Building A Democratic Big Tent

Big Tent Democrat has done the math and calculated that, assuming that the numbers from the final Des Moines Register poll are accurate, a majority of Obama’s support comes from non-Democrats. The poll shows Obama with a comfortable lead based upon their predictions of who will attend the caucus. They found that among those likely to attend, 40% are independents and 5% are Republicans.

Big Tent Democrat, and other liberal bloggers, see this as bad. This depends upon how you perceive the Democratic Party, and whether you want to win. In August, Elizabeth Edwards rejected the “new Democrats” and claimed that those who do not share Edwards’ views are not “actual Democrats.”

Democrats who see the Democratic Party as supporting such a specific set of policies, and feel that even Barack Obama is not pure enough for them, might see the support for Obama by independents as being bad. A Democratic Party under Obama will certainly not be radical as under John Edwards.

Major political parties are not static entities which support the exact same positions from year to year. This is what has preserved our current two party system as the parties evolve to represent approximately half the voters.

Democrats who see the influx of independent voters into the party must remember that the party they support could no longer win very often, either in Congressional or presidential elections. The only way for Democrats to win would be to bring in the support of independents and even some Republicans.

It is possible that any Democrat could win this year, but continuing the Republican strategy of governing with 50% plus one is not a formula for long term success. If Obama has the ability to bring in independents and some Republicans this will only strengthen the party.

Many bloggers, including Big Tent Democrat, have tried to disparage Obama in the minds of Democrats by raising erroneous comparisons to Joe Lieberman. There is little similarity between the two. Obama has opposed the Iraq war from the start–unlike Lieberman. In fact. on this matter it was both Edwards and Clinton who voted as Lieberman did. The antipathy towards Lieberman by many bloggers is also a result of his frequent attacks on other Democrats. Not only has Obama not been like Lieberman, but this fault would also apply more to John Edwards who has recently raised specious attacks on Obama.

If Obama was a right wing Republican then naturally I would expect liberal bloggers to have reservations about a candidate backed by independents and Republicans. Obama’s record hardly justifies such concerns, and his ability to receive the votes of independents should be seen as an advantage. This antipathy towards building such a majority certainly seems strange from someone who writes under the name Big Tent Democrat.

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  1. 1
    Nate says:

    Excellent post! If only more people in the progressive “movement” understood the dynamic nature of America’s political parties, and that a presidential campaign must necessarily be a coalition-building exercise, not merely reaffirmation of the political prejudices of the parties’ bosses and the parties’ bases, then we would undoubtedly coalesce behind the Obama movement — and produce an enduring progressive governing coalition and majority.

  2. 2
    Joe G says:

    Very astute article. Would more people understand that as our country evolves, so must our politics. Obama is a highly refreshing candidate and his ability to reach out to people on both sides of the fence is terrific. Perhaps if we stopped playing partisan politics we could narrow the gap between the red and the blue in this country–which, trust me, would well benefit us all.

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