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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Price of Polarization and Failure

Sorry for the absence of posting, but I’ll make up for it between now and election day.I rarely if ever use the overworked Note-ish term “must-read,” but you really should check out two bookend pieces in today’s Washington Post. The first is Dan Balz and Jon Cohen’s write-up of the latest Post-ABC national poll. Here are the nut graphs:

Independents are poised to play a pivotal role in next month’s elections because Democrats and Republicans are basically united behind candidates of their own parties. Ninety-five percent of Democrats said they will support Democratic candidates for the House, while slightly fewer Republicans, 88 percent, said they plan to vote for their party’s candidates.The independent voters surveyed said they plan to support Democratic candidates over Republicans by roughly 2 to 1 — 59 percent to 31 percent — the largest margin in any Post-ABC News poll this year. Forty-five percent said it would be good if Democrats recaptured the House majority, while 10 percent said it would not be. The rest said it would not matter.

You will hear a lot before and after election day about relative turnout patterns of the Democratic and Republican “bases,” and they definitely matter, but let’s not forget that in many of the Republican-leaning districts and states, Democrats cannot win without sizable margins among independents. And it looks like they are getting them.The second must-read, by E.J. Dionne, explains the larger meaning of this collapse of GOP support among independents:

President Bush’s six-year effort to create an enduring Republican majority based on a right-leaning coalition is on the verge of collapse. The way he tried to create it could have the unintended consequence of opening the way for an alternative majority.This incipient Democratic alliance, while tilting slightly leftward, would plant its foundations firmly in the middle of the road, because its success depends on overwhelming support from moderate voters. That’s why a Democratic victory in November — defined as taking one or both houses of Congress — would have effects far beyond a single election year.The strategy pursued by Bush and Karl Rove has frightened most of the political center into the arms of Democrats. Bush and Rove sought victory by building large turnouts among conservatives and cajoling just enough moderates the Republicans’ way. But this approach created what may prove to be a fatal political disconnect: Adventurous policies designed to create enthusiasm on the right turned off a large number of less ideological voters.

In other words, the Rovian politics of polarization, along with the failed policies it produced, are in ruins. And the long-term choice facing Democrats after this and (if we win) the next election is whether we pivot to a governing agenda that restores the confidence in progressive government that was becoming evident during the Clinton years, or go down the same road to perdition the GOP has followed, with disastrous results for their party and the country.

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