Death Spiral
Posted by aogWednesday, 06 November 2002 at 12:29 TrackBack Ping URL

Are the Democrats in a death spiral to irrelevance or will they moderate? I posted a comment on the Brothers Judd about this and mentinoned in earlier here as well.

The death spiral scenario is that of a positive feedback loop. Consider the Democratic Party base. There exists a subset of them that are the most conservative voters that support the party. I think it's reasonable to assume that that subset moved over to the Republicans based on the poor performance of the Democrats over the last couple of years (both on policy and integrity). What is the Democratic Party response to this? If it is to move further left, that could well split the next subset of conservatives off. If that in turns inspires another shift left, one could have another loss of the conservative fringe. The end result of this process is a small, hard core leftist party that's electorally irrelevant. This is the default result - it is the hard core, after all, who really drive the party in terms of energy and money.

That the death spiral is the default doesn't make it the inevitable result. One can see that the Republicans have recovered from a similar issue, but it took deliberate effort. But what I remember after the Republican's drubbing was immediate calls for a "big tent" and other outreach. What I'm hearing from the blogging Democrats are calls for renewed emphasis on the leftist issues. The top party types seem more circumspect, mainly blaming Bush's popularity (which they attribute to the 9/11 attacks). A key sign will be whether Pelosi becomes Minority Leader in the House. That would be the first circle around the death spiral.

On the other hand, the Democrats could shift right, drop some of the hard core leftish stances that have proven so unpopular and unsuccessful (e.g., socialism). That could retain some of the essence of the party without setting it on a course to the fringe.

Another option (which I saw somewhere else that I can't remember) is for a split, where the Democratic Party accepts minority status for a while and dumps the fringe off on the Greens and Socialists Party, giving them a temporary boost and leaving the Democratic Party as the DLC membership. My history is weak on this, but isn't this similar to where the Republican Party came from out of the Whigs?

Orin makes some posts that lean toward a death spiral scenario here and here and here and ... oh, just go read the blog. It's all good (especially my comments, right?)

UPDATE: The New Republic is worried about this as well.