One thing that struck me about presidential elections in the post-1984 era was that, of the candidates who have serious hopes of winning their party’s nomination, the Democrats tried to seem more moderate than they really were while the Republicans tried to seem more radical than they really were. David Frum once wrote that a party sometimes feels like it is naturally the minority and that (I’m approximating his words very closely) they were done for in a fair fight. What this party needed what to hug the center (or seem to hug the center) and hope for some luck.
In the post-1984 era, it seemed like the Republicans had the naturally larger presidential coalition. Republicans could still lose if there was a well-timed recession or a president running for reelection under exceptionally good economic conditions, but when circumstances were ambiguous, Republicans still had a better-than-even chance. Even with the Lewinsky scandal, the 2000 presidential election should have been closer to a 1988-syle solid victory for the incumbent party than the squeaker it was - except that Republican had a naturally larger presidential coalition if they had a good candidate and circumstances that gave them a chance to win.
I think that this perceived Republican advantage in the relative size (and relative room for error) of the two presidential coalitions is part of what conservative writers meant when they called the US a “center-right” country. The Democrats seemed to feel it too. It wasn’t just Bill Clinton and his New Democrat stuff. Mike Dukakis would not answer to the word liberal, and Kerry’s team treated talking about John Kerry’s 1980s Senate voting record like some kind of slander. They feared that , in a straight fight between a liberal and a conservative, they would probably lose.
The reelection of Obama has changed this perception. The mood of many on the left is closer to the sentiments expressed by this kid. In a straight fight between a liberal and a conservative, they think they have the advantage - and an advantage that will only grow with time. This changes the dynamic within the Democratic Party. A candidate might think they can indulge a more obnoxious and divisive left-politics to win the nomination with less fear that it will suffice to destroy them in the general election. What is the median voter going to do? Vote Republican? Ha!
When Obama first came to national attention in 2004, he said that there was no Red America and no Blue America, only the United States of America. Now Andrew Cuomo seems to be experimenting at the state-level (laboratories of democracy and all that) with the idea that people who do not agree with the Democratic party platform have no place in America. It didn’t take long for the arrogance of power to take hold. This hubris will bring grief to the left and the Democratic party, but it will do damage to the country first.
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