20 November 2004

Stay on target

Part of how a lot of lefties, like me, got fooled into thinking that Bush would lose the election was that we imagined that the Bush "rally the base" strategy was ill-conceived. Traditionally, that's a Democrat strategy, since Democrats' turnout is more variable than Republicans'. Where was the extra base to draw from?

This was an underestimation of Republicans' organizing power, and an overestimation of Democrats'.

There's a lot of "let's get to work" talk on the left right now, and I think Todd Gitlin discusses the point well by comparing to how the right organized in the last few decades.

Those in the Democratic camp and the rational liberal-left who believe in long-term institutional politics should conclude that they could not possibly have compensated for 30-plus years of right-wing base-building with one year's fever of anti-Bush resolve. They should, like the Republican Party after the Goldwater cataclysm of 1964, sigh, shudder, mourn--and organize. They'll pick themselves up and get back to work building their start-up think tanks and media and Internet networks, from the Center for American Progress through Air America Radio through MoveOn.org and various 527 soft money distributors, all of which, despite starting late, made up for a good deal of Democratic organizational weakness in 2004.

That is, if they're smart. The post-Goldwater Republicans were smart. Despite what looked like a calamity, they didn't bolt from the GOP. They didn't break off as a third party, though some of them dearly wanted to. Will the rebellious left discipline itself, cool its boiling blood, and decide that the pleasures of sectarianism are worth less than the steady resolve of infrastructural work?

I hope progressives will be able to hold this thought in the coming years.

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