His long piece in Commentary is worth reading. Much of it many of us probably already know, but there are a number of interesting nuggets.
Here’s a sample:
The most trenchant if also the most revealing postmortem was offered by Andrei Cherny, who had worked for Kerry as a speechwriter in 2003. “What we don’t have and what we sorely need,” Cherny said, is “a worldview that makes a thematic argument about where America is headed and where we want to take it.”
This sounds exactly right, but Cherny was unable to suggest what that worldview might be. In this sense, the Democrats were lucky in 2004 that the news from Iraq seemed so bad. Despite Kerry’s incoherence on the subject, voters unhappy about the situation understandably held it against Bush, thus diminishing the Republican advantage on national-security issues. But that advantage held nevertheless; it goes back to the Democrats’ dovish turn during Vietnam, and is not likely to disappear soon. Neither is the Democrats’ deficit on “moral values.” The label may have been a new invention of the pollsters, but (as I have already indicated) the same constellation of issues has been around for a long time. It was called “family values” in the 1990’s, “social issues” in the 1980’s, and “the three A’s” (amnesty, abortion, and acid) in the 1970’s. Whatever the name, these issues, too, have consistently worked to the advantage of the Republicans. A large share of voters always calls itself “conservative,” and it is their feelings on these matters in particular that make them so.
The Democrats’ answer to all this has taken the form of an appeal to economic issues and a defense of the social safety net. There is reason to believe that this is an asset of diminishing worth. It was observed long ago that man does not live by bread alone; as the country has grown steadily wealthier, with fewer individuals facing insecurity over basic necessities, it should not be surprising that economic factors come to figure lower in voters’ priorities. As the Washington Post noted, 26 of the 28 states with the lowest average income voted for Bush.
Were these people voting “against their own interests”? It is unlikely they saw it that way. If they placed some other issue ahead of economics, they were asserting their priorities. As the liberal columnist Richard Cohen pointed out, Jewish voters, who as a group are wealthy, vote against their own economic interests when they back liberal candidates, and “Christian conservatives can make the same hard choices.”
In other words, there’s