July 12, 2004

Building the Democratic Party

Rick Perlstein has an excellent piece that covers why the Democratic party has got to get back to building reasons for people to define themselves Democrats. In it he compares the image problems that the Democrats have to the problems confronting Boeing, which as a company has destroyed its longterm reason for being for shortterm profits. As Rick says:

Why does this matter, as long as the Democrats are still able to win plenty of elections? It matters for a bedrock political-science reason: party identification is the most reliable predictor of whether someone will vote for a given candidate.3 It is a mighty store of value, party identity, “which we now know is a form of social identity,” notes the Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, “not unlike ethnicity or race, with considerable durability over time.”

The fewer people who identify themselves as Democrats, the harder you have to work—and the greater the cost—to get them to vote Democratic in any particular election. You have to play by stock-ticker rules; you have to cater to their short-term whims.

So when does the Democratic Party end up looking like Boeing—so hollowed out by short-term thinking, so stripped of people proud to identify with it, that it can’t compete in the big leagues at all?

Rick agrees with the thesis made by Thomas Frank in his interview with Bill Moyers on NOW that the best brand identification for Democratics is to reclaim the focus on economic fairness.

Matt Stoller has more about this topic and brings his own perspective on this issue. He will be posting more about this on Blogging of the President, so do check back.

Building for longterm success is a subject that Dave Johnson has covered more than once. He often covers the need to provide a framework that builds your case over the long term. Recently he spoke before the American Trial Lawyers Association about this issue and what they could do to help create that framework. You can read his remarks here.

Finally, here's a plug for an organization that is working to register young people for the vote. Making sure young people are registering and mobilized to vote will be an essential piece in getting Bush out of the White House. And many of these young people will continue to identify themselves as Democrats and should be used to help build the Democratic brand for which Rick is calling. Go visit the New Voters Project. From their news release:

DENVER, CO – To address persistent student disenfranchisement, the New Voters Project (NVP), along with Rock the Vote, has launched an online petition campaign that calls on election officials to protect the rights of young people to vote where they go to school. The petition can be found on the New Voters Project’s newly updated website, along with a variety of other tools and resources for young voters, at www.NewVotersProject.org.

The rights of college and university students nationwide are often infringed upon in the districts of the schools they attend. Local election officials have been known to harass students about registering to vote with temporary addresses at dorms on campus or provide limited polling places on large campuses.

According to NVP Field Director, Heather Smith, “It is important that everyone’s right to vote be protected. As we gear up for the elections this fall, we hope that the Secretaries of State continue to support our efforts and defend the voting rights of young people.”

The Petition for Students’ Voting Rights aims to empower students to take back their right to vote and make politicians wake up and pay attention to this historically marginalized constituency. We call on our Secretaries of State to protect the rights of young voters, including the right to register to vote at school, the right to vote on or near campus, and the right to be free from harassment and intimidation by election officials.

Sign the petition at www.newvotersproject.org/petition

Posted by Mary at July 12, 2004 12:36 AM | Recommended Reading | TrackBack(3) | Technorati links |