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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Critical Moment For Democratic Strategy

Yeah, this was a bad midterm election. We’ve known all along that the Senate landscape was terrible–uniquely terrible–and that the midterm turnout patterns virtually guaranteed major Republican gains, just as they did in 2010. We also knew the history of second-term midterms, and the impact of poor presidential approval ratings–which were especially poor in the Senate battleground states.
But the strong quality of some individual Democratic Senate campaigns, and a belief in the potential of the Bannock Street Project which aimed at changing the very nature of the GOP’s large midterm structural advantage, led a lot of Democrats to expect a lot better.
It didn’t happen. But the main analytic task at the moment is to figure out how much of this bad midterm was due to inevitable “fundamental” factors that cannot be changed in the immediate future and how much is attributable to Democratic mistakes that can be corrected. That in turn will help determine the extent to which the Democratic road to recovery requires a fundamental change in strategy and tactics or a more modest turn to take advantage of presidential cycle opportunities–and new leadership.
You can make a pretty good case that turnout patterns alone dictated most of the 2014 results, particularly if you think more conservative members of pro-Democratic demographic groups showed up disproportionately at the polls. But then again, if Democrats are ever to govern again, they cannot simply wait out every midterm and hope for temporary redemption in the following presidential election.
So this is a very important period for Democratic strategic thinking and discussion. We don’t need a “struggle for the soul” of the party so much as a struggle to think clearly and avoid the temptations of self-delusion or despair.

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