The Marshall Plan
Over the DLC/Progressive Policy Institute, Will Marshall has just issued his "Heartland Strategy" for taking back the White House.
Marshall re-discovers the West (as everyone in D.C. is doing these days) while simultaneously pooh-poohing the notion of a Western strategy.
Some Democrats have called for a less ambitious strategy that writes off large chunks of red America, specifically the South and the Great Plains. They would concentrate instead on the Southwest, with its large Latino population and burgeoning metropolitan centers. Their electoral math works, but just barely.
Marshall's right, in one sense: we can't win with just the West and the Blue States. Sure. Duh.
But, he just doesn't get it. A Western strategy isn't just a geographical argument. It's a cultural one. As I argued in the kick-off manifesto:
In the mountains and ranchlands of the West, there are Democrats who understand real America. Out here, far from the nation's capital, there are Democrats who understand skepticism of the federal government. Out here, Americans will find Democrats comfortable in jeans and boots. In the West, we can find Democrats able to speak plainly in the language of real America. ... And in all 50 states, a Western candidate would signal a fresh start.
Sure, the Marshall Plan includes a new orientation on cultural issues, but the problem isn't the cultural issue. Rather, it's culture. The national standard bearers for our party are too Eastern, too prep-school, too brie and chablis, too damn Washington D.C.
Give me a candidate in boots and jeans, a candidate who speaks plain English, a candidate who can connect with real Americans... and I'll show you a candidate who not only wins the West, but in West Virginia, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, and even Virginia.
Your Personal Note:
"The national standard bearers for our party are too Eastern, too prep-school, too brie and chablis, too damn Washington D.C." You're a poet and didn't even know it.
When Clinton ran in 92 and 96 he was able to pick up a handful of interior Western states. Montana, Colorado, Nevada and NM in 92 and Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada in 1996. His appeal in the West was likely because he understood if not Western issues, but rather rural ones, that Democrats from the Northeast could not touch.
I agree that the opposite direction is true, that by focussing on the West, rather than the South, we can pick up votes in the rural plains, the Midwest and maybe even the South. The West has been ignored by the Democratic Party for decades, why not start ignoring other parts of the country instead?
Posted by: Emmett O'Connell | Dec 21, 2004 7:55:09 AM
What, the DLC doesn't get it?
I think they do get it but realize their goal is make sure their clients, er I mean donors, have their corporate agenda's ensured before campaigns begin.
We can win in the West, but the populist and individualist focus needed is fundamentally at odds with the DLC.
Posted by: Blogswarm | Dec 21, 2004 10:36:31 AM
I noticed the report on the DLC website, but have yet to pick it up. Even if the report doesn't quite mesh with the thoughts in this forum, it is nice to see that there is at least one faction of the party that is inclined to focus on the west as part of a new strategy.
I'd quibble slightly with you Blogswarm on the notion that the DLC is fundamentally at odds with populist or individualist focus. While the third way/centrist style is certainly not classic liberalism, it is not so far off from progressive values that it should be discounted because of the source of some of its support. The DLC has been an easy target lately, but I don't think it would be wise to scapegoat them and think we've solved our problems.
Posted by: Tim Mooney | Dec 21, 2004 12:35:08 PM
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(and yes, we know that sometimes they're very, very wrong. Other times, they're right on.)