Thursday, November 06, 2014

A Post About Why Democrats Got Trounced-- Without Once Mentioning Steve Israel


With a very few exceptions, it was congressmen from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Wall Street whores who fight alongside the Republicans against working families-- who got the short end of the stick Tuesday. Strong progressives in both Houses tended to win. The very well financed candidate the Koch brothers ran against Jeff Merkley in Oregon only won 37.63% of the vote Tuesday. When Merkley was first elected in 2008, he beat his GOP opponent 49-46%. Why did he do so much better? He summed up how Oregonians saw his record in the Senate like this: "When you fight for a fair shot for everyone-- a chance to work a good job at a living wage and go to college and retire with dignity-- working Americans stand up for you!"

Democratic turnout was pitiful in Florida last week. The top of the Democratic ticket was a conservative Republican who morphed into a moderate Republican, then an independent, then a conservative Democrat. The Party tried selling Democratic voters the most inauthentic political Svengali the state had ever seen. So tens of thousands stayed home. But not in FL-09, Alan Grayson's district. Early vote and vote by mail turnout was massive-- and Grayson won by over 10 points. "When Democrats stand for something," he reminded fellow Democrats Wednesday, "Democrats win."

This morning, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, who has one of the sharper minds among Beltway pundits, reported that top Democratic operatives say their party's real problem, not just Tuesday but going forward, is with older and blue collar voters. Ironic, huh? The party of the working class and the party that passed Social Security and Medicare and defends both has a problem with what should be its core constituency? Tuesday 22% of voters were 65 years or older. 57% of them voted for Republicans, only 41% for Democrats.
The most common explanation we’re hearing for the GOP sweep of a dozen Senate races last night is that an already-treacherous map for Democrats was made a lot worse by the failure of core Dem voter groups to show up.

But multiple Democratic pollsters involved in these races identify another problem: The failure of the Democrats’ economic message to win over persuadable voters, ones outside the ascendant Democratic coalition, in the numbers needed to offset the structural disadvantages Democratic incumbents and candidates faced. These pollsters describe this as a serious problem afflicting the Democratic Party that must be addressed heading into 2016.

No question, the map/turnout problem was daunting. But some evidence suggests that in some places, Democrats actually did push up turnout among core groups from 2010 levels. Democrats appear to have performed pretty well among these voters. But this wasn’t a 2012 electorate, and there just weren’t enough of them. Which leads to the related problem that John Judis points out: Democrats underperformed so badly among older voters and blue collar whites that it became impossible to make up that lost ground. This wasn’t just a turnout problem; it was a persuasion problem, too.

“We have a problem,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who polled on the Kentucky Senate race, told me. “If we’re really going to expand our chances in the Senate and House, we have to appeal to a wider group than we are now.”

The exit polls show that candidates like Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Bruce Braley and Mark Udall lost by anywhere from large to truly massive margins among non-college whites and older voters. That’s also true of the overall national electorate. You should treat these exit polls with a grain of salt, but the pollsters I spoke to agree that this gets at a fundamental problem Democrats face.

These pollsters argued that this was above all the result of a failure to connect with these voters’ economic concerns. At the root of these concerns, Mellman says, are stagnating wages and the failure of the recovery’s gains to achieve wider, more equitable distribution. Democrats campaigned on a range of economic issues--— the minimum wage, pay equity, student loan affordability, expanded pre-kindergarten education-- but these didn’t cut through people’s economic anxieties, because they didn’t believe government can successfully address them.

“People are deeply suspicious that government can deliver on these problems,” Mellman says, in a reference to the voter groups that continue to elude Democrats. “And they are not wrong. We’ve been promising that government can be a tool to improve people’s economic situation for decades, and by and large, it hasn’t happened.”
Obamacare was a halfway measure that gave the Republicans plenty of ammunition to attack it for good reasons (rather than for the reasons they really oppose it). Democrats who really wanted to stand up for working families wanted to expand Medicare-- pure and simple... and popular (although not among big campaign donors and lobbyists).

Same situation with Wall Street reform. Too many New Dems and other Wall Street whores in the Democratic Party worked with lobbyists and Republicans to weaken Dodd Frank and make it less effective-- and at a time when the Obama Administration decided to not hold the banksters accountable for their criminal behavior. Democrats who stand with working families knew that the reform measures didn't go far enough and, like Obamacare, Dodd Frank gave the GOP plenty of ammo to use against the Democrats and against reform without them having to expose the real reasons they oppose reform. In her NY Times column this morning, Margot Sanger-Katz pointed out that voters in states where Obamacare has been most effective-- where uninsured rates have plummeted most-- Republicans ran extremely well. "Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia," she wrote, "states that saw substantial drops in the proportion of their residents without insurance-- all elected Republican Senate candidates who oppose the Affordable Care Act. Control of the West Virginia state House of Delegates flipped from Democrats to Republicans. And Arkansas elected Republican supermajorities to both houses of its legislature along with a Republican governor, a situation that could imperil the Medicaid expansion that helped more than 200,000 of its poorest residents get health insurance."

