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The Coffee House

1896 and 2004

mlind's picture

Karl Rove is an evil political genius, but he is a political genius.  As he hoped, 2004 was a realigning election like 1896.  In 1896, McKinley's victory finished off the agrarian populists and confirmed that the U.S. had entered the urban-industrial era.  In 2004, Bush's victory finished off the urban-industrial liberals and confirmed that the U.S. has entered the suburban-service sector era.

Look at the county map at  The Democratic Party is not a national party any more.  It is an archipelago of inner cities and college towns, allied with the collapsing remnants of the labor-intensive manufacturing sector, embedded in a suburban/exurban nation-state.  If a competitive Democratic Party emerges from the ruins of the 1968-2004 Democrats, it will be as unlike today's Democratic Party as the New Deal Democrats of FDR and Truman were unlike the isolationist, agrarian populist Democrats of William Jennings Bryan.

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On August 11, 2005 - 12:21pm Werty said:
Michael, I just think you've taken two very narrow losses and completely overrepresented what happened.

Which is not to underemphasize everything that happened, but gerrymandering and underlying demographic issues with the respect to the Senate say a lot about what really happened.  Moreover, 2000 wasn't that much of a loss, if one at all.

I think Matthew Yglesias has pounded this again and again, it's important to look at our problems, argue about philosophies, and choose the best tactics possible, but I have to believe that the Democratic party of 2006 will look a lot like the one in 2004.

The 2004 election was about a candidate who didn't prove to America that he was strong enough to defend them, and a President who made them unbelievably scared about that possibility.  If John Kerry had convinced a lot of Americans that Bush makes them less safe, then he would have won.

On August 11, 2005 - 12:50pm NickDoe said:

I have to agree the topic is a bit hysterical. Yes things are changing, but it has more to do with transient cultural perceptions than and fundamental reallignment, class or otherwise.

For example, most of the sub/ex/urbanites are still economically alligned, whether they realize it or not at this moment. And if Reagan can sell trickle down, Democrats should be able to make the case of economic co-dependance.

Cultural issues being as hyped as they are, they'll quickly take a back seat to economic issues when people wake up or are forced to. As they say, money isn't everything, unless you don't have any.

I think the public is slowly waking up to the fact that it's too easy for those in power to sell out these days. Too easy to cheat your shareholders, in business or politics, then hide the money.

Talk about corruption, lobbying, global competativenss, and "trickle down" in the context of American high paying new economy jobs. Talk about the advantages of universal health care. Do that and the GOP won't be winning many elections on abortion and Terry Schiavo and pro-big business and Wall Street deregualtion.

On August 13, 2005 - 11:25am WBC said:
"I have to believe that the Democratic party of 2006 will look a lot like the one in 2004."   And the Republicans are counting on exactly that.  Rove et al. know how to beat the Democratic Party of 2004.  So was your statement supposed to be optimistic?     "If John Kerry had convinced a lot of Americans that Bush makes them less safe, then he would have won."   And if your grandmother had wheels she'd be a bicycle.  Was there a point there somewhere?
On August 11, 2005 - 12:41pm Dark Helmet said:

I'm not convinced.  If you look at the state-by-state maps of 1896 and 2004, we're the ones in the enviable "McKinley position."  It would be interesting to see a county-by-county map for 1896, but I'd imagine that McKinley's support was geographically isolated in a manner quite like Kerry's.  Circa 1897, there were probably pundits bemoaning GOP vulnerability, with the party's support isolated in small islands surrounded by a sea of agrarian populism. 

On August 11, 2005 - 12:41pm theCoach said:

Huge mistake to measure a party by the acre. Also, I find it hard to believe that Karl Rove engineered the geographic split. Rather, I think this was something that was likely in the works from a long time ago.
Who was responsible for the North/South split in the Civil War? The answer is that differnet sections had differnet economies, and eventually, the stronger economies prevailed -- and they will again.
Obviously there will be some change in the Democratic party, but I think you are overstating it, as well as looking at the situation in the South West, and Northern South East, that is becoming less Rovian dominated.

