The Democratic Party got creamed or "shellacked" to use President Barack Obama's word for the rout by the Republican Party in the recently concluded mid-term elections. And in the aftermath of the most significant political turnover since 1938 Democrats are asking themselves what happened. Meanwhile, Republicans are shouting, "the people have spoken." But what did the people say? Republicans claim that the people's message was a repudiation of President Obama's agenda although they have yet to define that agenda.
In the midst of Democrats engaging in well deserved wailing and gnashing of teeth is the fact that some of the casualties of the Republican blitzkrieg were genuinely capable and experienced politicians. That, of course, adds to a looming governmental crisis of epic proportions as both parties dig in on differences of key economic issues. While the battle lines are being hardened and drawn, those who support the President's agenda should not give up hope. Nor should the Democratic Party see the political glass as half empty.
The Democratic Party must start from the analysis that in the last Congress Republicans embarked on a policy of intransigence amid unbelievable Democratic disunity, faltering and inconsistent messaging. The White House and President Obama's operational processes were marred by chronic timidity and a naïve quest for Republican bipartisanship and cooperation that never materialized. Meanwhile the GOP's horn child the Tea Party Movement was running amok attacking every plan that the Administration floated good, bad or indifferent.
In short, one of the first areas that Democrats all over the nations must immediately remedy is the inability to get the party's message out effectively. Republicans drowned out Democrats in the midterm elections not because they had a better message but because they got their own out nauseatingly consistent. Their loud, shrill shouting also helped to fuel anger with the Democrats even though it was just "sound and fury signifying nothing." The net effect? Anger and confusion.
Democrats must get out of the box and blast the Republican austerity program that will undercut the national economic recovery and job creation program. If the Republicans get their way ALL entitlement programs will be cut that will threaten our already meager social welfare system and the future earnings of most poor workers. Democrats must ask the question: "yes, the people have spoken as Republicans like to piously say, but what have they said?" have they, by voting in a Republican majority in Congress, opted for huge cuts to Medicaid and Medicare?
Have the people spoken to the Republicans and said that they want cuts to unemployment benefits for poor workers who can't find jobs and did not cause this serous recession? And what did their vote say about cutting taxes for the rich the so called Bush Tax cuts and making these cuts permanent that will cause poor taxpayers over $1 trillion?
Democrats must stop apologizing for their mid-term losses. Heck, had the Republicans been in office their losses would have been heavy given the present economic climate. Moreover, as U.S. political history acknowledges, the party of an incumbent president typically loses some ground in midterm elections especially when unemployment is high. There's also disproportionate fall-off in voting in midterms, which particularly depresses votes of some groups crucial for Democrats, like young people or minorities. Combined, the effect was devastating. Add to that the increasingly strong Republican preference among older voters, a loss of typically stronger support for Democrats among women, and a strong shift to Republicans among independents.
So one must conclude on the basis of all this that the midterm elections, despite the heavy spin cycles and slanted punditry on the right, was not a referendum on President Obama's presidency or agenda nor was it either a ringing endorsement of the Republican Party. Consider this statistic: the overriding concern of voters both Democrats and Republicans in the midterm elections was the economy. 30 percent of voters said that Democrats had a clear recovery plan and 35 percent said Republicans had an alternative.
And no matter Republicans feel that they have some mandate from the people to undo everything that President Obama has done that is just so very untrue. That's the Republican agenda not the "people's agenda;" not what the people said on November 2, 2010. Here again is where Democrats must go on the offensive. If Republicans attack all social and entitlement programs while bailing out their rich friends then Democrats must tag them with hypocrisy in the same way that Republicans like to portray President Obama as a liar.
For the Republican and Tea Parties agenda there is very little support. For example, a September Project Vote survey, as well as much other opinion researchshows that significant majorities of Americans do want an active, problem-solving federal government that provides economic security, consumer protection and much more, even if they don't always want to pay for it. And even when they vote Republican, they don't necessarily support the party's positions: The Hart swing district polling, for example, found that only from 12 to 34 percent of all voters supported key planks of the Republican or Tea Party agenda.
What voters do want is for the Democratic Party to deliver on its promises and live up to its main and most effective historic claim on voters' supportto stand up for the interests of working people against big business and the rich. That should be the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's messaging and its outreach to disenchanted voters.
But there is the all-important issue of perception. The sight of Democratic Party politicians, led by President Barack Obama, yakking it up with Wall Street fat-cat fundraisers while berating a recession-hammered nation is not exactly inspiring. It's more like a recipe for electoral suicide. And it was this crazy behavior that turned off many ordinary rank and file voters struggling to keep their homes and millions out of work.
The Democratic Party and President Obama by their actions and sins of omission encouraged deep mass voter depression. With the Iraq War still on track and the Afghanistan War now intensifying the president's base and independents became disillusioned and bitter. Adding insult to injury the president's Wall Street reform law was a weak, uncreative sham that has contributed to an even fatter set of cats. They are exploiting new "reform rules" for even more super profits. And finally, President Obama's aides admit that the new health care legislation coddles the insurance industries it purports to regulate.
These are the facts. The president and his party must get a grip on this thing called mass communications; come down from the Ivory Tower and do trench warfare the old fashion way if he's to win a second term and Democrats to recover from this debacle.