Democrats aren’t off the hook for a bad election

Democrats coughed up some winnable races this year.

Alison Lundergan Grimes tried to replace her spine with a shotgun in Kentucky.

Bruce Braley let Joni Ernst get away with running a masterfully stupid campaign in Iowa.

And Charlie Crist somehow found a way to be outworked and out-liked by Rick Scott, the lizard man/bat boy who refused to say what he thinks his state’s minimum wage should be.

There are a number of reasons why fundamentally strong Democratic candidates in purple or blue states lost this year, but a sweeping national sentiment wasn’t one of them.

The more likely candidate for the Democratic losses was a failure to give voters a compelling reason to vote for them in the first place.

As I wrote in August:

This summer and fall, Democratic candidates across the country are going to talk about economic inequality.

They will bemoan the fact that the rich are getting richer, leaving everyone else behind and refusing to pay their fair share. They will say that more needs to be done to expand economic opportunity to all.

Then, they will say that the two silver bullets – the two must-dos in order to rectify the problem they have just outlined – are a minimum wage increase and pay equity legislation.

Seems like a bit of a letdown, no?

It seemed like a letdown, and it was a letdown.

Some folks did get that slight minimum wage increase. In Arkansas, for instance, a ballot initiative endorsed by both Senator Mark Pryor and soon-to-be Senator Tom Cotton to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 passed. However, Pryor had already opposed President Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

And without the GOP supplying its usual slew of gaffes about America’s lady-parts, Democrats weren’t able to coast to a massive gender gap just by reciting the usual equal pay/reproductive health script that worked in 2012.

And while Washington voters approved a significant background check ballot initiative by a wide margin, few if any Democratic candidates bothered to mention in any serious way the consistent GOP opposition to even the most minute gun restrictions.

As I mentioned above, 2014 was by and large an election about nothing. But it could have been about so many things. That the election cycle was so boring is that fault of Democrats who were too scared to call out their opponents for what they were: anti-scientific, anti-democratic, racist, corporatist, conspiratorial, patriarchal tools.

2014 was bad from the standpoint of political fundamentals, but it could have produced better outcomes. That isn’t the map’s fault, it’s ours.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Ryan Tardiff

    They very much aren’t off the hook. The Dems need a new strategy. My thoughts:

    http://higherprogress.com/2014/11/10/three-point-plan-introduction/

  • stephanie092

    til I looked at the draft ov $5101 , I be certain that…my… brother was actualy earning money parttime from there new laptop. . there dads buddy has been doing this 4 only eleven months and resently paid for the depts on there place and bourt a top of the range Land Rover Range Rover . hop over to this site…..>> -> INCOME FROM ONLINE ADVERTIsiteNG!!! <-

  • Butch1

    They cannot seem to handle being in the majority when they have it. It’s disgusting.

  • Agreed. Even when they were in the majority Reid and Pelosi didn’t get much done. We need new leadership. In fact this needs to be the mantra for all politicians. If you can’t do your job, then we’ll replace you. That’s who it works for the 99%.

  • Strepsi

    This is from 2010, but it’s unfortunately eternally true.

    http://www.laprogressive.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Democratic-spine.gif

  • basenjilover

    as for the House, NOT Pelosi… (it is rumored she is running for house minority lead again…)

  • Demosthenes

    Another excellent column, Mr. Green. I made the mistake of first commenting upon a layer piece about Virginia, where I went down a similar path as you do here — but with less detail and eloquence.

  • emjayay

    That’s how today’s internets work. Insidious, but that’s modern capitalism for you.

  • nicho

    Interesting. Yours says Brooklyn. I got the exact same ad and it said Palm Springs.

  • dcinsider

    Well said.

  • Drew2u

    I know there was a 4:1 ratio in Wisconsin for political ads favoring Republicans on television and pretty much a 100% marketshare on internet popup ads (on my phone? WTF!?) Whereas the ads that did run barely refuted the Republican lies or went on offense. If a campaign is that hurt for exposure, then old-fashioned county-by-county electioneering needs to take place, ESPECIALLY at colleges and focusing on what young adults care about. As it is we now will see:
    Net Neutrality disbanded
    TPP passing
    Keystone XL being created
    local control by municipalities being overtaken by state law (already happening)
    Voting Rights suppressed even more (How about campaigning on making a constitutional amendment for voting rights?)
    Women’s Rights (Equal Pay, Health Services, Maternity Leave) being abolished (again, already happening)
    Income Inequality and Social Immobility cemented into culture (also happening, but a strong point)
    Affordable Health Care becoming less-so (more money spent on health services, less disposable income, less social mobility)
    Marijuana decriminialization (if not legalization, then stopping stigmatization by State and Federal laws)

    Seriously, WTF, guys? This isn’t even pointing out the anti-intellectualism of the other party and their celebration of their wanton ignorance and belligerence.

  • I know there were paid consultants. What did they tell them? And why did they listen? There were no issues discussed. Not even much of a campaign. Campaigns should be about listening to voters and addressing the issues that matter to them. But no. Campaigns are about raising money from billionaires and avoiding talking about anything that matters to the rest of us. If Democrats aren’t going to stand for anything they are going to lose. Like they just did. But maybe at the very least we can find a minority leader who is effective which means NOT Reid.

  • Rambie

    “This summer and fall, Democratic candidates across the country are going to talk about economic inequality.”

    Did they now? It came up a few times but the overall campaigning from the Democrats was… nothing.

    The Republicans did their usual lying FUD campaigns and once again it worked.

  • emjayay

    Today’s ad in the middle of the piece like it was illustrating it: Photo of young woman standing for some reason against a corner wearing a thin tight wife beater shirt – caption: Brooklyn, NY Residents Are ‘Rattled’ By New Website. Source: Instant Checkmate (you have to hover for that to appear)

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