Blue liberals should target ‘red’ states, Clinton tells college Dems

In Alumnae Hall, Clinton receives first John F. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Award

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

The Democratic Party is not dead, but Democrats need to implement new strategies to win back Congress and the presidency, former President Bill Clinton told college Democrats Friday afternoon in Alumnae Hall, after he delivered a policy lecture to the Brown community in Meehan Auditorium.

He said all of the people who claim that George W. Bush’s defeat of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election marked the demise of the Democratic Party are wrong, pointing out that Bush won the 2004 election by the smallest margin for an incumbent since Woodrow Wilson, and no sitting president has ever been replaced during a time of conflict.

“The viability of the party as a presidential party is stronger than it was by far when I was your age,” he said.

Slideshow: Clinton speaks with the Northeast College Democrats in Alumnae Hall

But Clinton argued that Democrats need to win back the support of so-called “red state” conservatives.

“It is important for us not to ignore the fact that we have gained from the increased diversity in America, but we continue to lose ground in evangelical Christians,” he said.

He said Democrats “cannot run one more election where we ignore the so-called red state people.” Instead, Democrats need to engage in conversations with them, convincing them that Democrats share their values and that they are better off voting for Democrats, he added.

He said Democrats need to develop a plan for the future that makes people remember that “when we are in, it is better than when (Republicans) are in,” outlines a credible security position and reopens conversations with “red state America.”

Democrats also need to improve campaign tactics by aggressively responding to Republican attack ads, Clinton said.

“They’re in business to beat us. … They will continue to attack – as they attacked John Kerry, as they attacked John McCain, as they attacked Max Cleland, as they attacked Tom Daschle – as long as it works,” he said.

Clinton also addressed questions from the audience on a range of issues, including Middle East policy, the Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees and the genocide in Darfur.

At the conclusion of the event, Clinton was presented the first annual John F. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Award, for individuals who have strived to improve society through public service. John F. Kennedy Jr. ’83 was a founding member of the Brown College Democrats. The award was presented by U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., who was joined on stage by two other founders of the College Democrats, Providence Mayor David Cicilline ’83 and Robert Walsh ’83.

Clinton spoke as part of the second annual Northeast College Democrats Conference, which has brought about 500 students from 42 schools in 11 states to Brown this weekend.