Democracy Corps has a new research and strategy memo, “What Next for President Obama and Democrats?,” which delineates a clear path to victory in coming elections. The DCorps analysis, based on three post-election national surveys by by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, Resurgent Republic, Campaign for America’s Future, and Women’s Voices. Women Vote, finds that,
2010 was a voter revolt against Democratic governance during an economic and jobs crisis. Above all, voters were frustrated with the lack of progress on unemployment, the seeming ineffectiveness of the president’s policies, a shortage of sustained focus on economic issues, and the absence of a vision or message showing voters where the president and the Democrats wanted to take the country. They were angry about the bailouts, spending, and deficits that seemed only to put the country at more risk. Despite hopes for change, they could not see anybody battling for the middle class and American jobs during this crisis, yet politics as usual carried on – Wall Street and lobbyists continued to win out and the parties continued to bicker.
Health care reform was symptomatic of Washington not focusing on jobs and the president being inattentive. The new law was attacked as out-of-control spending. And a lot of seniors came to the polls to prevent the so-called Medicare cuts.
However, the analysis also notes,
For all that, there is no evidence that this was an affirmative vote for Republicans. Their standing is no higher in this year’s post-election polls than it was in 2008 and 2006. There is a lot of evidence that voters do not share Republicans’ priorities, particularly on Social Security and Medicare, and voters did not mandate a consuming focus on spending cuts and deficit reduction. That voters decided to hammer Democrats for spending does not translate into a mandate for Republicans to slash spending and squander the next two years trying to repeal health care…
Voters also do not share the Republicans’ determination to limit President Obama to one term and stop his agenda. A large majority remains hopeful that President Obama can succeed, and above all, they want the president and the leaders of both parties to work together to get things done. Voters are hungry for a different tone during this crisis and are looking for evidence that they have been heard.
The memo adds:
There is opportunity for the president to reach out on budget reform, energy, comprehensive immigration reform, and job creation – such as an infrastructure bank leveraging private capital…The more the president reaches out on these issues, the more opportunity he has to draw firm lines on central aspects of his agenda, including letting the top-end Bush tax cuts expire, pressing for infrastructure and energy investments, and protecting health care reform. Even in this difficult post-election environment, we battle to a draw on the toughest issues and prevail as the agenda shifts to growth.
Voters want leaders to focus on both growth and deficit reduction; indeed, they are looking for leaders to offer a vision for a successful America with a rising middle class.
The DCorps memo concedes that moderate economic growth and the likelihood of only small declines in unemployment make the Democratic path to recovery a rocky road. Rather than focus on the political center and Independents, DCorps urges Dems to put more effort in engaging minorities and young voters, both of which are essential for good results in 2012. More specifically,
The starting point is the new Democratic base and the areas where Democrats have been making steady gains since 2000. This is not a narrow slice of the electorate or an ideologically straightforward target. It includes the rising proportion of young people (up to one-fifth of the presidential electorate in 2012); the growing Latino bloc (at least 10 percent) that joins African-Americans and other racial minorities (to form at least a quarter); single women (more than one-fifth) who have emerged central to the new progressive base; and union households (more than 15 percent of the electorate). They have been joined by the more diverse, professional, and affluent suburbs – identified by Ruy Teixeira and John Judis – that have moved steadily Democratic over more than a decade, account for the Democrats’ congressional gains over that period and gave Obama big victories.
The reason why Democrats won the Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 is that their base is a majority of the country.
The DCorps memo provides much more detail concerning performance and prospects regarding key demographic groups, including single women, young people, union households and the suburbs. It includes recommendation for targeting swing voter demographics, including white non-college, white non-south rural and industrial midwest voters.
The “getting-the-car-out-of-the-ditch” metaphor ended up resonating poorly with pivotal constituencies, according to DCorps data. Rather, the message that 2010 voters wholeheartedly endorsed in the DCorps study, was:
…America has been falling behind, while countries like China have a vision to succeed. We need our own vision for American success. Our economic problems have been building for years — with good jobs outsourced and wages and benefits falling behind rising costs. Schools, sewers, and roads are in disrepair. We need a clear strategy to make things in America, make our economy competitive, and revive America’s middle class.
Further, DCorps found that the GOP’s most treasured priority “to focus above all on cutting spending, reducing deficits and keeping taxes low” performed poorly, and warns “…Do not assume that the clubs used to punish Democrats this year translate into the preferred policies for the future.” The Republicans’ mono-maniacal obsession with defeating Obama did not resonate well either, especially among swing voters who want to see an end to partisan bickering and some effort towards bipartisan cooperation.
Dems can benefit by hanging tough with protecting Social Security and Medicare from GOP cuts, while not waivering from calling for letting tax cuts for top earners expire. The analysis concludes by noting a two-thirds favorable response to President Obama’s following statement:
The economy isn’t creating enough jobs but we can’t go back to rising debt and dangerous bubbles. My commitment is to build a new foundation for jobs and growth that begins with making things in America again. Yes, we have to reduce our deficits, but it is not enough. We have to make investments in education, in research and innovation, in a competitive 21st century infrastructure. We have to lead in the new energy, Green industrial revolution sweeping the world. This has to be affordable, but my priority is working together to rebuild a successful America with a rising middle class.
This is the vision that Dems can carry forward for optimal results in 2012 and beyond.