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Speaking of Debate Losers ...

9:00 AM, Oct 4, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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A friend notes Jimmy Carter's diary entry from the day after the 1980 Reagan debate—the last time a Democratic president lost a debate to a Republican challenger:

"He apparently made a better impression on the TV audience than I did, but I made all our points to the constituency groups—which we believe will become preeminent in the public's mind as they approach the point a week from now of actually going to the polls," writes Carter.

Leaving aside Carter’s wishful thinking, it's striking how explicitly Carter confirms Jay Cost's thesis that the modern Democratic party is a collection of "constituency groups" to be appealed to, and that the leaders of that party think of their job as appealing to those groups rather than speaking to and on behalf of the nation. The experience of Reagan and Romney both suggest that a forceful appeal to the common good can trump constituency group politics. 

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