LOLGOP had a perceptive look at the challenge for Democrats this morning at EclectaBlog:
Democrats also need to get Republicans back on the side of defending tax breaks for the rich and the big banks. This is easy-- at least for someone like me who doesn’t need to court millionaire donors. Democrats should back a new Glass-Steagall bill that restores the protections that kept us out of a crisis for 60 years. Also, Democrats need to demand a real end to trickle-down economics by demanding the end of tax breaks on investment income for the wealthy. Billionaires shouldn’t pay lower and lower tax rate for opening a mailbox than a nurse does for working 60 hours a week. While tax increases on the rich led to the best job growth of the last two centuries, cutting the capital gains tax preceded the Dot Com bust and then the greatest housing crisis in our history.

And with the money we’d save by taxing the rich like normal human beings, Democrats need to start fighting for universal free higher education. The richest country in the world can afford to give everyone a college or vocational education.

Bingo! In his review, Why The Democratic Party Acts The Way It Does, of professional centrist Al From's new book, The New Democrats and the Return to Power, Matt Stoller makes the crucial point that it's all about policy, not personalities.
Everything is put on the table, except the main course-- policy. Did the Democrats run the government well? Are the lives of voters better? Are you as a political party credible when you say you’ll do something?

This question is never asked, because Democratic elites--  ensconced in the law firms, foundations, banks, and media executive suites where the real decisions are made-- basically agree with each other about organizing governance around the needs of high technology and high finance. The only time the question even comes up now is in an inverted corroded form, when a liberal activist gnashes his or her teeth and wonders-- why can’t Democrats run elections around populist themes and policies? This is still the wrong question, because it assumes the wrong causality. Parties don’t poll for good ideas, run races on them, and then govern. They have ideas, poll to find out how to sell those ideas, and run races and recruit candidates based on the polling. It’s ideas first, then the sales pitch. If the sales pitch is bad, it’s often the best of what can be made of an unpopular stew of ideas.

Still, you’d think that someone somewhere would have populist ideas. And a few-- like Zephyr Teachout and Elizabeth Warren-- do. But why does every other candidate not? I don’t actually know, but a book just came out that might answer this question. The theory in this book is simple. The current generation of Democratic policymakers were organized and put in power by people that don’t think that a renewed populist agenda centered on antagonism towards centralized economic power is a good idea.
This election night survey from Hart Research for the AFL-CIO of 11 Senate battle ground states indicates that even if elites and DC pundits aren't concerned about issues, voters were:
• This election was about the economy: Asked to choose one or two priorities from a broad list, economic issues such as “the economy and jobs (42),” “Healthcare” (29), “Social Security” (18), and “Government spending and the deficit” trumped “Terrorism and national security” (17) and Taxes (11).

• Raising wages is good for workers and the economy:  68% of voters said that “raising wages and salaries is good because it improves people's standard of living and boosts the economy by putting money in people's pockets.” Voters supported “raising the federal minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents per hour” by 62-34%.

• Congress and the president must invest in key economic priorities: The electorate’s economic focus is underscored by the answer to this question: “Which one of the following do you think should be the higher priority for the president and Congress right now–(A) reducing taxes on businesses and individuals or (B) investing in key priorities like education, healthcare, and job creation?” “Investing in key priorities” (67%) dominated “Reducing taxes.” (29%)

• The 2014 electorate remains deeply pessimistic about Republicans in Congress and whether they can fix the economy: Asked “Do you think that Republicans in Congress have a clear plan for strengthening the economy and creating jobs?,” only 29% of the electorate said yes, while 62% said no.

• The electorate is struggling economically: 54% say their income is falling behind the cost of living while only 8% say that there income is going up faster than cost of living.  33% say their income is staying about even with the cost of living.

• Voters “feel that corporations had too much influence over this year’s elections” (62%): whereas only 5% said corporate influence was “too little.”

Along the same lines, 55% strongly agree with the statement that “politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties do too much to support Wall Street financial interests and not enough to help average Americans, while 25% somewhat agree, and only 13% disagree (only 4% strongly).

