Reprinted from Smirking Chimp
Many Democrats examining what happened in the 2014 midterms are asking "what did the voters want?" But the right question is why did only 36.4 percent of potential voters bother to register and vote? Obviously Democrats did not give those voters a good enough reason to take the trouble. Is the Democratic Party relevant anymore?
"New Coke" Democrats
In 1985 Coca-Cola was the market leader, but Pepsi was gaining market share. Coca-Cola's executives panicked and reformulated its flavor to taste like the more-sugary Pepsi. But Pepsi drinkers already drank Pepsi and Coca-Cola drinkers were left with no brand that they liked. If this sounds like an analogy to the Democratic Party consultants who keep urging Democratic candidates and politicians to be more like Republicans, that's because it is.
Democrats were considered the majority party from the time of Roosevelt's New Deal until the 1980s. All they had to do to win was to get a high enough voter turnout. Democratic operations were more about Get Out The Vote (GOTV) than giving people reasons to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans. They just assumed most people agreed with them -- because most people agreed with them. But that time has passed.
In the 1970s, corporations and conservatives launched a major marketing push, establishing a network of PR "think tanks" that pushed a neoliberal economic line. Since the mid-1970s Americans have been subjected to a constant drumbeat through all purchasable and infiltratable information channels -- even a whole TV network that blasts out right-wing propaganda 24/7/12/365 -- all constantly repeating a professionally-crafted propaganda narrative that conservatives and their values are good and "liberals" and their values are bad.
Instead of responding and countering this, most Democratic candidates and officeholders instead tried moving to where their pollsters perceived the pubic to be on an imagined political spectrum. Conservatives pushed the public right, no one responded to the propaganda, Democrats chased the inevitable result. In this environment the country's politics could only shift rightward -- and voters who did not want to vote for "Pepsi-like" candidates to the right of them stopped turning out.
So corporate, neo-liberal policies came to dominate our economy. "Free trade," anti-union, monopolistic anti-democracy policies have killed wage growth and government programs for regular, working people and regular, working people have responded by turning away from the party that was supposed to be watching out for them.
Dave Dayen sums this up at The Fiscal Times, in "The So-So Society: Democrats Have Forgotten What Made Them Great." (Click through to see his list of potential solutions Democrats could offer.)
"This is not the Democratic Party of your great-grandfather's New Deal or your grandfather's Great Society. The takeover of the party by more business-friendly interests -- which ironically (or perhaps not) dates back to right around 1973, when wages decoupled from productivity -- necessarily impoverishes the imagination around issues of economic security and prosperity."
William Greider drives it home at The Nation, in "How the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul: The trouble started when the party abandoned its working-class base."
"Instead of addressing this reality and proposing remedies, the Democrats ran on a cowardly, uninspiring platform: the Republicans are worse than we are. Undoubtedly, that's true -- but so what? The president and his party have no credible solutions to offer. To get serious about inequality and the deteriorating middle class, Democrats would have to undo a lot of the damage their own party has done to the economy over the past thirty years."
As Democrats embraced neoliberal "market solution" arguments and moved away from representing the interests of working-class and middle-class voters, many of those voters had nowhere left to turn and simply stopped voting.
Is Jim Webb The Answer?
In "Who Will Save the Democratic Party From Itself?" Thomas Edsall examines Jim Webb's prospects as a challenger to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential nomination based on his use of economic arguments rather than "identity" arguments that try to get women, and minorities to vote for them. Edsall examines whether Webb can win "a crucial but alienated segment of the electorate," which is "voters convinced that Wall Street owns both parties, voters tired of politicians submitting to partisan orthodoxy and voters seeking to replace "identity group" politics with a restored middle- and working-class agenda."
Edsall turns to four observers to examine this.