President George W. Bush has won another four years in office. Even before the declaration of his victory, however, Nicholas Kristof had written in the New York Times how the Democratic Party was let down by the very people it was supposed to help.
In the aftermath of the civil war that the United States has just fought, one result is clear: The Democratic Party's first priority should be to reconnect with the American heartland... Mr John Kerry's supporters...should be feeling wretched about the millions of farmers, factory workers and waitresses who ended up voting -- utterly against their own interests -- for Republicans.The Democrats' handling of specific issues often score well with the more educated Americans who can understand the complexities of their arguments. However, the rest of the country have trouble understanding these arguments and thus will not be impressed.
One of the Republican Party's major successes over the past few decades has been to persuade many of the working poor to vote for tax breaks for billionaires. Democrats are still effective on bread-and-butter issues such as health care, but they come across in much of America as arrogant and out of touch the moment the discussion shifts to values... To put it another way, Democrats peddle issues, and Republicans sell values...
"The Republicans are smarter," mused Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat. "They've created...these social issues to get the public to stop looking at what's happening to them economically. What we once thought -- that people would vote in their economic self-interest -- is not true, and we Democrats haven't figured out how to deal with that."
To appeal to middle America, Democratic leaders do not need to carry guns to church services and shoot grizzlies on the way. But a starting point would be to shed their inhibitions about talking about faith, and to work more with religious groups. Otherwise, the Democratic Party's efforts to improve the lives of working-class Americans in the long run will be blocked by the very people the Democrats aim to help.
This is a reminder of the well known flaw in democracy that people often don't know what is best for them. This makes it difficult for them to effectively exercise their right to vote.
Education, information, freedom of speech -- these are all prerequisites for a properly-functioning democracy. It appears that even in the United States -- the richest and most advanced nation on Earth -- not all of these prerequisites are fully met.