On August 11, 2005 - 2:47pm DWCG said:

Go to the link:

Free States vs. Slave States & Blue States vs. Red States

Rove and Bush didn't engineer the split.  They simply exploited it, as Republicans have been doing since 1972. 

On August 11, 2005 - 12:58pm janeboatler said:

In 2004, Bush's victory finished off the urban-industrial liberals and confirmed that the U.S. has entered the suburban-service sector era.

Michael, that's way too sweeping a statement.  I already know that you don't like lefty radicals, but you can't sweep them away with statements like that.

Consider also that there remain the lonely little petunia lefty radicals like me, still surviving way down in the rural deep south.

I had previously considered myself a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.  I don't think I have changed that much; it's that the conservatives have moved the goalposts way down to the radical conservative end of the field, so that I appear a lefty radical because I have not followed you to the realigned center field.

If your end of the Democratic Party emerges as the dominant force in the coming elections, you won't get much help from me in terms of money or grass roots involvement.  You might get my vote against a worse alternative, but you won't get my energy and enthusiasm.

Your bleak, defeatist statement speaks for itself.  Who's going to clamor to get on that bandwagon?

On August 11, 2005 - 6:16pm bluebell said:

I totally agree with Jane.  Besides, we had some interesting results in upscale suburbs in Minnesota that could point to some wedge issues for Dems.  One local suburb that never even voted for FDR for Minnesota's Humphrey, voted for Kerry.  Salient issues:  health and education.   Instead of trying to out trailerpark the Republicans, Democrats ought to be exploiting the kind of QUALITY of life issues that motivate suburban voters.  Instead, they'll undermine reproductive rights and give suburban women one less reason to vote for them. 

On August 11, 2005 - 1:05pm sphealey said:

In October of 2004, articles were already being planted in mainstream media outlets and centrist political journals (e.g. The Atlantic) discussing how Rove was a one trick pony and that if W lost he would be finished in politics for life.  In other words, the knives were out, sharpened, and pointed at Rove's back in anticipation of a Kerry win.

Well, Kerry lost.  By something like 26,000 votes in Ohio.  I have a very hard time seeing how that is a tectonic shift.  A good Democratic candidate out there in 2008, a shift of Ohio and New Mexico to the D column, and suddenly the great realignment goes poof.

Unless Dems convince themselves they are doomed, of course.  I will grant that the Radicals are very good at the world's best negotiating tactic:  convincing one's opponent that he has lost before he sits down at the table.


On August 11, 2005 - 4:58pm dbp said:

Hi  sphealey,

I agree that Lind overstates the realighnment thesis.  But the danger for Democrats is that the President increased his margin in 2004.  He narrowly lost the popular vote in 2000, but won the popular vote in 2004 by around 2.5%.  The Democrats should have done better in 2004 than in 2000.  They had almost 4 years of decision-making by the president to find fault with, where in 2000 he had only been a Governor in a state where that office doesn't exert much power.

President Bush won in Ohio by more than 2%, so it wasn't all that different from the rest of the country. 

On August 11, 2005 - 1:10pm David T said:

Presidential candidates are not elected by counties.  They are elected by electoral votes.  A change of approximately *one* percent of the vote in Ohio would have given Kerry victory in the Electoral College.  It baffles me that anyone can see an election as close as that of 2004 as a realigning election. 

On August 11, 2005 - 1:14pm Mimikatz said:

Paul Hackett won the rural counties in OH-2 but lost the affluent Cinncinnati suburbs.  What does that tell us?

Like his dire post on conservative/liberal splits, Lind views things as much more static than they really are. I think that the West is trending Dem, and that this will be accelerated as the Taliban wing of the GOP and Bush's sycophants continue to espouse such claptrap as "the 'so-called' right of privacy."  The realignment we are about to see is is small government and social libertarian types deserting the GOP for the Dems, who will calibrate a message about removing obstacles to opportunity and keeping the gov't off people's backs.  Cronyism and corruption will complete the message as it will not take 33 years this time for people to see that  constant rigging the game and big giveaways to contributors will cause serious harm to the other 98% of the population.

