The failure of John Kerry to secure the presidency marks a dark time for the Democratic party. Though George W. Bush had the advantage of being an incumbent during a time of war, he also has record deficits, a polarized electorate, and increasing failures in the aforementioned war. Though John Kerry came close, falling shy just 18 electoral votes of the presidency, he did not come close enough. The failure to secure any Southern state, the loss of Florida and Ohio, and the razor thin margins of victory in the northern mid-west states should provoke serious soul-searching within the Democratic party. So too should the Republicans consider the trouncing they received in the western coastal states and the northeast. Neither party managed to reach beyond its base and communicate with the entirety of the American public.
For Democrats, it may be dispiriting to have lost the presidential election but this is not a time to despair. The electoral losses of John Kerry and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle open the door for the party to find new leadership. No one factor led these men to lose, but it is clear that both men suffered from a startling lack of vision. Whether one admires or loathes President Bush, it is clear he has a vision for America. What vision have the Democrats offered since Clinton except “we’re not Bush”? The Democrats showed in this election that they can match Republican fund-raising and get-out-the-vote operations. Now, they need to concentrate on presenting a clear and compelling vision for the future of this country. It is possible the economy, Iraq, health care, the war on terror, or any number of other issues may become problematic for President Bush in his second term. The response of Democrats should not be simply to criticize but to offer up solutions and present a positive vision for the future. Otherwise, they will lose in 2006 and 2008 just as they did in 2002 and 2004.
As for the Republicans, they feel rightfully vindicated to have a President who has been elected both by the electoral college and by the popular vote. Though no change in leadership will happen as such, a change of tactics should. The increasing polarization should be of great concern to Republicans despite their recent victories-if current demographic trends continue, the southwestern states will soon be full of large numbers of Hispanics who, despite Bush’s inroads, still tend to vote largely Democratic. Furthermore, controlling Congress may be better than not controlling it, but remaining in power too long opens up the risk for corruption and stagnation. The Democrats, during their multi-decade stretch of controlling the House, became complacent in enacting major policies or reforms during the 70s and 80s. Republicans, having controlled the House for over a decade now, are running into similar complacency, forgetting about their focus on state rights and fiscal responsibility in favor of far reaching laws and rising government expenditures in the face of tax cuts. Republicans, proponents of a competitive free market, now have a monopoly and should stifle the urge to engage in the excesses typical of monopolies lest they forget the vision that so appealed to their constituents and secured their victory in the first place.