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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Insights from a Rout

There is no shortage of explanations about why Dems got creamed yesterday. Here’s a few of them:
David Corn at Mother Jones: “Obama and his team succeeded in transforming campaigning, integrating an intense focus on data and metrics with on-the-ground organizing. And they did it twice. But the president has not transformed politics. To beat back the expected oppositional waves of 2010 and 2014, he needed a playbook as unconventional, imaginative, and effective as those he used in 2008 and 2012. He needed to keep show-me independents on his side and Democratic-leaning voters, particularly those who otherwise would be unconcerned with politics, somehow engaged in the process. And he had to do this while presiding over a Washington that seemed to be a miasma of disorder and while contending with a troubled economy and all hell breaking loose overseas. He needed to keep the we in the mix.”
“This much-vaunted turnout operation turns out not to have deserved much vaunt.” – Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast.
From Ezra Klein at Vox: “There wasn’t a secret rush of Latino voters the pollsters had simply missed. Focusing on cultural appeals like “the War on Women” didn’t work. For all the Obama campaign hype, the Democrats hadn’t actually discovered dark arts of GOTV that allowed them to survive a GOP year. The polls were wrong — but they were wrong because they undercounted Republican support. As often happens, Democrats fooled themselves after the 2012 election into believing they had unlocked some enduring political advantage. They learned otherwise.”
“Candidates from Arkansas to Kentucky, from Iowa to Georgia, lacked message discipline and skipped one opportunity after another to effectively target voters with any notable precision. For all of the bellyaching, tooth gnashing, and public wailing, Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. ..Rather than stand on and fight for progressive principles, these candidates fed voters a diet of stump speeches, campaign literature, and television ads that sought to gussy themselves up as non-confrontational centrists who are less likely to wage war with conservatives than they are to brew them a cup of hot cocoa and tuck them into bed at night.” Goldie Taylor at The Daily Beast.
At Fivethirtyeight.com, Nate Silver explains: “…the average Senate poll conducted in the final three weeks of this year’s campaign overestimated the Democrat’s performance by 4 percentage points. The average gubernatorial poll was just as bad, also overestimating the Democrat’s performance by 4 points.”
John B. Judis at The New Republic: “In Florida, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist lost whites without college degrees by 32 to 61 percent; in Virginia, Senator Mark Warner’s near-death experience was due to losing these voters by 30 to 68 percent. In Colorado and Iowa, they held the key to Republican Senate victories. In 2012, the Democrats benefited by facing a Republican who reeked of money and privilege and displayed indifference toward the 47 percent. Romney lost the white working class in states like Ohio. Democrats may not have that luxury of a Mitt Romney in the next election. And in that case, they will have to do considerably better among these voters, or else 2016 could turn out to be another nightmare election for the Democrats. ”
Harold Meyerson puts it this way at The American Prospect: “…the Democrats’ failure isn’t just the result of Republican negativity. It’s also intellectual and ideological. What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?”
Peter Beinart notes at The Atlantic, “This year has been different: GOP activists have given their candidates more space to craft the centrist personas they need to win.”
“…Exposed in this election were the fallacies of the Democratic establishment. Social issues alone can’t provide victory, since Republican candidates found it possible to rouse their base while donning sheep’s clothing on choice, or going silent on gay marriage. Sophisticated campaign targeting and get-out-the-vote operations can’t substitute for passion, clarity, and vision to motivate Democratic base voters to vote. White men and married women will be won not by adopting a corporate agenda or by joining in rigging the rules against them. They will be won by driving an agenda that will address the pressures they feel.” – Robert Borosage at Campaign for America’s Future.

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