The midterm electoral ass-kicking should be a wake-up call for Democrats. Yet, in the hours following the debacle, all I’ve seen and heard are the same old lame excuses. “Democrats only turn out for presidential elections.” “Our candidates were swamped by a tsunami of dark money.” “It’s the result of Obama’s unfavorable numbers.” “With the growing number of minorities, it’s inevitable that Democrats will win in the future.” And, my favorite, “We don’t belong to an organized political party. We’re Democrats.”
Although I hate it, that last excuse is more true than I’d like to admit. The Party is disorganized. It has no real leadership. It fails to communicate what it stands for, other than getting elected. Its messaging is pathetic. And its consultants are a joke!
More important, the Party and many of its candidates are gutless. Even though they had real accomplishments to promote – accomplishments that are popular with voters – they seemed afraid to stand up for them lest they be criticized by Teapublicans and their comments featured in a Teapublican attack ad. For example, during this election cycle, few Democratic candidates were willing to take credit for the Affordable Care Act that gave millions access to health insurance for the first time. Few would stand up for environmental issues. Few stood against climate change. Few would stand up for labor unions. Few would stand up for universal background checks for gun purchases. Few took credit for voting for the 2009 economic stimulus that kept the nation from sliding into the Great Depression II. Few stood behind Democratic economic policies that have the stock markets at historic highs and unemployment numbers at their lowest level in more than a decade. Few would take credit for getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Few would stand behind their Democratic president. And one even refused to acknowledge whether or not she voted for a Democrat for president!
To make matters worse, Democratic consultants begged the president not to take a stand on immigration reform in order to help red state Democrats who were almost certainly doomed to lose anyway. But that advice did have an effect. It cost several blue state Democrats their seats and it may have cost the Party the support of Latinos in the future. Yet their worst advice was to tell candidates to run away from the president and the Party’s accomplishments. Their only real strategy seemed to be, “a Republican said something stupid, send us money.” (I, for one, will not send the Democratic Party another dime until it gets its house in order and miraculously grows a spine.)
In truth, the Democratic candidates who took the advice of their Party got what they deserved.
But why would political consultants care if their advice is awful, anyway? Most will still be around for the next election, even if their candidates aren’t. And they will still be able to cash their rather substantial checks.
In my (hopefully temporary) home state of Arizona, the consultants advised Democratic candidates to base their campaigns on support for public education, including increased funding. But most Arizona voters don’t seem to care about public education. Many are too old to care and others simply don’t vote. As a result, every Democrat running for statewide office lost. Indeed, the voters showed how they really feel about education by rejecting numerous school bonds and apparently electing a Teapublican with absolutely no background or understanding of education to the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Her platform consisted of a single plank…stopping Common Core, the program created by Republican and Democratic governors that sets standards for schools across the nation. (It’s just as well, Arizona schools are so under-funded, few of the state schools could meet those standards anyway.)
And, rather than turning the state purple as the Party hoped, the far-right-wing Arizona voters passed yet another “sovereignty” bill designed to raise a collective middle finger to the federal government. The bill will encourage our very right-wing state government to challenge the federal government on any federal law with which our nincompoop-driven legislature disagrees. The result will be millions of Arizona taxpayer funds spent on lawsuits against the federal government that sends $1.50 to Arizona in federal spending for every $1.00 the state contributes in federal taxes.
Clearly, in this election, few Democrats went to the polls. Why would they? The Party gave them few reasons to vote. In hopes of attracting more women and more Latino voters, the Party essentially abandoned its core voters…its base. After all, if the Democratic Party won’t stand up for its own president and its own accomplishments, how can we trust that its candidates will stand up for us?