What went wrong for Dems in 2014, and how to fix it
Nov 26, 2014. “He was the first black president. Okay, not a bad accomplishment, but that’s it, Mr. Obama.” Who would say that about the President? McConnell? Limbaugh? The truth will shock you. Republicans have been running on a simple anti-Obama platform for six years. It worked. [Photo: Alison Grimes — Who did I vote for?]
Unfortunately, as we will see, progressives joined the attacks. And as Obama’s popularity slipped, Democratic politicians backed away from him. This snowballed into the appalling state of the recent campaign leaving Democrats without a message and resulting in a heavy defeat at the polls.
But the extreme left was cursing Obama before he took office, and his so-called “base” was comparing him to Bush and calling him “The War President” not long after he passed his $835 billion stimulus and prevented a second depression — that’s almost as much as Bush spent on Iraq in six years.
This left criticism was non-stop and rivaled Republican criticism in its intensity. Through voices like Michael Moore, Amy Goodman, and not infrequently, mainstream media like the New York Times, the critical left was far more effective in reaching Democrats. Naturally Obama’s popularity declined under these non-stop attacks and Democratic politicians began to fear any association with Obama or his achievements.
So Democratic politicians backed away from Obama and the extreme left blamed Obama for what they had helped to cause. Remember that question at the start of this article? Well, no, it wasn’t McConnell who said that. It was Michael Moore at the Toronto Film Festival, saying what he wanted to tell Obama.
“When the history is written of this era, this is how you’ll be remembered: ‘He was the first black president’ OK, not a bad accomplishment, but that’s it.”
— from the guy that backed Nader, costing Gore the election
This hit the press two months before the 2014 midterm election.
With the Republicans (and the left) winning the anti-Obama war, Democratic candidates feared mentioning his achievements: preventing a depression, unemployment back under 6%, the Affordable Care Act, Afghanistan pull-out on schedule, taking out bin Laden, repealing Defense of Marriage Act, dramatically increasing fuel-efficiency standards. Staying silent on these left the Democrats with no message at all.
Consider that four “red” states — South Dakota, Arkansas, Alaska and Nebraska — who sent Republicans to the Senate voted by wide margins to raise their state’s minimum wage. Yet, Democratic candidates in these states barely mentioned the minimum wage. Exit polls showed that people listed health care as the second reason they voted for a Democratic candidate.
Some candidates wouldn’t even say they had voted for Obama — Alison Lundergan Grimes, for example, who was badly defeated by Mitch McConnell. Distancing themselves from the president didn’t help candidates at all. It was just what the Republicans wanted.
The Democrats could not have stopped Republicans from using Congress and government shutdowns for pure party politics. But they could have stuck with their President, who was far more popular than Congress with its 14% approval rating just before the election. Hiding from your party’s accomplishments is no way to get elected.
Americans want someone fighting for them, not a party running away from its president.