"Our Karl Rove is the blog you should be glad that Democratic strategists don't seem to listen to"
-- what they're saying on Republican blogs

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Democratic Leadership: Rebuild a Coalition Party

Democratic Leadership,

Bush has been one of those unique figureheads that is just vague enough in his style to allow Republicans of all stripes to project their own values upon him. As a result, each leg of the Republican party got their own idealized version of Bush. He was a social conservative. He was a fiscal conservative. He was a moderate, compassionate conservative. He was a neoconservative. He was for business. He was for the middle class. He was for women. Heck, he was even for illegal Mexican immigrants.

This, my friends, is how you build a coalition party -- and why Bush eked out something even close to 50% of the votes in two elections, despite the fact that his actual policies are either unrealistic (democracy in Iraq through military occupation) or unpopular (stem-cell research ban).

This coalition paradigm is coming into focus because, well, it's easier to see a failure than a success. And Bush's coalition party is unraveling right in front of our eyes. Failures in Iraq, Katrina, Supreme Court nominee Miers, and a host of scandals under investigation have exposed rifts in the party that were always there, but nascent because Bush promised everything to everyone. Republicans of all types held their breath... until now.

To be a majority party in a two-party system, Democrats need to rebuild a coalition, just like the Republicans did, and just like politicians do in multi-party systems across the world.

Coalition building is not easy, especially if you're used to listening only to special interests with specific points of view (hint). Coalitions worthy of majorities in this country require more than just the ability to placate and patronize (another hint)... they require deep research into understanding what each segment in the coalition wants, and remaining open to a broad set of desires. The key is then to employ deft communication and negotiation skills to prioritize these wants without giving that nasty disenfranchising aftertaste.

Coalitions are transient. And this is a good thing, because a viable party needs to continually disassemble and restructure its constituents to effectively lead a nation through the ever-evolving problems and opportunities facing us.

As you watch the Republican coalition disassemble right in front of you, seize this opportunity to hone in on this political paradigm, and go build your own.


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MAH said...

Excellent Advice. One problems the DNC has involves their current leadership and the patronage system that sprung up in the '70s. The DNC has been run like a Union shop for decades, requiring massive amounts of "time served" before candidates can be taken seriously for higher office. This makes itself painfully obvious in their presidential choices, starting with Mondale (remember Fritz?) and continuing to Automaton John Kerry. It's why many fear a Hillary nomination in 2008.

Building a coalition is very difficult, painstaking work, with a payoff down the road and an uncertain outcome for any individual polition. I don't see many in the DNC with the guts to try to do the hard work.