So the Democrats are having trouble with the politics of cultural traditionalism? So what else is new?
To be sure, the gap in the electorate between the observant and the secular is widening. But it's just one part of a larger cultural rift that the Republicans have long realized (as far back as Richard Nixon) is central to their success. Since Nixon's announcement that he stood with the “silent majority” against the noisy protesters, the Republicans have practiced a form of identity politics, championing the more traditional culture of Middle America against its putative cosmopolitan threats. Indeed, magnifying those threats has become the linchpin of the Republicans' presidential-election strategy.
-- William Butler Yeats, “The Circus Animals' Desertion”
Once more, the theme of themelessness. Cover the Democrats for any length of time and you become expert in campaigns that don't seem to be about anything. They have policies; Democrats are good at policies. But all too often the campaigns lack a message -- a sense of what the candidate's about and what he aims to do.
What's most dispiriting about last night's loss (I am assuming here that John Kerry will lose Ohio, though I'd dearly love to be proven wrong) is that the Democrats did a lot of things right in this year's campaign. They nominated the strongest candidate in their primary field. They waged the smartest, best funded, and most effective ground campaign in their history. They were more unified than they've been since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 run against Barry Goldwater. And they got their clock cleaned.
With Election Day almost upon us, it's not clear whether President Bush is running a campaign or plotting a coup d'etat. By all accounts, Republicans are spending these last precious days devoting nearly as much energy to suppressing the Democratic vote as they are to mobilizing their own.
Time was when Republicans were at least embarrassed by their efforts to keep African Americans from the polls. Republican consultant Ed Rollins was all but drummed out of the profession after his efforts to pay black ministers to keep their congregants from voting in a 1993 New Jersey election came to light.