An excellent piece by Harold Meyerson in Wednesday’s Washington Post emphasizes the vitally important fact that Democrats are not falling back into division and back-biting in the aftermath of the elections. Here are a few highlights:
Listen closely. That silence you hear is the sound of Democrats not recriminating.
We are, to be sure, post-morteming like nobody’s business. It could scarcely be otherwise after the most heartbreaking defeat just about any Democrat can recall. But this year, I sense, there is a little more consensus than conflict — and a lot more confusion than either — Democratic ranks about what went wrong and where we go from here.
To begin, there’s a genuine respect for John Kerry that will spare him from the kind of morning-after rage that many Democrats directed at Al Gore four years ago. Kerry, and Kerry alone (well, with some help from George Bush), put himself back into contention with his three debate performances. They did not win him the White House, but they won him a respite from the kind of backbiting for which we Dems are justly famous.
That’s not to say we don’t all have criticisms of Kerry’s campaign. It was too slow to respond to the summer’s character assassinations. Kerry’s plan for Iraq never sounded very plausible, but that’s chiefly because the administration has made such a hash of the war that there are no good alternative policies..Above all, Kerry was unable to sufficiently press the Democrats’ advantage on issues such as health care, education and jobs.
In large ways and small, campaign 2004 was marked by unprecedented Democratic unity. That’s one reason why the defeat feels so shattering: The whole team was on the field, working together as well as if not better than ever before.
For this reason among others, the Democrats’ postgame analysis has not yet assumed its accustomed form of a circular firing squad. Among Democrats I speak to from all corners of the party, the same points come up over and over again. The mobilization of the Democratic base that the party and the “527” groups threw themselves into this year remains essential, but it is plainly not a ticket to victory in itself. Democrats cannot go into the next presidential election with just a handful of states truly in play; they need to be competitive in more red states to keep the Republicans from concentrating their resources in Florida and Ohio and some borderline blue states.Above all, the fact that the only two successful Democratic presidential nominees since Lyndon Johnson were both governors of Southern states now looms hugely in Democratic calculations.
Read the whole article, it’s worth it.