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Sun, Aug. 18

Dems should forsake 'ideological purity'

WASHINGTON – Democrats are just beginning to face the harsh political reality that they are, in effect, a minority party – quite possibly for years to come.

In yet another post-election self-analysis of what went wrong – this time in the 2004 campaign – Democratic leaders now acknowledge that if their party is to become competitive again, it must first rebuild its shrinking political base, abandon the left wing's demands for "ideological purity," and begin reaching out to traditional mainstream voters.

"We cannot afford to make the perfect the enemy of the good and insist on absolute ideological purity," said Steve Grossman, former Democratic National Committee chairman under President Clinton. "Anybody who aspires to a leadership role in our party must understand that we cannot afford to continue to appeal to an ever-narrowing part of the electorate."

"We have to broaden our base and not have everyone agree with every principle of the party platform. People have to see us as more inclusive and more thoughtful than we often appear to be," he said.

And it's not just Clintonian Democrats who are unhappy with the way Kerry ran the campaign. Liberal supporters blame him for "missed opportunities" at the convention and a confusing, contradictory message on Iraq.

Listen to Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, a liberal grassroots advocacy organization that had backed Kerry to the hilt:

"The Kerry campaign could have been much more aggressive early on," he said. "Remember back to the convention, which was entirely devoted to Kerry's commander-in-chief qualities and Vietnam record, when attacks on the Bush record were forbidden?" a dejected Hickey told me.

"Kerry's people thought they would not have to explain what was wrong with Bush's record and for several weeks after the convention they had no message whatsoever. They lost a lot of valuable time and by talking only about his Vietnam record, opened him up to the Swift Boat (Veterans For Truth) attacks," he said.

Equally troubling for Hickey and his liberal soul mates, "Kerry was never quite clear on where he stood on the war in Iraq, which was confusing to voters and easily parodied by the Bush team. We think Kerry could have done a better job as a candidate."

Unlike House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who is in deep denial about her party's problems, strategists such as Donna Brazile want top-to-bottom changes in the Democratic structure and a re-examination of what it stands for.

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