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No Surrender

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  • Ram Lau
    November 5, 2004 By PAUL KRUGMAN President Bush isn t a conservative. He s a radical - the leader of a coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is. Part of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2004
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      November 5, 2004
      By PAUL KRUGMAN

      President Bush isn't a conservative. He's a radical - the leader of
      a coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is. Part of that
      coalition wants to tear down the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt,
      eviscerating Social Security and, eventually, Medicare. Another part
      wants to break down the barriers between church and state. And
      thanks to a heavy turnout by evangelical Christians, Mr. Bush has
      four more years to advance that radical agenda.

      Democrats are now, understandably, engaged in self-examination. But
      while it's O.K. to think things over, those who abhor the direction
      Mr. Bush is taking the country must maintain their intensity; they
      must not succumb to defeatism.

      This election did not prove the Republicans unbeatable. Mr.
      Bush did not win in a landslide. Without the fading but still potent
      aura of 9/11, when the nation was ready to rally around any leader,
      he wouldn't have won at all. And future events will almost surely
      offer opportunities for a Democratic comeback.

      I don't hope for more and worse scandals and failures during Mr.
      Bush's second term, but I do expect them. The resurgence of Al
      Qaeda, the debacle in Iraq, the explosion of the budget deficit and
      the failure to create jobs weren't things that just happened to
      occur on Mr. Bush's watch. They were the consequences of bad
      policies made by people who let ideology trump reality.

      Those people still have Mr. Bush's ear, and his election victory
      will only give them the confidence to make even bigger mistakes.

      So what should the Democrats do?

      One faction of the party is already calling for the Democrats to
      blur the differences between themselves and the Republicans. Or at
      least that's what I think Al From of the Democratic Leadership
      Council means when he says, "We've got to close the cultural gap."
      But that's a losing proposition.

      Yes, Democrats need to make it clear that they support personal
      virtue, that they value fidelity, responsibility, honesty and faith.
      This shouldn't be a hard case to make:
      Democrats are as likely as Republicans to be faithful spouses and
      good parents, and Republicans are as likely as Democrats to be
      adulterers, gamblers or drug abusers.
      Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country; blue
      states, on average, have lower rates of out-of-wedlock births than
      red states.

      But Democrats are not going to get the support of people whose votes
      are motivated, above all, by their opposition to abortion and gay
      rights (and, in the background, opposition to minority rights). All
      they will do if they try to cater to intolerance is alienate their
      own base.

      Does this mean that the Democrats are condemned to permanent
      minority status? No. The religious right - not to be confused with
      religious Americans in general - isn't a majority, or even a
      dominant minority. It's just one bloc of voters, whom the Republican
      Party has learned to mobilize with wedge issues like this year's
      polarizing debate over gay marriage.

      Rather than catering to voters who will never support them, the
      Democrats - who are doing pretty well at getting the votes of
      moderates and independents - need to become equally effective at
      mobilizing their own base.

      In fact, they have made good strides, showing much more unity and
      intensity than anyone thought possible a year ago. But for the
      lingering aura of 9/11, they would have won.

      What they need to do now is develop a political program aimed at
      maintaining and increasing the intensity. That means setting some
      realistic but critical goals for the next year.

      Democrats shouldn't cave in to Mr. Bush when he tries to appoint
      highly partisan judges - even when the effort to block a bad
      appointment fails, it will show supporters that the party stands for
      something. They should gear up for a bid to retake the Senate or at
      least make a major dent in the Republican lead. They should keep the
      pressure on Mr.
      Bush when he makes terrible policy decisions, which he will.

      It's all right to take a few weeks to think it over. (Heads up to
      readers: I'll be starting a long-planned break next week, to work on
      a economics textbook. I'll be back in
      January.) But Democrats mustn't give up the fight. What's at stake
      isn't just the fate of their party, but the fate of America as we
      know it.

      E-mail: krugman@...

      http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/05/opinion/05krugman.html?
      ex=1100673518&ei=1&en=db6f68475ab85312
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