US Democrats Debate Future of Party



As President George Bush's second inauguration approaches on January 20, opposition Democrats are doing a lot of soul-searching about the future of their party in the wake of their defeat in November. National correspondent Jim Malone has more on the Democrat's dilemma from Washington.

Democrats have a lot of questions and concerns as they prepare to watch as the president is sworn in for a second four-year term.

In the last two presidential elections, Democratic candidates Al Gore and John Kerry failed to carry a single southern state, an area of the country that used to be a party stronghold.

Senator Kerry's strategy was to maximize Democratic turnout in regions of the country where the party is strongest, the northeast, upper Midwest and West Coast.

Donna Brazile ran Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. She says the party needs to broaden its appeal to have any chance of recapturing the White House in 2008.

"We cannot be a regional party," she said. "We have to return to being a national party. We have to be a party that appeals to all segments of the electorate and not just certain slices, as I say, a cookie cutter approach [limited] to politics and campaigning."

Ms. Brazile was among several Democrats who discussed the future of their party at a forum in Washington sponsored by the Hotline political newsletter and the University of Virginia.

In order to be more competitive, Democratic activists say the party must also do a better job of reaching out to religious voters who have tended to vote Republican in recent years.

Former Indiana Congressman Tim Roemer is one of several candidates for Democratic Party Chairman. He spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"When you talk to most of America, a lot of people do not feel that we are [able] to express our faith, to communicate values of faith, not just on issues such as abortion but on issues such as our concern for the poor," he said.

Another candidate for party chairman is former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who lost out to Senator Kerry in last year's Democratic presidential primaries.

He warns Democrats not to stray too far from their liberal roots in an attempt to reach out to moderate and conservative voters.

"It is important for us to talk about our [religious] faith," he said. "It is also important for us not to change our faith."

Many political analysts believe President Bush's most important advantage in last year's election was the public's perception that he was strong on national security in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Jim Jordan managed John Kerry's campaign for a time in 2003. He says Democrats must do a better job of convincing Americans that they can protect the country from terrorism.

"At the end of the day, the biggest structural problem for us is that we are a party on the federal [national] level, in Congress and with the presidential campaign, that the public simply does not trust us to keep them safe," he said. "When that is first and foremost in their mind, in a cold war environment or a neo-cold war environment like now, we have serious problems."

Republicans hope to exploit this period of Democratic introspection and plan to push a conservative agenda both in Congress and around the country.

David Frum is a former speechwriter for President Bush. He told the cable public affairs network C-SPAN that Republicans expect the president to fulfill his campaign pledges to reform the tax and pension systems without making major concessions to the Democrats.

"I do not think the president ought to say I am going to be compromising on the things I was elected to do," he said. "Elections are the way the American people or any democratic people decide things. He has as strong a mandate as any president ever, certainly as strong as any president I can remember, and he has a duty also to his supporters to make good on the things he committed himself to do."

As for the Democrats, the next major phase in their internal debate comes next month in Washington when the 447-member Democratic National Committee votes on a successor to current National Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

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