Stanley B. Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and a co-founder of Democracy Corps. He is a co-editor of The New Majority: Toward a Popular Progressive Politics, published by Yale University Press.
The first time I met Nelson Mandela was in 1993. I had been invited to give a strategy workshop, with Frank Greer, to 80 African National Congress campaign organizers. As Frank and I mounted a small stage to begin our presentation, Mandela eagerly took his place in the front row. When we finished, Mandela raised his hand to ask the first question: “Mr. Greer and Mr. Greenberg, in your vast experience with modern campaigns and President Clinton, is it better to have a low building with functions spread out across a few big floors or to have a tall building with functions on each of many floors?”
Today's presidential candidates navigate a partisan landscape strikingly more Democratic than that in 2004 and even 2006. Poll after poll confirms the president's low job approval and the public's contempt for the Republican Party. For the first time since 1989, the Pew poll shows a majority of voters now call themselves Democrats, and polling for Democracy Corps (of which I'm a co-founder) shows a Democratic advantage that's grown even larger since the 2006 election.
The story of the Democratic Party crisis begins in Macomb County, north of the Detroit City line -- and in Northeast Philadelphia, Cobb County near Atlanta, California's San Fernando Valley, and numerous other working- and middle-class neighborhoods across the country. These were the homes of loyal Democrats: people who felt at ease in a diverse, bottom-up, majority coalition that used politics and government to advance the interests of working people. But here we find alienated voters today with little good to say about politics or Democrats.
I heard those disaffected voices in Macomb County in 1985, when
Stanley B. Greenberg's Fall 1991 article, “From Crisis to Working Majority,” was widely considered a key manifesto for the 1992 Clinton campaign. Bob Woodward reported that Bill Clinton said he had read it three times.
On the eve of Bill Clinton's announced candidacy for president, I reviewed a wave of provocative books about the “deepening crisis of the Democratic Party.” With Michael Dukakis' hapless campaign as backdrop, the books described a party of taxes and big government, entrapped by special interests, perhaps condemned to a permanent minority status.