In a heated talk on the global impact of the 2004 election, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Sam Gejdenson spoke to lingering questions on the defeat of Sen. John Kerry ’66 at an early Friday morning breakfast at Betts House.
During his talk, which is part of the Yale World Fellow’s weekly Friday morning “Hot Coffee” discussions, Gejdenson blamed the Democratic Party’s campaign for Kerry’s loss. Gejdenson, who served eastern Connecticut in Congress from 1981 to 2000, also spoke about the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the second term of President George W. Bush ’68.
Gejdenson said Kerry’s loss was a result of the Democrats’ inability to relate to the working class. Citing Kerry’s health-care plan, Gejdenson said the Democrats tend to complicate their policies with political jargon that most Americans do not understand. He said Democrats should have put forth a simple statement saying that every American is going to have health care.
“We need to learn to speak to blue-collar people in a way they understand,” Gejdenson said.
Gejdenson also said the Democrats should not fear over-spending for causes they believe in. Kerry came close to an ideal health-care plan but was intimidated by its price tag, Gejdenson said.
“Democrats are like alcoholics,” he said. “In the 1960s we were big spenders, now whenever we walk past a bottle of whisky we have to smash it,” Gejdenson said.
But the talk did not only focus on campaign mistakes. Gejdenson also said the Democratic Party should continue campaigning during Bush’s term and re-market their beliefs.
“We have to become a real opposition with real opposition policies,” Gejdenson said.
Gejdenson said the Democrats should continue to emphasize a need for world support in the United States’ war on Iraq. He blamed the Bush administration for not taking advantage of a major opportunity to create a world coalition against terrorism. He said the world understood America’s attack on Afghanistan and that it was Bush’s decision to invade Iraq that undermined a potential world unity.
“September 12 was a real opportunity to build a real international coalition,” Gejdenson said.
Gejdenson said he is also skeptical of Bush’s ability to use his majority to heal a divided America. Instead Bush’s attitude is “I’ve won, you can now join my side,” Gejdenson said.
During the talk, Gejdenson shared his predictions for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gejdenson said if there is a new Palestinian leader, the Bush administration will have a chance to secure peace.
“If the Bush people want some accomplishments, they have a chance,” Gejdenson said.
Students who attended the talk said they were more interested with Gejdenson’s take on the election results.
“This was one of my favorite talks. I was interested to know what he thought was wrong with the Democratic Party,” Cerin Lindgrensavage ’06 said. “I agree it wasn’t a mistake America made, it was a mistake the Democratic Party made by only reaching the educated and liberal.”
Director of the Resource Office on Disabilities Judy York said Gejdenson took an uplifting approach in discussing the post-election world.
“I think it was an emotional boost for anyone who was feeling forlorn,” York said.
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