What exactly are traditional republican values
The failure of the conformist
Election campaigns emphasize differences. And so the impression can arise that with John Kerry, in the context of a culturally extremely polarized America, an entire worldview has clearly lost, and as if the democrats now have to apologize to a people in the fields of morality, values and religion, apparently so "ticks" quite differently than the leading forces in this party. Indeed, the first strategists are already advising to orientate oneself more strongly towards the values of the American "heartland".
Big bonus - small head start
But first, the impression of a total defeat is wrong! Second, a strategy based on "traditional" values would not only be utterly wrong for the Democrats, it would be a tragedy for America and the world. George W. Bush has achieved a clear but not overwhelming victory: if you consider that incumbents usually enjoy a large bonus in times of crisis and especially in the context of external threats, his lead is comparatively small. And in presidential elections, the president's party "swims" on the president's bonus (so-called coattails). In the mid-term elections in 2006, however, the Democrats in Congress were able to catch up a little, especially because the party-political reorientation in the south is now almost complete.
Democrats stronger in the battle of ideas
The New Deal in the 1930s began a decades-long dominance of the Democratic Party, which had proven more capable of dealing with the great economic crisis. But until the 1970s, the Democrats not only put most presidents and, for decades, the congressional majorities, no, their Keynesian economic and welfare state policy was also hegemonic: it was not fundamentally questioned by Republican Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon either. The Republican Right attacked these presidents as "Me-Too" candidates, that is, those who did not offer an "alternative, but only an echo" of democratic politics on fundamental issues. Republicans could occasionally win presidential elections, thanks in part to the Republicans' great financial advantage from business and upper class donations, but not the "clash of ideas".
Tradition, Values and Racism
Since the 1960s at the latest, the right within the Republican Party has been working to work out fundamental alternatives intellectually and to form a social movement that could be the bearer of a majority policy. With the Christian Right, which in 1976 still had a majority vote for the Democrat Jimmy Carter, this social movement was permanently established from 1980 onwards. The strategic recipe with which the democratic electoral coalition could be divided had already been drawn up: traditional values, peppered with a dose of racism. The fear of lower-class white voters that the blacks would experience real integration through the welfare state and civil rights-friendly policies of the Democrats was great enough that they began to vote against their economic interests for the American party of the higher earners - the Republicans. The Democratic South gradually became the Republican, and the growing suburbs were increasingly competitive. And that, although it was precisely the economically liberal politics of the Republicans that intensified social inequality and insecurity, which were often the trigger for fears that were then expressed culturally or even racially.
Religion instead of wealth
In the 1980s, the Democrats not only lost their structural majority, but above all their authority to interpret in the battle of ideas. Supply-oriented, business-friendly policies should now ensure that everyone is better off. This clearly did not succeed, but the structural change associated with this policy and the globalization processes has put the majority of American employees in a worse position. In their insecurity, intensified since 9/11 by the external threat (it was also cleverly instrumentalized by the government), low-wage earners and people with a low level of education are turning to the apparent security of traditional values, especially faith. Such religious revival movements have occurred again and again in the USA, mostly in the context of extensive social change.
Kerry and Clinton: "Me-Too" Candidates
One can only speculate whether John Kerry could have done anything other than a "me-too" policy after 9/11: I am also a good patriot, a hero in fact. I also believe in god. I can protect you from terrorism too. I also believe in the market and the tax cuts for everyone (except the very rich). I'm your buddy too, etc. And in fact he was less of a "Me-Too" candidate than the "New Democrat" Bill Clinton, who mainly implemented Republican policies (free trade, welfare state reform) and thus made a significant contribution to that the Democratic Party with its combination of economically and culturally liberal politics has distanced itself from the interests of the citizens.
Kerry narrowly lost and the presidency might even have earned him more deaths in Iraq and / or more unemployed. But what could he really have done (or wanted to)? How much of Kerry's "Me-Tooism" was just tactic, how much was it an expression of Republican sovereignty and political hegemony?
Long-term strategy required
The Democrats should be concerned with more than the occasional presidency. Anyone who advises now to catch up with the Republicans in the area of traditional values fails to recognize the possibility - and also the necessity - of a long-term strategy to shift the fundamental balance of power in the country again. So what really matters is to learn from the Republicans, not in terms of content, but strategically. The Republicans have not been satisfied with occasionally winning presidential elections, but have formulated a powerful alternative in terms of content and socially formed it. What exactly a strengthened secular social democratic movement could look like is unclear today in view of the heterogeneous and only in the rejection of Bush's some democratic electoral coalition. It is clear, however, that such a project must include a political offer for those layers that are not currently involved in the political process. In the US there are 35 million working poor - people who are below the poverty line despite working full-time, over 45 million people without health insurance and many millions more who are underinsured. A mobilization of these layers, which disproportionately do not vote, could also change the calculation of parts of the evangelical republican "polyester faction", even in the south.
Global New Deal as a goal
Today such a secular social democratic project can no longer stop at the borders of the country. Just as the New Deal developed a model function in the context of the Cold War, at least for the Western world, a Global New Deal would have to contain an offer for disadvantaged regions worldwide. Ultimately, it is the extreme social inequality and the humiliation associated with it that form the breeding ground for terrorism, which, in turn, produces the feelings of insecurity that are decisive for the election in the USA, which today are "processed" through aggressive foreign policy, domestic policy hostile to civil rights and the turn to supposed religious securities become.
Bad copy risk
The Global New Deal project is unlikely to win the 2006 or 2008 elections (unless the Bush administration does the Democrats a favor by taking an extremely socially conservative course or steering the country into economic or foreign policy disaster), but it opens up a strategic perspective. If, on the other hand, the Democratic Party continues to adapt to the Republican hegemony, the question remains for many: Why choose a copy when the original is available - or why choose at all?
Dr. Thomas Greven is a research fellow at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University of Berlin. In September 2004 he published the book "The Republicans. Anatomy of an American Party".
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