Gerrymandering, comfort in being in DC  and a slowness in appreciating the predatorty nature of the modern GOP contributed to the losses in 2002 and 2004.  They will be less and less of a factor as the Dems find their voice.

On August 11, 2005 - 1:51pm thirdparty said:

Look at the county map at The Republican Party is not a national party any more. It is a conglomerate of southern states and empty rural areas, allied with the collapsing remnants of the labor-intensive manufacturing sector, buoyed by uncompetetive gerrymandered districts and 2 senate seats for states like Alaska and Idaho, with no inroads in major cities, the entire northeast, or the entire west coast, including California, which is the fifth largest economy in the world.

We live in 50-50 times. The Democrats are as much a national party as the Republicans. There is no realignment.

On August 11, 2005 - 1:52pm thirdparty said:

forgot to delete the manufacturing sentence there there. But you get my point

On August 11, 2005 - 1:56pm thepeoplechoose said:

The truly significant aspect of 2000 and 2004 was the narrowness of the winning margins. With Republicans having run campaigns heavily focused on attacking the opposition, the narrow wins speak volumes of the weakness of the strategy.

There will not be the same opportunities in 2006 and 2008. Voters know of the questionable charges levied against Dems and will be skeptical this time around.

The bigger problem this time will be the widely reported issues of health care, energy, credit abuses and Iraq. The Republicans will suffer losses because of their record on these things. There is also a foundation that has been put in place for Republican losses with the lunch pail folks. Working class people have taken it on the chin and they are feeling the pinch and know exactly who is squeezing them.

The values argument is a red herring. People know they were scammed on that one and will demonstrate some resentment because of it. The impetus for individuals will be to look out for their pocketbooks and on that Republicans will take a well deserved licking.

All the columns of the sheet will show cumulative gains for Dems that will put them over the top. Perhaps no different than Republican margins of 2000 and 2004 but enough to shift things into some semblance of balance.


On August 11, 2005 - 2:04pm destor23 said:

The populace is split almost 50/50. So, nobody seems like a national party. Maybe, in this environment, there's no such thing.

On August 11, 2005 - 2:14pm electroniceric said:

I have to agree that geography is entirely the wrong way to look at this. Among the many characterizations by which one could split the population, there are two that stand out. One is the worldview idea: cosmopolitan vs. traditionalist and other similar descriptions, and the other is ethnicity together with economic advance.

Rux Texeira advances a compelling story about people moving from traditionalist into cosmopolitan, and while his assertions seem a bit triumphalist (which seems to be in no short supply in this thread, either), in the long run there appears to be a historical trend in this direction. That's still pretty iffy.

Ethnicity + economic advance, however is the 800 lb gorilla. What happens to the African-Americans, Latinos, and various others as they move into different economic strata? Do they vote Dem because they believe in the economic message? Do they vote GOP to distance themselves from any sort of "pity the poor" message? To what extent do they vote on religion? What do whites and others who get college educations do? Does their new college-grad status make them Cosmopolitans (or even Kosmopolitans)? Or does it make them nouveau riche?

The GOP currently enjoys a number of strutural advantages, but also some vast liabilities. The Dems presently lack any sort of party infrastructure other than a devoted base, but with some smart moves, they can move ahead very quickly. So quite the contrary to the GOP being vastly dominant, I'd say things are very much in play.  If anything, I'd expect squeakers (and ugly, ugly battles) for another several cycles or more.

