I never expected a post on an obscure Corpus Christi legislative race (See “Split Decision,” below) to generate so many comments. The anger of Democrats boiled over at my suggestion that the Republicans could win the seat in the heavily Democratic district due to a split in the Democratic party, as well as my observation that Democratic lawmakers had shunned Vilma Luna, a Democratic supporter of Republican speaker Tom Craddic. Her resignation in July left the seat vacant. This letter was particularly vitriolic:

Anonymous said…
Democrats running conservatives off ? Yeah, and they took all of their white hoods with them, along with a kick in the a…. The story here should be how the Rs steal elections and power. But we’re talking about Burka, right. If 2000 wasn’t stolen from African American and elderly Jewish voters, it was stolen by a fascist Supreme Court. The same in Ohio, 2004. Democrats are right to kick red (state) a..h..e Lieberman out. They define themselves by doing so. Not until we equal the R’s tactics, lower ourselves to their standard, will we win.


As I see it, the author’s sentiments represent the exact reason why the Democratic party has not been able to return to power. I posted a response in the comments to my original item, which I am going to reproduce here:

Paul Burka said…
The anonymous author above has made the case better than I ever could of the fundamental problem facing the Democratic Party. He believes the Democrats are losing because the Republicans steal elections and because the Supreme Court is fascist. As long as Democrats feel this way, they will continue to lose.

I have a good friend who blames the Republican media machine–Rush, Fox News, Ann Coulter–for the Democrats’ plight. This is silly. The Republicans aren’t winning because Rush and the rest have large media followings; Rush et al have large media followings because the Republicans are winning. This is an era in which conservatism is ascendant.

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 triggered a great shift in American politics. Whether you consider him merely an actor or the most successful of the postwar era, his election marked the beginning of the end of the Democratic domination of American politics that spanned 1932-1980. In the years leading to Reagan’s election, the Republicans poured out new ideas like supply side economics (to name one). Often the ideas were controversial, but think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and others enabled the Republicans to grab the intellectual initiative, as the Populists did for the left in 1896 and Berle, Croley, Dewey, Galbraith, and others did in the years leading up to the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and the long and productive Democratic hegemony that followed.

These great intellectual shifts occur rarely in American history, and when they do occur, their impact is seismic: One was the rise of Jeffersonianism in 1796-1800 that proved to be the death knell for the Federalists; one was the rise of the Republican party in 1860, which ended America’s long debate over slavery and exiled the Democratic party from power for all but a handful of the next 72 years; one was the Great Depression and the subsequent rise of the welfare state in 1932, which exiled Republicans from power; and then Reagan ushered in the cycle we now live in.

The current Republican era has not spent its course. Democrats who blame Bush and Cheney and Rove and the neocons and the talk radio hosts and the Supreme Court miss the point: It’s the zeitgeist, stupid.The Democrats will not return to power until they understand and accept what has happened to them, just as the Republicans could not return to power until they accepted the New Deal, as Eisenhower and Nixon and Reagan did. I don’t think the Democrats are close to understanding or accepting. As long as Democrats believe that Rush and Fox News are fooling the American people, and that the Republicans stole two presidential elections, the Democrats will not be capable of winning. Only when they accept that what the Republicans really stole was the intellectual initiative, and that Democrats have to look to the future rather than whining about the past or the present–or the president–can the Democratic party hope to regain its majority status.