There was a backlash of populism building in the country.
But if Kerry's foot was stuck in his mouth, if Hillary was unelectable, Obama untested, Vilsack a nobody and Bayh a suitable supermarket manager at best -- how could it also be that John Edwards, who had shown promise in his own blue-collar presidential campaign of 2004, was offering little more than bedtime cliches to a world gone mad?
And yet there he was up onstage at the Carter Center last Friday night, sharing his own version of It Takes a Village to an already disgruntled crowd.
"Home is not about houses," the former North Carolina senator intoned. "It's about the environment in which we grew up."
It looked like it was going to be a broken play. Then a man stepped up to the microphone a little later and told Edwards he doubted his daughter would inherit a world better than the one in which he was raised -- and the old Edwards was back.
When he ran for president in 2004, John Edwards used to talk about "two
Americas." One for the rich and well connected. And one for everybody else.
In the aftermath of 9-11, enough voters still trembling with images of the
collapsing World Trade Center didn't know if the affable one-term senator
with TV-sitcom good looks had the foreign-policy gravitas to secure America.
But on the way to giving the presidential nod to globe-trotting war hero
John Kerry, Democratic voters also made it clear they liked Edwards
enough to keep hearing him all the way up to the end of the primary, when
Gephardt, Dean, Graham and Clark had already bowed out.
They also felt there was enough alarming blueblood aloofness and Yale
stodginess in Kerry to warrant the selection on the ticket of someone who
could credibly feel America's pain, the way Clinton could, for example.
So they went with son-of-a-mill-worker Edwards in the No. 2 slot, and
it seemed like a good fit.
Kerry was foreign policy. Edwards was domestic policy. Kerry had killed in
combat. Edwards fought the good fight in the courtroom. Kerry was Northeast.
Edwards was the South.
It looked perfect -- until they lost.
People can draw plenty of lessons from last week's election.
I've got one for congressional Republicans: Reality catches up with you.
Did you really believe the slogans and bumper stickers you plastered us with all these years amounted to some infallible governing philosophy? Did you really think every idea cooked up by you and your campaign contributors would solve America's problems? Did you really think nobody would notice that your luxury junkets and snuggly relations with lobbyists amounted to corruption?
Most of all, did you actually convince yourself that a foreign policy based on the principle of shoot-first-ask-questions-later would make us more friends than enemies?
Sooner or later, reality catches up with you.
It may be too late for congressional Republicans to understand that. Demographic changes and the bad taste George W. has left in our mouths may have soured most Americans on those guys for a generation.
But Georgia Republicans might do well to heed last week's lesson. They've been busy congratulating themselves for running over the already-dead possum that was the Georgia Democratic Party. They shouldn't get too comfortable.
As this week's CL cover story by John Sugg and Max Pizarro makes clear, this state faces major challenges over the next few years, ranging from schools and traffic to taxes and water. But Republicans managed to win their mandate without articulating much in the way of solutions for those very problems.
The plan most GOP lawmakers seem to gravitate toward for fixing Atlanta's transportation woes amounts to little more than a gravy train for campaign-contributing road builders. Health care? Everybody will get health insurance if we just unloose the power of the free market (yeah, right). Taxes? Cut away! And so on.
But, Republicans, beware. Someday, Georgians will notice that Johnny can't read, can't get to where he wants to go, is getting thirsty and can't afford to go to the hospital. And who knows? That could be the same day Democrats have finally gotten their act together. Like I say, reality catches up with you. Then, it bites back.
At least one tom-tom drum has started on the Internet, tapping out a pumped-up "Sonny for President" beat. Of course, a reaction like this was inevitable given Gov. Sonny Perdue's annihilation of Democratic challenger Mark Taylor on Election Day. As GOP stars lay vanquished elsewhere -- Santorum, Allen, Hayworth, Pombo, Burns -- Georgia Republicans found themselves at the epicenter of a significant party victory. They looked up and saw Sonny standing there, smiling calmly in the midst of the rest of the country's madness. "It's gonna be all right." He was even more than avuncular now. He was the hometown champion being inflated and inflated by a roomful of Westin revelers to a size bigger than the bad news almost everywhere else. As Perdue welcomed victory, even as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi clasped hands and raised their own arms in triumph, Georgia reasserted itself as the ideological opposite of New York City and San Francisco. And if Schumer and Pelosi would drag this good country down, who better to place it on his shoulders come 2008 than Sonny?
-- Max Pizarro
At last week's Political Party talk show, state Sen. Sam Zamarripa, one of the General Assembly's few Hispanic members, reiterated one of the many nuggets of conventional wisdom that emerged during this election year: Immigration was used as a wedge issue.
But the issue sort of fizzled in the home stretch of this year's midterm elections.
Now, congressional Democrats are expected to pass their own version of comprehensive immigration reform during the first half of 2007. And even though Republicans won most of Georgia's statewide races, Democratic incumbent congressmen won two key downstate contests in which Republicans tried to pin them with the soft-on-immigration label.
Even more significantly, the Hispanic vote may have provided the edge in those two races. In both Georgia's 8th and 12th congressional districts, the margins between the incumbents and their Republican challengers were far smaller than are the numbers of registered Hispanic voters in those districts.
There are 9,505 registered Hispanic voters in District 8 and 6,426 in District 12. Rep. Jim Marshall beat Mac Collins in District 8 by 1,750 votes, and Rep. John Barrow beat Max Burns by 930 votes (the Barrow numbers may change in a recount, but he's currently the presumed victor).
It couldn't have hurt Marshall and Barrow that advocacy groups such as the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials led voter-registration drives within the Hispanic community and mobilized voters in cities such as Augusta, Savannah and Macon, which include parts of the two districts.