On August 11, 2005 - 2:43pm mxjohnson said:

I don't disagree.
But I would suggest that both parties are fractured. Indeed, one can't realign without the other being forced to adjust. The end of the Democratic Party as we know it will require the end of the GOP as we know it. Going a step further, one could even argue we've already seen the GOP begin the cycle of death and rebirth.
We've seen that here in California, where a power struggle a few years ago among the state's Republican leadership brought the faults to the surface. On the one had were the Orange County-type conservatives, focusing on Chamber of Commerce issues and the hope of zero taxation for the wealthy. On the other hand were the Bushites, pushing for a more inclusive GOP that would reach out to the growing Hispanic population and the thirtysomethings buying houses in what used to be alfalfa fields.
The Bushites won.
As for the election of 2004, you're right that it was a seismic shift. One difference between 2000 and 2004 was that in 2000, Democrats won the popular vote. In 2004, even if Kerry had carried Ohio, we still would have lost the popular vote, despite President Bush's approval rating dipping below 50%. That fact should never be ignored.
Today, of course, the GOP is trying to cover up the sniping between the Dobson crowd and the self-proclaimed libertarians. They can't coexist, not in the long run. But the GOP can yoke the two together as long as they have Karl Rove and we don't.
So both parties are fractured, but the GOP is in the position to force the Democratic party to collapse publicly and in shame. That's really an issue of party leadership, or lack thereof. For example, in 04 primary, the Democratic race was unpredictable in a way that Republican primaries never are -- just ask John McCain.
It's charming that the Democrats still go with candidates chosen by party members instead of by moneymen, but in a period of realignment and slipping margins, it's probably not the wisest course.

On August 11, 2005 - 2:46pm DanielGree said:

I am confused by your point.  Williams Jenning Bryan was a three time loser.  Grover Cleveland though a Democrat was an urban politician.  The  politics of this country, especially at the presidential level has been dominated by the Republicans.  Roosevelt's four terms to some extent skews this reality.

On August 11, 2005 - 3:16pm northstardon said:

A suggestion that any election was a "Realignment" that represented a fundamental change in the political philosophies of the electorate needs to factor out the strengths and weaknesses of the Party leaders (and their respective Svengalis).

Would the 2004 election turned out differently if the Republicans had nominated a Yellow Dog (or, for that matter, Pat Buchanon)?  Or what if (in a sunny parallel universe) Karl Rove suffered an aha! moment and become a true convert to liberalism?  And then, not just quit the Bush campaign, but swapped places with Bob Shrum?

Only when the change seems so momentous that it exists outside of the capabilities of any single politician would I be convinced that it was a "realignment."  

On August 11, 2005 - 4:21pm DWCG said:

There is no lasting Republican majority and I'll tell you why.

First, there are these two maps:

Red, Blue and Purple Counties

Red, Blue and Purple Counties Rescaled According to Population 

They confirm three things:

1) That Democratic areas while mostly concentrated are terribly voter rich. 

2) Most of the country lies in the middle, but is guided by Democratic sails. (Just look at how few ruby red areas there are on the map in comparison to royal blue areas)

3) There are no significant voter-rich Republican areas.

The concentration of the Democratic base works in temporary favor to the House Republicans and in some cases Senate Republicans, but the changing socio-economic and ethnic dynamics of Suburbs ensure that these areas aren't safe either.  There is no voter rich Republican base, and that makes their majority far less stable than the FDR coalition ever was.  Their only protection, in this case is gerrymandering.

Additionally, the suburban white vote has little room for growth, where as the highly Democratic urban areas have loads of turnout and new voter registration potential.  Republicans are terribly reliant on new and old voter suppression mechanisms like felony disenfranchisement, unverified voting and antiquated voter equipment to not count Demcratic votes.  This is coming to an end however, and the GOP knows this will cost them seats of power.  To put it simply, it's no coincidence that Kerry won every swing state with same-day voter registration: Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Maine.  When same-day voter registration is matched with well-funded GOTV operations like ACT, Democrats win.

On August 12, 2005 - 2:04pm petey said:

"The concentration of the Democratic base works in temporary favor to the House Republicans and in some cases Senate Republicans."


This concentration, and the corresponding Democratic weakness outside of urban areas is the reason for the GOP hold on the Senate and House.

As long as Democrats run as weakly as they currently run in rural areas, Democrats will be able to form a national popular majority while remaining in the minority in the Senate and House.

The current Senate make-up, formed over the past 3 Senate elections, received a majority of Democratic votes.  But there are 10 more Republican Senators...

