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Good news for the losing political parties - both of them

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, November 8, 2004

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Which political party is in bad trouble today-the Democratic or the Republican?

Political spin merchants are trying to pin the "troubled" label on both groups.

Before you answer, here are that party's symptoms.

*It has just lost a decisive battle for the government's top job.

*It has no "ideal" candidates who are ready to run at the top of the ticket in 2008. On the other hand, the opposing party can use its controlling position to groom several prospects.

*It failed to take control of either the Senate or the House in last week's election. In fact, it lost ground in both legislative chambers.

*The opposing party claims that the voters have given it a mandate, even though the electorate actually appears to be about equally divided.

What political party are we talking about?

Well, it all depends. If you are talking about the national scene, it's the Democrats who might be in trouble.

But if you are talking about North Carolina, these same symptoms describe our state's Republican Party.

The political spin merchants are trying to pin the "troubled" label on both groups.

In fact, both the national Democrats and the North Carolina Republicans, although they lost very important recent election battles, have a great deal going for them.

Their respective strengths will become more and more apparent as the post election spinning dies down. But there is some obvious good news for both of the losing political parties-North Carolina Republicans and national Democrats.

Here is just a sample of what I might say to both of them:

*First, while your rival party is claiming an election "mandate" to implement its policies, your party also has a mandate. It comes from about half the people who voted in last week's elections. Of course, you must respect your opponent's election victory. You must recognize that it has charge of the governmental apparatus. But you cannot forget the large number of people who supported your policies and programs. Nor can you forget how strongly they opposed your rival party's approach to governing. As "loyal opposition" you have a responsibility to continue to fight for those who supported you in last week's election. They have given you a mandate to do so.

*In four years, the incumbent who won reelection this year will be ineligible to run again. Ordinarily, it is easier to win an election for an open position than it is to beat an incumbent. (Except for George H.W. Bush' s win in 1988, no party since 1952 has held the presidency for more than eight years. And, since the North Carolina governor became eligible for a second term, the only shifts in party control of that office have taken place at the end of the incumbent's second term.) The election of 2008 will give your party a much better chance to win the top job than it had this year.

*The shortage of logical contenders for your party's nomination in 2008 could be a blessing. The voters may be tired of the usual well-known politicians and ready to embrace a "new face," one who brings a fresh approach and a set of ideas that breaks away from the old ways of doing things. Voters may be ready for a candidate who can really claim to bring new leadership that is unbound to the politics of the past.

*Although, you lost ground in both the House and the Senate and you will be in the minority for at least two years, a small shift in support in the next election could put you back in control of the legislative branch in 2006. Because the opposition party often picks up seats in "off year" elections, you should have a good opportunity to improve your position and perhaps gain control of one or both houses.

*Finally, your efforts to organize, to engage and register voters, to recruit volunteers, to expand your fundraising base, and to define your party's policies are solid foundations for a stronger party in the future. Don't let this accomplishment slip away just because your election efforts were not successful this year. Politics should be about the future, and your party's future is what you make of it, beginning now.

The next election is just around the corner.

********************************

D.G. Martin is the author of "Interstate Eateries" a handbook of home cooking places near North Carolina's interstate highways-available through Our State Magazine (800-948-1409 or www.ourstate.com). He is the host of UNC-TV's North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. This week's (November 14) guest is John May, author of "Poe & Fanny."

Program coming up:

November 21: Walter Turner, Paving Tobacco Road

 
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