Do the two Democrats owe their re-elections -- at least in part -- to Hispanic voters? And was this an early sign of the emerging Latin vote in Georgia?
The Republicans won a fight on Election Day in Georgia, but there's another fight going on in the emergency rooms and clinics and on the streets and apartments where poor women and children can't pay for health care -- even when Medicaid supposedly covers them.
If they can't get coverage for X-rays or CT scans, they're on the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus' radar screen anyway. This is a situation that's been building, with numbers of discontented marchers swelling down at the Capitol in the last few months.
Inside, they're starting to hear those voices.
Amid disastrous statewide results, there are a handful of signs that Georgia Democrats aren't dead:
These are silver wisps in the dark clouds hanging over the Georgia Democratic Party. What can the Democrats do to become competitive in Georgia?
Even as their fellow Dems in much of the rest of the country were still recovering from exuberant hangovers, Georgia stalwarts sat on a stage in Dad's Garage Wednesday night and tried to figure out what was left of that deflated blue eminence called the Georgia Democratic Party. They were making the best of it certainly: Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta; Rep. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta; Tim Cairl of Georgians for Democracy; and Sen. Sam Zamarripa, D-Atlanta, in a Creative Loafing Political Party hosted by Senior Editor John Sugg.
Orrock said she didn't see Tuesday night as an overwhelming victory for Georgia Republicans so much as a thumbs-up for incumbents. She noted the re-election of three statewide Democratic officers: Attorney General Thurbert Baker, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond and Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. And, of course, she emphasized the Republican smash-up at the national level, where Democrats won control of the U.S. House and Senate, and pounded on ideologues such as Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Sen. George Allen, R-Va.
"There was a repudiation of that hard-line stuff last night," Orrock said. "Is that going to roll down here and permeate the consciousness down here?"
Orrock is hopeful.
So is Zamarripa, who suggested the Republicans had essentially gorged themselves into submission at the national level, and overreached on issues such as illegal immigration. The latter may have worked as a wedge issue for Georgia Republicans on Tuesday, but it will eventually undo them, he said.
A discussion with Rep. Tyrone Brooks; Sen. Sam Zamarripa; Creative Loafing's Senior Editor, and host, John Sugg; Tim Cairl, President of Georgia for Democracy; and Sen. Nan Orrock.
Listen to the show:
More photos here.
Photographs by Alejandro Leal
By Pamela Smithson
The crowd, a significantly older demographic than last monthÕs Political Party, waits with anticipation for the panelists to enter stage and for the discussion to begin. Sen. Nan Orrock, Rep. Tyrone Brooks, Sen. Sam Zamarripa, and Tim Cairl, president of Georgia for Democracy, take their seats as the audience applauds their presence.
Host John Sugg refers to the recent election results as Òthe tidal wave that swept the nation.Ó The nation now has a Democratic House and Senate, but this didnÕt change much in Georgia. Will these progressive changes influence Georgia, once a state on the forefront of progressive politics? Georgia was one of the last states to go Republican. Will it now be one of the last to Democratic?
Sugg mentions rumors of Zamarripa planning to run for mayor, which the senator quickly dispels as false information. Zamarripa feels the growth of Atlanta will lead to significant dynamics that call for a new cast of individuals. The discussion turns toward the Democratic Party in general and why it is losing ground in Georgia. ÒWe are behind the curve in Georgia,Ó says Orrock. ÒIt was not a night for Republicans, it was a night for incumbents.Ó Democrats held all incumbent seats but one.
Brooks speaks up regarding Mark Taylor, the Democratic candidate for governor. ÒWas he the best choice?Ó Sugg inquires. Brooks states, ÒWeÕll prepare now for Õ08 and move on. What the Democratic Party has to do is begin to organize from the ground up.Ó They all agree that it takes money.
CairlÕs organization, Georgia for Democracy, tries to bring more progressive candidates to the forefront and puts in a concerted effort in getting the Democratic coalitions back together. Sugg points out that Cairl started college as a Republican. ÒHow do we reach young Republicans?Ó Sugg asks. ÒItÕs like trying to get someone to go to a 12-step program,Ó Cairl says jokingly. He then explains that Democrats have to talk to them. He says the Republican campaigns he worked on were Òsterile machine politics,Ó and felt the values of the Democratic Party matched his own.
The topic of immigration and the reform bill we will see in early Ô07 is mentioned. ÒHow should Democrats respond to the predicament?Ó Sugg poses. Republicans have run out of steam, Zamarripa replies; they stripped themselves from the Latino vote. ÒThe Hispanics that are voting are young and educated. They are angry about the way people treated their parents É Democrats have got to break the mold.Ó
The panelists agree that the formula Taylor used in the election didnÕt work. An audience member mentions how Howard Dean brought in Democratic candidates that didnÕt appear as Democrats to run, and they won. They all agree that DeanÕs bold tactics work. Brooks mentions, ÒNot all of us are going to come out of the same mold.Ó Different tactics work in different areas. Some Democrats have left the party because itÕs Òtoo black, too many women activists, and too many minorities.Ó How does the party get them back and do they want them back?
Another audience member believes that the party should focus on getting already registered voters to vote before encouraging unregistered voters to register. Brooks thinks that negative advertising suppresses voter turn out. Cairl indicates that people want security when voting. The panelists agree that a new strategy is in order to regain Democratic support. ÒWeÕve got to be smart as Democrats,Ó says Brooks, ÒWeÕve got to come together.Ó
The future of the Democratic Party is uncertain. One thing, however, is certain: Politicians love to talk.
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