Friday, March 14, 2008

Why Howard Metzenbaum Won Elections in Ohio

One of the problems that the Democratic Party has had over the last 42 years is winning votes from white working-class males who don't have a college degree. Supposedly the Democratic Party hasn't won a majority of such votes since 1964. There has been a lot of speculation about why this is so and more speculation about how to get such votes back. Well, here's our suggestion: Look at the career of Howard Metzenbaum.

Howard Metzenbaum was Jewish, a businessman, and a liberal from the east side of Cleveland. Yet, he had no trouble winning votes from white, working class males. Why? Because he was an economic populist who consistently stood up for the economic interests of Ohioans. He was tough, combative, and didn't take anything from anybody.

In 1988 he spoke to a group of UAW retirees in Parma. He told them that he was on the hit list of every right-wing group in America. Then, his voice roaring, he told them "I don't mind their hatred, I welcome it." It was classic Metzenbaum.

Howard Metzenbaum didn't always win. The first time he won the Democratic nomination for Senate, in 1970, he lost the general election to Robert Taft, the father of Ohio's former governor. The second time he ran, after being appointed in 1973 by John Gilligan, he lost to John Glenn in the Democratic Primary. The third time, in 1976, he won. He went on to serve three terms in the Senate. So that was another trait of Metzenbaum's: persistence.

Liberals who want to know how to win elections should study his career. They should talk about economic inequality, about fighting the power of huge corporations, and about standing up for ordinary Americans. They should never stop fighting, and they should be intellectually and politically tough. If they do, they will be true to the heritage of our party and, like Howard Metzenbaum, they will win their share of elections.

Click here to read the PD articles on Metzenbaum.

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