Conservatism Is Our Enemy
by Chris Bowers, Mon Nov 08, 2004 at 11:18:51 AM EST
We have long since left the era when the two parties could accurately be considered regional and ethnic coalitions rather than ideological coalitions. There are no longer any more conservative Democrats than there are liberal Republicans. A few of each kind manage to hang on, but the ideological vote in this election was clear:
Bush Kerry Margin Conservative 84 15 69 Liberal 13 85 72For that matter, the ideological vote was also clear in 2000:
Bush Gore Margin Conservative 81 17 64 Liberal 13 80 67In both cases, the overwhelming majority of liberals voted for the Democrat, while the overwhelming majority of conservatives voted for the Republican. The 2000 and 2004 margins are almost identical, with the reduction of third-party votes accounting for almost the entire difference between the two elections. Liberals and conservatives are very nearly block voting groups, and they are mirror opposites of one another.
The main reason Kerry lost was because in this election, 34% of the electorate self-identified as conservative, while 21% of the electorate self-identified as liberal. In 2000, 29% of the electorate self-identified as conservative and 20% self-identified as liberal. Gore and Kerry had almost identical margins of +8 and +9 among self-identifying moderates, but Gore did 3.59% better in the popular vote. Apart from electoral tactics, apart from vote counting, apart from making harsher ad buys, the primary cause for Kerry's defeat and for our defeats in Congress wes that the conservative advantage over liberals in the electorate increased from +9 to +13. In this situation, it should also be no surprise that the Democratic advantage in Party self-identification dropped from +4 to zero. It should also be no surprise that our margin in the popular vote slipped by roughly four points. Conservatism gained four points, and that meant that we lost four points.
The parties are now ideological coalitions, and our ideology is smaller. In fact, as the growing gap from 2000 to 2004 shows, the situation is becoming worse. Whatever other tactics and strategies we engage in, these tactics must be coupled with what is our only long-term path toward national electoral improvement: closing, and one day eliminating, the national self-identification gap between liberals and conservatives. Our ground game in 2004 was amazing. We lost the election from 2001-2003, as conservatism grew at a faster rate than liberalism.
This is why I have begun a campaign to tarnish conservatism itself. For me, this is not difficult. I have never considered myself a conservative anything, and I despise pretty much everything conservative (the exceptions are my conservative relatives who I love deeply). However, when I think back at Howard Dean's campaign, and how all along we Deaniacs kept ramming home the idea of being fiscally conservative as a positive--arrgggghhh!!! What were we thinking? We helped reinforce the national frame where being conservative is good, and thereby helped grow conservatism itself. By helping to grow conservatism, we helped the national decline of Democrats. What we should have been pointing out is that Dean was fiscally responsible, whereas conservatives quite clearly are fiscally childish and irresponsible. Dean was not a fiscal conservative--fiscal conservatives run up enormous debts and deficits!
For a long time I have not considered myself a liberal, because my academic mind despises the historical connection that word has to laissez-faire regulatory, economic, and trade policies. What was I thinking? I know just as well from my studies on language that usage determines grammar, and those historical denotations have little substance in contemporary usage. I should have happily identified myself as a liberal, as part of a larger effort to increase liberalism in this country.
Well, starting today, those days are over. I am a liberal and proud of it. Also, I know my enemy: conservatism. The fight begins now.