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  xThursday, December 05, 2002

(continued from the previous post)

And:
This activist approach to government is very popular and should be just as big selling point for the Democrats now as it was then. While social dislocation and unemployment is nothing close to what it was in the 30's and the War on Some Terror Funded by Some People (none of whom happen to be Saudi) pales in comparison to WWII, the public today is still quite anxious. A factory employee, a middle manager, even a professional doesn't know for sure that his job will be there in a year. If it's not, he doesn't know for sure he'll be able to replace it. He doesn't know if his kids will find good jobs when they graduate college; nor does he know what the world will be like in even a few years. This leads to a lot of anxiety, and elections will go to those who act to calm it and are willing to take steps to make things better. If both parties pretend the anxiety doesn't exist, then elections will go to the party willing to promise the biggest bribes to the most people(and that's usually the party that wants to cut taxes the most). [Note: And, I should add, Democrats need to never let up on the theme that Republican policies don't do a single blessed thing to help.]

The second thing in people's minds that FDR spoke to was a sense of powerlessness in the face of the forces controlling events, sometimes these were the market forces which caused the Great Depression, sometimes they were world events spinning out of control. This, too, is still a powerful emotion today, though there are obviously different things driving it.

Whoever reliably sticks up for those that have little power on their own will win elections. Given their unwillingness to face down corporate donors over economic issues and their unwillingness to do more than slavishly follow George Bush on foreign affairs, the Democrats shouldn't be surprised to see Bush fairly popular. At least he seems willing to stick up for them against terrorists (even though he's dishonest as hell about where the true threat lies).

Speaking for those who feel anxious and those who feel powerless was the true source of FDR's coalition, much more than simply listing its members ethnicities and incomes. That is the sort of coaltion the Democrats should be rebuilding. Give them policies which try to address (rather than just stoke) their anxieties and which give them a collective voice in events they're powerless to affect alone, and you'll win the support of most Americans. Stoking fears without offering solutions and hoping people vote based solely on ethnic identity is sure not to.