- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

Americans practice the most advanced form of citizenship known to mankind. But the essential ingredient of our experiment in self-rule is maintaining transparency and truth in our public discourse so we as individual citizens are informed well enough to make the judgments that impact our collective societal good.
That is why the recent spate of self-congratulatory commentaries from 2004 Democratic presidential hopefuls is such a discouraging indicator of the health of our democracy.
I confess that as a Democrat in the Scoop Jackson mold who raised or donated almost a million dollars to various Democratic causes from 1993 until 1999, I voted for George Bush in 2000. Not because I espoused or embraced his compassionate conservatism, but because I could not support Al Gore's politically deceptive campaign in which many of the Clinton era promises to the very Americans they had helped empower American Muslims key among them were broken.
When I hosted Mr. Gore at my home in September 1996, he proudly celebrated ours as the new voices of the Democratic Party's big tent embrace. But his stewardship over a catastrophically arrogant 2000 presidential campaign that rewarded the very "forces of greed" he today admonishes demonstrates how out of touch he was then and how Democrats cannot afford to be led by the same mistakes today.
On Nov. 10, 2000, members of the Democratic Leadership Council came together in New York to understand how defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory. Analysis of key exit poll data then told a compelling story, one that is worth recanting now as Democrats prepare to contest for all-important midterm elections this fall.
Middle class migration: In 1996, voters earning less than $50,000 annually formed 61 percent of the electorate and voted overwhelmingly in every income category for Clinton-Gore over Dole-Kemp. In 2000, voters earning less than $50,000 formed only 48 percent of the electorate and voted much less enthusiastically for Gore-Lieberman across the sub-$50,000 earnings spectrum. The biggest shift was in the 13 percent band of migrating middle-class Americans, those moved into $50,000-plus income categories by the Clinton-Gore economic miracle, who voted decisively for Bush-Cheney.
Education in the migrating middle class was also a factor. High-school graduates or voters with some college education, representing more than 50 percent of the electorate, voted by double digit margins for Clinton-Gore in 1996. In 2000, these same voters gave Bush-Cheney the nod by meaningful single digit margins. Their reason: Mr. Gore failed to target them with a message that resonated with their shifting social and economic needs.
Rather, his strategists chose to stand him outside steel mills in Pennsylvania hoping for big voter blocks to turn out on Election Day.
Minority demographics:
While black voters turned out in higher numbers for the Democratic ticket in 2000, Mr. Bush gained 12 percent more of the Hispanic vote than Robert Dole earned in 1996. Hispanic voters made up almost as large a segment of the minority vote (8 percent) as blacks (10 percent) in 2000. Another significant Gore miscalculation was ignoring the Arab and Muslim vote in favor of Jewish voters who were already in the Democratic camp.
In 1996, Arabs and Muslims voted by a 3-to-1 margin for Clinton-Gore. In 2000, with an expanded and much more informed voter base of several million votes, the Arab-Muslim bloc dramatically shifted to Bush-Cheney by a 3-to-1 margin, effectively wiping out the Lieberman effect for Mr. Gore.
Shifting cultural values and soccer moms: One of the more compelling paradoxes of Mr. Gore's campaign was losing the religious vote. Adding a religious conservative to the ticket did little to help at the polling booth with the majority of Americans who attend churches, synagogues or mosques either weekly or more than once a week. They voted overwhelmingly for Bush-Cheney. Those who said they never attended religious institutions voted by a 3-to-1 margin for Gore-Lieberman.
Married couples voted by 8 percent for Mr. Bush over Mr. Gore. Soccer moms (couples with children) voted by 14 percent for the Bush ticket. Even Internet users, now 70 percent of the electorate, voted for Bush-Cheney by slim margins.
Mr. Gore failed to craft a message for the very voters Democrats had helped migrate up the curve of American opportunity. Lamenting that loss today will not help Democrats to address pressing matters on the national agenda.
The time has come to end obfuscation, misdirection and an inability to accept responsibility as the hallmarks of Democratic leadership in this country. We need to usher in a new generation of Democrats who can acknowledge shortcomings, credit political opponents with what they do right as America weathers the storm of its foreign adversaries, and build a strategy that continues to empower America's disenfranchised in a way that makes us better able to cope with emerging threats together, as Americans.

Mansoor Ijaz is chairman of the Crescent Partnerships, a New York private equity firm that invests in U.S. national security technologies.

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