• Empowered union members supported working family candidates: While the non-union electorate voted 6% more for Republicans than Democrats, union voters preferred Democrats by 26%. That difference continued over key demographic groups: while non-union seniors (65+) voted 21% more for Republicans than Democrats, union seniors voted Democratic by a margin of 35%. Similarly, Republicans won non-union white women's votes by 25%, and union member white women voted for Democrats by that same margin-- 25%. Non-union voters who make less than $50,000 per year voted for Democrats 1% more than Republicans, while their union counterparts voted for Democrats 35% more than Republicans.

• Corporations should pay their fair share of taxes: 66% supported using tax revenue from closing corporate loopholes to reduce the budget deficit and make public investments while only 22% were in favor of reducing tax rates on corporations.

That’s consistent with the finding that 73% of voters support “increasing taxes on the profits that American corporations make overseas, to ensure they pay as much on foreign profits as they do on profits made in the United States,” while only 21% oppose such a plan.

• More funding is needed for public schools and higher education: “Increasing funding for public schools from preschool through college was supported 75-21%,” while “raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to fund priorities like education, job training, and deficit reduction” was ahead 62-32%.

• No fast-track authority for NAFTA style trade agreements: By 49% to 36% voters oppose having Congress give the president fast-track authority for a new Pacific trade agreement.

• Social Security benefits should be increased rather than cut: Increasing Social Security benefits, paid for by having high-income people pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages was supported 61-30%, whereas raising the Social Security retirement age won only 27% support, with 66% opposed.

Along similar lines, voters are opposed 76-18% to the idea of raising the age at which seniors are eligible for Medicare and oppose “Cutting the Medicaid health program” by a similarly overwhelming margin of 76-17.
Hillary Clinton is not the answer and not part of the solution. But Democratic politicians (and partisans) look to her as the only personality who can save them from the big bad Republicans, many of whose economic "solutions" aren't much different from her DLC perspective. Is there a solution? Yes, right here; it's up to us.

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At 10:26 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

This comment "doesn't count" about not mentioning Steve Israel, but I do want to remind readers that his "mystery meat" strategy called on his lousy candidates-- almost ALL of whom lost Tuesday-- to not discuss divisive issues (as though they could appeal to Republicans if they didn't). The strategy failed. He failed. Pelosi failed by reappointing him. She and Hoyer-- Israel's top booster inside the geriatric Democratic House leadership-- should NOT be picking Israel's successor, especially not Jim Himes, the Wall Street choice.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I've been working on my own post. I usually just post pictures these days, because it's all so aggravating when even "your" side isn't on your side.

But it keeps getting longer, and more rambling. Funny thing is, when I just type out a comment on someone else's blog, the words flow much easier and more quickly. Must be some mental block.

How about this:

No matter how many people voted D in FL-27, there would have been no Democratic Congressman. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz didn't want anyone running against her pal, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Again.

And not in FL-13, either. DCCC chair Steve Israel decided that the local NAACP head was too liberal and pushed him out in favor of some conservative 'independent', Ed Jany. Ed Jany had lied about his resume and promptly dropped out when caught.

Meanwhile, another Steve Israel recruit, Jennifer Garrison in OH-06, lost 58.2% to 38.6%, in spite of the money he invested in her. I mention her because she'd be the Sarah Palin of Ohio if she'd won. She's anti-choice, and has previously won a seat in the Ohio House by accusing her GOP opponent of being too friendly to gays.

Paul Clements lost to gooper Fred Upton, 55.9% to 40.4%. He received NO support from the DCCC. Steve Israel decided he was too liberal. And Steve Israel, former member of the "Center Aisle Caucus" doesn't run candidates against his GOP buddies in the House leadership (Upton is Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce).

Are these anomalies? No. This behavior is typical of the DNC and DCCC ever since Howard Dean and the 50 State Strategy was dropped by Our President and his first Chief of Staff, Rahmbo (currently serving as Chicago's Mayor 0.1%).

Can the rest of us please demand a return to the 50 State Strategy?

At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howie: you are missing your moment. You should be launching a grass roots campaign to have a member of the Progressive Caucus named to head the D Triple C

At 11:56 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Dude, I've been on the phone all week working on it. Progressives are reluctant to take it on because they would rather work on policy than raising money. But I'm making some headway. Everyone tells me Pelosi is going to bow down to Wall Street again and go for Jim Himes though.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Dorothy Reik said...

Until we can fix it, raising money is the game. If progressives won't dirty their hands then the right wing of the party will be only too happy to oblige. If you are too pure to get elected then you WON'T get elected. You can stay pure and stay home. What's that saying - "if you can't play with the big dogs, stay on the porch" - something like that.


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