The Democrats were big losers Tuesday night, and not just
because they lost a half dozen seats in the House and their slim grip on the
Senate. What this election proved is that the politics of fear isn't working
anymore. Over the last three national elections, Democrats have tried to
scare Americans into voting for them, especially blacks. But fear isn't a
viable political platform, as Republican candidates proved on Election Day.
The Democrats hoped that fear over the economy would hurt
Republican chances in several key races. The fact is, the economy is in
better shape than either the Democrats or the media would have you believe.
Interest rates are at historic lows, inflation is virtually non-existent,
and unemployment is low. When it comes to individuals, these are the numbers
that matter most. Houses are more affordable because of low interest rates;
inflation isn't eating up family paychecks; and most people aren't in
imminent danger of losing their jobs. While the economy is not expanding as
quickly as it did through much of the 1980s and '90s, it is still growing,
at roughly 3.1 percent in the third quarter. So the Democrats had a hard
time convincing voters that breadlines were just around the corner if they
voted for the GOP.
Scare tactics didn't work as well as they have in the past with
blacks, either. In 2000, the Democrats frightened many blacks into thinking
the Republicans would repeal the civil rights laws if they took control of
the White House and kept the House and Senate. The NAACP -- which is
supposed to be nonpartisan but often acts as an adjunct of the Democratic
Party -- ran a series of disgusting ads during the presidential election
that laid blame on George W. Bush for the vicious murder of a black man in
Texas while Bush was governor. James Byrd was dragged to his death tied to
the back of a pickup truck driven by three white supremacists who were
The men who killed Byrd were caught, prosecuted, convicted and
sentenced to death. Nonetheless, the ad featured the dead man's daughter
claiming that Gov. Bush's failure to sign a flawed hate crimes bill was like
having her father killed all over again. Democrats used similar tactics in
other races that year, as well as in 1996 and 1998. Using vivid images in
their ads of the Ku Klux Klan and black churches burning, the Democrats
implied that the GOP was somehow to be blamed. The tactic worked -- to a
point. Black turnout went up as many blacks feared that if Republicans were
in power, the entire nation would turn into Mississippi in the darkest days
of racial discrimination in the 1930s.
But George W. Bush has proved a lousy bogeyman for the
Democrats. Not only is he likable, but in the wake of the September 11
attack on the United States, he has proven himself a real leader for all
Americans. But without scaring blacks and others, the Democrats seem to have
nothing to offer. Even their much-vaunted get-out-the-vote effort seems to
have backfired this time around.
In Maryland, for example, high turnout in an off-year election
helped the Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich win a historic
victory over Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the first for a Republican candidate
in 36 years. Four years ago, the Maryland Republican nominee, Ellen
Sauerbrey, was defeated in large part because of Democratic efforts to
portray her -- unfairly -- as anti-black. But it didn't work this time, in
part because Ehrlich picked black attorney and former state Republican Party
chairman Michael Steele as his running mate.
With the GOP now in control of both Congress and the White
House, Republicans now have the chance to prove that the only thing
Americans have to fear is Democrat fear-mongering politics.