Paul Rockwell on the unfortunate history of the Democratic dodge-to-the-right as an electoral maneuver:
The centrist theory, so often repeated in media commentary, contradicts the historical record—not only the record of three successive defeats in presidential elections from 1980 to 1988, when the party shifted to the right—but the overall record of Democratic presidents from Roosevelt to Carter. Since 1932 Democratic presidential candidates have achieved five landslide victories, and all five landslides were created through progressive campaigns that identified the Democratic Party with movements for social reform. The four campaigns of Franklin Roosevelt and the landslide victory of Lyndon Johnson in 1964 were grand coalition campaigns. These great crusades did not dwell on the white middle-class. Nor did they fawn over lost Democrats. Instead they reached beyond the party establishment to the unemployed, to the poor, to the new, rising electorate of the times.
With only one telling exception, no Cold War Democratic candidate ever won a decisive majority of the popular vote…The one candidate who did sweep the country was Lyndon Johnson, and he made support for civil rights central to his crusade for the Great Society. The great Democratic victories (Roosevelt and Johnson) were all progressive, highly ideological crusades against poverty and injustice. History does not vindicate the viewpoint of the right-wing Democrats. The centrist theory is wrong, not only in terms of electoral results; it is also wrong in terms of those huge fiascos that brought down three Democratic presidents—Truman, Johnson, and Carter…Every one-term Democratic president made right-wing errors that precipitated his own downfall and betrayed the liberal mandate that held the Democratic Party together. The fall of Truman in 1952, the humiliation of Lyndon Johnson in 1968, the defeat of Carter in 1980—great Democratic traumas—were all direct results of right wing follies in office.
At least as compelling is a look at the history of the modern Republican party – comparing the electoral prospects of, say, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.