize on the nuts and bolts of the typical working class family,” Bickers said. Shifting left risks losing more independent voters but might galvanize Democrats. Conversely, if Democrats shift more to the center, where the popular political landscape seems to be moving, the change risks losing voters who see anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion measures as cataclysmic. There is also a possibility the Democrats essentially maintain the same national platform and blame the loss on a poor campaign or the stability of the incumbency during wartime.Others see the widespread loss as simply part of the ebb and flow of American political life. In expressing this view, University of Denver Professor Seth Masket believes Democrats will likely rebound.”The Democratic Party was presumed doomed after 1972, and it won the next presidential election,” he said. “The same happened after it lost three straight presidential elections between 1980 and 1988; it came back to win two successive elections.”Taking into consideration all possible scenarios, there is no doubt that this loss realistically challenges the fundamental core of the Democratic Party. It is important, however, that Democrats remember what that core is. Political pundit Thomas Frank best describes the core as “the party of workers, of the poor, of the weak and the victimized.” It is essential, for the livelihood of the party, that Democrats remember their fundamental core, act on that core, and exude that core. VTJordan Chase is a lifelong valley local who studied American culture at Bates College. He can be reached for comment at (970) 376-0327 or jordanpchase@hotmail.com.


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