For as long as I can remember, there's been a generally accepted story about the recent history of Democratic Party fortunes, a neat little morality tale that goes something like this: The New Deal majority fell apart when the party was taken over by forces outside the mainstream of American life. Getting blindsided by Reaganism was the party's just deserts. And if Democrats wanted the country back, they would just have to learn to become mainstream again.
For as long as I can remember, liberals have been complaining about awkward, self-conscious attempts to recover this "mainstream" sensibility and how they have paradoxically weakened the party. They forced Democratic politicians to become obsessed with polls. That, in turn, boxed Democrats into an identity the public--the mainstream--found the most off-putting of all: Democrats became timid. They couldn't pursue a bold public agenda because they were too hemmed in by polls. Very recently, among progressives, a new dictum has emerged: Hug close to the polls, worship the polls, be the polls.
Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, a massive twenty-year roundup of public opinion from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, tells the story. Is it the responsibility of government to care for those who can't take care of themselves? In 1994, the year conservative Republicans captured Congress, 57 percent of those polled thought so. Now, says Pew, it's 69 percent. (Even 58 percent of Republicans agree. Would that some of them were in Congress.) The proportion of Americans who believe government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep is 69 percent, too--the highest since 1991. Even 69 percent of self-identified Republicans--and 75 percent of small-business owners!--favor raising the minimum wage by more than $2.
The Dems would do very well to emulate what made Reagan a political success. And I agree with this article that as Democratic power became entrenched, they took the people who made them a success for granted and became more beholden to those on the fringes. And this was a mistake repeated by the Republicans over the past few years which certainly did them great harm in the '06 election.
The terrible poll numbers for both congress and the White House show that the public is anxious for somebody -- Pubs, Dems, or even a third party -- to step up for THEM for a change.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!