Friday, November 12, 2004

Rise of the New City-State

You wouldn't know it for all the rumors flying around, but the 2004 Presidential Election is over. And to our great relief, we got to know the results by something not far from the Election Night itself.

Along with the clear majority President Bush claimed in this election (his tally crossed sixty million votes today), there have been many posts about "Bush Country", showing the huge advantage Bush has, not only in States won but also by Counties led. But the results show another message, one both parties should heed.

In ancient Greece, power was held by city-states. Small wonder; each city not only represented a focus of military power, but also a center for commerce and art and learning. To read Plato or Socrates, you could easily conclude that no one lived anywhere in Greece, except for cities like Sparta or Athens, but there were a lot of people, in small villages and the like; they just got ignored by the sophisticates. Sound familiar? For all the talk of the heart of Democracy, however, in Greece it amounted to mob rule, and the Greek despots knew how to control large mobs in large cities, and so gain power through manipulation of the masses. A lot of people who think themselves wise in their support for pure Democracy, have never thought through the wisdom of a Democratic Republic, where the whole of the nation, geographically as well as in population, is considered in the administration of power. Alexander Hamilton and George Washington were wiser here, than were Al Gore or Terry McAuliffe.

In the Presidential election just concluded, President Bush took 31 states to Kerry's 19 (Kerry also took D.C.) , but as many have noted, the majority for Bush is much more pronounced when the counties are examined. But it goes even further than that. Take a look at the major cities, and Kerry's strong suit becomes obivous. Kerry took New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit for example, and was strong in Bush states in cities like Miami, Austin, Columbus and Las Vegas. There is a point of demarcation; above a certain concentration or urban development, the Democrat message gains appeal, and where populations are less concentrated, the Republican message is strongly favored.

At first look, some Republicans may be inclined to shrug and note, that since Bush won the election, it's more a problem for the Democrats, and to a degree that's true. If the Democrats don't start listening to the people in the whole country, they will have committed themselves to second-tier as a political party, occasionally taking the White House but gradually fading to irrelevance. Since the Democrats in the main are unwilling to take the hard look at their recent losses (2000, 2002, now 2004), this is a bad situation for them. But Republicans need to be aware of a weak spot for them, signified by their weak results in major cities. Note also that this aligns with minority results; the question is whether poor support from minorities hurts Republicans in large cities, whether the rejection by large cities causes minority results to be low (since minorities still mainly live in cities, rather than in small towns), or some combination of each.

There has been extensive polling throughout this election year, and the information taken can be very useful. Americans have consistently said the top 4 issues in this election were Terrorism, the War in Iraq, the Economy in General, or Jobs in Particular. John Kerry gained by making the War in Iraq an issue, and by questioning Job Security during Bush's first term. Kerry also gained for a while in the Economy overall, but Bush was able to regain much of his losses there. The strongest suits for Bush, the War on Terrorism and National Security in the wake of 9/11, were not only important to all Americans, but Kerry's poor explanation of his plans in those issues hurt him badly. It could fairly be said, that except for 9/11 Kerry could have won this election. That should warn Republicans to pay attention to domestic and economic issues before planning on 2006 or 2008.

As for the Democrats, their solution may be amazingly simple, or nearly impossible. If I were in charge of the Democratic strategy for a Presidential campaign, I would take copious notes from the Clinton campaigns, especially 1996. First off, Bill Clinton had a lot of things working for him in 1992, but one very smart move, was he stayed away from attacking the President he was trying to beat. Every winning President does that. Next, Bill Clinton was careful to note his strengths and weaknesses, and to avoid calling attention to the opponent's strengths or his weaknesses. In the case of Kerry, he did exactly the opposite. It's very possible, that the Democrat's nominee for President in 2008, can win by just learning to go in through the door, not to attack walls. Of course, it could also be that Kerry was facing other opposing factors, not so obvious, and if that is the case, nothing but a complete review and reformation of the Democratic Party will be enough. The evidence for that lies in the way that Republicans took the White House in 2000 in time of peace and prosperity, against a VP in a popular Administration, and in 2002 against the normal historical flow of mid-term elections, and again in 2004 under conditions which have historically ended other Administrations. I like George W. Bush, but he's not articulate or charming enough to explain his streak of wins like that. That suggests an underlying strength for the GOP/weakness in the Democrats that is not immediately obvious.

A lot more looking is in order. For now, though, I would suggest to Republicans to consider tailoring an urban message to win some of those cities, and the Democrats need to take some bitter medicine, and listen to the people in those red states and counties, no matter how much they may hate what they learn.

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