David S. Broder and Richard Cohen included in their Nov. 4 op-ed columns the Republican assertion that the issue of same-sex marriage played a prominent role in the 2004 election results. They noted that evangelical Christians in particular turned out in droves to vote because of their condemnation of gay marriage. Both writers suggested that this means the Democratic Party will need to rethink its apparent cultural divide from a significant number of Americans, or at least those who live in the Deep South and the Midwest (excepting the Great Lakes states).
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. During the mid-'60s, the Democratic Party lost voters in droves -- primarily in that same Deep South -- over another "cultural divide": the Democrats' swelling opposition to racial segregation.
The "moral" high ground is not necessarily with those who hijack the word while mocking its meaning. The Democratic Party made the right choice then, preferring to lose votes rather than endorse racism. Democrats should not reverse course now and endorse homophobia.
Paul Farhi and James V. Grimaldi's Nov. 4 front-page article, "GOP Won With Accent on Rural and Traditional," contained a truth about retail politics that Republicans understand and that Democrats must if they are going to make inroads with Middle America: People who look, talk and live like us are more influential than those who don't.
The Republican ground game in Ohio relied heavily on neighbors appealing to neighbors at house parties and other locally organized events. The Democrats and their allied political organizations brought in armies of paid, mostly young volunteers to knock on doors and hand out fliers. The level of empathy and identification of heartland Americans with these enthusiastic John Kerry proselytizers was akin to that of the homeless with the comfortable suburbanites who might serve them Thanksgiving dinner. If you're an average middle-class American in small-town Ohio, or anywhere else, you're more likely to listen to the lady down the street who invites you in for cake and coffee than to the Berkeley student who knocks on your door.
I saw a prime example of the problem while working at my local Democratic headquarters. Volunteers, in scruffy jeans and sweatshirts, had been organizing fliers in the dusty backroom of the campaign office. They suddenly were recruited to go, without screening or training, to a nearby Metro station and hand out fliers to a largely well-dressed and well-groomed crowd headed home from the office. I'm sure we didn't look much like people the commuters could or would want to identify with.
Karl Rove and his operatives understood and exploited this often-overlooked aspect of human nature. The Democratic Party's ability to match that success and win elections outside metropolitan areas will depend on its ability to recruit, train and deploy volunteers appropriate for local communities.