George Will believes the Democrats are in trouble because of changing demographics, their own tinkering with the campaign finance laws, and an antipathy to the rich upon whom they ironically depend. The writing is not typical Will and is thus choppy and rather difficult to excerpt. His points are basically:

  • There are more people who distrust the Social Security system than believe in it, which means privatization is coming
  • The ban on soft money has put the Democrats in a bad position because they rely on a handful of ultrarich donors whereas the Republicans have a much broader base of contributors
  • The Democrats hate the rich but depend on them, not only for contributions but for the income to tax to pay for all the programs they advocate and
  • The Democrats really aren’t for much of anything but rather against a lot of things.

    Will is certainly right on the issue of the soft money ban, at least in the near term. I suspect the Democrats will adapt–or figure a way around the law–in the long term. And that’s presuming the Supreme Court won’t strike it down. I also agree with the corollary argument about the Democrats and their relationship with the rich.

    I’m more skeptical about the short-term pressure for Social Security privatization, which seems unlikely right now since the stock market bubble has burst. And I think the “out” party is always reactionary; the same charge was leveled against the GOP in the 1970s and 1990s.

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    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


    1. Paul says:

      You are right, it is hard to excerpt, but here is a “killer point.”

      Republicans have a large advantage in raising “hard” dollars, which are for specific candidates and are covered by annual limits. Democrats, deprived of soft money, will be forced to rely on paid issue advocacy by their “groups” — environmentalists, gun control advocates, the pro-abortion lobby. Dependence on the groups will cost the party control of its message and pull the party to the left, away from swing voters.


    2. James Joyner says:

      Paul: Yep. I think that point is pretty well known at this point, at least by those who follow CFR closely. I’m curious how it’ll shake out in the long term. The history of impediments to fundraising has always been that people find ways around the rules.

    3. Mike P says:

      Didn’t Will write a column last fall speculating that Republicans are in long term trouble because of changing demographics, supposed preference of young professionals for regulatory capitalism, etc.?

    4. James Joyner says:

      Mike: Heh. I’m too lazy to Google for it right now or search his archives, but it sounds vaguely familiar. All the “the Democrats/Republicans are doomed” articles are overreactions applying static reasoning. If things are going bad for a party, they will quickly adapt.

    5. Mike Peck says:

      I don’t know why I spent as much time as I did Googling around to add some documentation to an offhand comment on a blog post, but here goes:

      George Will wrote a column last fall about a book titled “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” by John Judis & Ruy Texeira. I can’t find the column online but it apparently ran in the Sept. 16 2002 edition of Newsweek. So Will’s not being inconsistent (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

      I wonder what the typical shelf life of books like that is. This one seems to still be in print according to Amazon, but Will’s analysis seems more plausible to me — at least for the next election cycle, maybe…

    6. James Joyner says:


      Thanks for the research! Yes, I remember the Texeira book and it gets mentioned from time to time. As I recall, the basic thesis of this book is that immigration and different procreation levels among minority groups will lead to an increase in the number of Democrats in the population.