8/28/2005

DLC: Heartland Strategy by Will Marshall

There's just no way around it: Democrats have to be competitive in every region of the country to be a true national party, and they have to win more states to have any hope of consolidating a durable governing majority in the future.

DLC | Blueprint Magazine | December 13, 2004 - Heartland Strategy

Democrats can't be a national party if they cede all of red America to the GOP. They must compete in the heartland. Here's how they can do it.

By Will Marshall

Table of Contents

Poring over the 2004 electoral map has been a deflating experience for Democrats, what with all that red splashed across the nation's vast interior. But cartography need not be destiny -- not if Democrats finally get serious about rolling back the GOP's scarlet tide in America's heartland.

Just as Republicans pursued a Southern strategy in the late 1960s, Democrats should craft a heartland strategy that targets winnable states in the South, the lower Midwest, and the Rocky Mountain West. At the very least, a heartland strategy would wreak havoc behind enemy lines. Done right, it could help end the Democrats' cultural estrangement from their natural constituency -- the working middle class -- and start bringing them back home.

A Democratic heartland strategy would build on the Kerry campaign's big advantages on economic and domestic issues like health care; tap growing public discontent with a big-spending, debt-laden federal government controlled entirely by Republicans; offer a distinctly Democratic alternative on national security; and challenge the GOP's claim to be the party of moral and family values.

Some Democrats have called for a less ambitious strategy that writes off large chunks of red America, specifically the South and the Great Plains. They would concentrate instead on the Southwest, with its large Latino population and burgeoning metropolitan centers. Their electoral math works, but just barely.

For example, if Democrats spot their opponents the 11 states of the old Confederacy, they'd have to win 70 percent of the nation's remaining electoral votes to capture the White House. That leaves an awfully thin margin of error. And given that one-third of the nation's voters live in the South, it means Democrats would be likely to lose the popular vote even if they eked out a victory in the Electoral College, not to mention ceding the Republicans permanent control of Congress.

There's just no way around it: Democrats have to be competitive in every region of the country to be a true national party, and they have to win more states to have any hope of consolidating a durable governing majority in the future.

DLC: Heartland Strategy by Will Marshall

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