On August 12, 2005 - 4:36pm DWCG said:

How about you try quoting the entire sentence?  I'm not going to waste time explaining what I already have.  I'm just going to repost it:

The concentration of the Democratic base works in temporary favor to the House Republicans and in some cases Senate Republicans, but the changing socio-economic and ethnic dynamics of Suburbs ensure that these areas aren't safe either.

Additionally, concentration makes it easier to limit Democratic influence through gerrymandering.  Republican control of the House is stronger now than it was in the '90s, because they held/maintained control of the state legislatures in '00.  This isn't even a point of contention among or between Republican or Democratic strategists.  I mentioned that in the original post as the same paragraph nonetheless.

The current Senate make-up, formed over the past 3 Senate elections, received a majority of Democratic votes.  But there are 10 more Republican Senators... 

Care to explain how there are 10 more Republican Senators? 

On August 13, 2005 - 2:24am petey said:

"Care to explain how there are 10 more Republican Senators?"

55 - 45

On August 11, 2005 - 4:49pm SamChevre said:

One on-the-ground reality that I think a lot of people are missing is that an important re-alignment is already happening, but it's not yet visible; it's like the Solid South in 1964--still there, but anyone with eyes can see that it won't hold.

 This realignment is the African-American vote.  African-Americans have been solidly Democratic for a long time, but that is changing.  Neither secularism nor homosexuality are at all popular in the Black community, and the rumbles are getting louder and louder.  If the Republicans keep courting the black vote, and the Democrats key constituencies keep pushing for policies that are anathema in the black community, that vote court move out of the Democratic column overnight.

On August 11, 2005 - 7:54pm rfg said:

The "realignment" we speak of is not new, it is simply the effect of political and economic factors that have been around for a long time:

1. Economic insecurity makes many people nervous.  The fact that our standard of living has been maintained mostly by second incomes and borrowing reinforces the trend.
2. We are living in a "golden age", but one that is also marked by rapid, ever-increasing change.  This adds to insecurity.
3. For different reasons, neither party has done much to address the root causes of economic insecurity.
4. The Republicans have successfully marketed themselves as the party of stability and "family values".
5. Most voters will choose whichever party makes them feel safer- in this case the Republicans.

I do not see this changing until and unless the ecomonic situation gets bad enough that Middle America finally wakes up and realizes it's pockets are being picked, and who did the picking.

If I knew when this would happes, I'd be playing the ponies insted of typing this...

On August 12, 2005 - 12:22am Eric B said:

"In 2004, Bush's victory finished off the urban-industrial liberals and confirmed that the U.S. has entered the suburban-service sector era."

This would make a lot more sense if the 2004 election was dominated by economic issues. It wasn't. It was a referendum on the national security credentials of the incumbent, which he narrowly won.

On August 12, 2005 - 2:32pm Smacco said:

I think the realignments of out times are more economic and social rather than political, but do influence politics. I agree that the "creative class" types (latte-drinking chatters, bohos, cosmopolitans etc. and whatever) are potential Democratic voters, but I don't see them as loyal to the Democratic...(forgive me for this word)...brand, as my grandfather, who happily described himself as a working-class guy. This has been a time of great change -- terrorism, globalization, iPods, TIVO and one that is confusing both economically and politically. Really, the Rove formula is very similar to Nixon's "silent majority" and "southern strategy " that serves to scare people about change, which I don't think takes much to do. It's just that Nixon was a flaming liberal compared to Bush II. In some ways I think it's really too simple and really too crude, you vote for the people who give you the turkey on Thanksgiving...for my grandfather that was a union hall but for a lot of people now a day it's their very conservative church. I think it would be more productive to (literally!) pass out turkeys than to hope that rural Georgia becomes just like the Upper West Side. I also think there is a great many people who are very sympathetic to the progressive agenda but have no hope that the Democratic Party will follow through on things like universal health care/insurance. If the Dems could unleash this potential , while assuring those in rural areas that you don't have to like lattes to like health insurance, that would be a great edge.

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