There is ample evidence that 2010 was not just a fluke caused by voters angry about the slow return of jobs after the TARP, the Recovery Act and Wall Street Reform during the Great Recession OR the myths of the Obamacare fight. Even though the positive results of these and related policies are now clear and primed for Democrats basking in their glow, 2014 led to the worst turnout since World War II (when people were kind of busy with other maters) and the most Republican House seats since just before the Great Depression (when the bottom fell out).
Unfortunately, that means Democrats will have to wait until after 2020’s redistricting year (the last election before the next census) to have a chance to fix much of the damage done in the last four years.
The fact is, the Democrats can’t put Barack Obama on the ballot for any more elections and not every race is held in a hotly-contested Purple State during a presidential year so the Democrats need to start looking at how they can better connect with voters.
The good news about hitting rock bottom is that this time people are seriously discussing where “Yes We Can” went. The Democratic National Committee is sharing a survey of supporters right now and has created a Democratic Victory Task Force that will develop a preliminary “autopsy” report for their February Meeting followed by a final analysis in the summer. The team looks promising as it includes some familiar faces like Donna Brazile, Maria Cardona and tech-savvy Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt but time will tell whether they can absorb the cultural and systemic issues that led to this moment.
Yet “Victory” is not a big enough goal for this committee. In the end, winning elections is just a by-product of achieving public support for your cause FIRST that can come from a National MOVEMENT-BUILDING Strategy that seeks to win the hearts and minds of the American people.
There will be plenty of PIECEMEAL PROPOSALS matched with HUGE EXCUSES but we need to focus on the basics.
For example, due to online fundraising and the over-rated power of money to easily brainwash voters and win elections the post-“Citizens United” campaign finance environment didn’t hurt Democrats too much in 2012 as high-priced tools like TV advertising have reached a saturation point in a dying market.
Re-Districting is a legitimate problem often mentioned as Democrats should hold maybe 15 more seats in the House of Representatives if you compare their 2014 national vote total to their elected Members of Congress but we need to remember that losing elections is how we got in this situation in the first place...and that even if this were corrected the GOP would still have a commanding majority.
Hence, my simplest 2014 analysis is that sadly Barack Obama couldn’t figure out how to bring the Movement for “Hope” and “Change” to the Washington political establishment BUT the Washington political establishment definitely brought a movement of “cynicsm” and “status quo” politics to Barack Obama.
The President’s shine was destined to be tarnished by the ugly realities of governing and his time was now focused on more pressing matters, but he might regret how “Yes We Can!” became transformed into “Yes I Can!” where If you just give $5 the experts they can go off and win the election for you...don’t worry about the details or anything!
Well, it’s TIME to worry about the details that were left behind like the Howard Dean-led DNC’s “50-State” Strategy that supported party growth across the entire nation and helped create huge wins in the 2006 mid-terms before people knew who Barack Obama was.
The examples are endless, but here is one from the air war and one from the ground game that illustrate the rudimentary issues that I thought had become Outreach 101.
In 2014, after watching Bill Clinton be heralded as the “Explainer-in-Chief” and the success of My.BarackObama.com, am I seeing key Congressional and Senate races omit what should be politically-popular news about their governing agenda and record of achievements from their messaging AND even information on how to get involved like their campaign office and event information from their web sites and social media platforms....the internet wasn't created for only sharing cool things AFTER they happen!
In 2014, despite widespread use in party circles, why aren’t campaign organizers treated as capable of 21st Century communication with supporters (especially young people) on a regular basis via meetups, email, text and social media? Maybe because they’re perceived as low-skilled labor that doesn’t warrant a living wage or interns who don’t earn any wage at all?
The fact is, we have some numbers on our side but you don’t get credit for having a fundraising advantage or a great Get-Out-The-Vote program on Election Day. You lost the ENTIRE election….there’s no prize for your ad spending or door knocking results in October. Granted, there are external factors and demographic realities that affect candidates, but there needs to be a National MOVEMENT-BUILDING Strategy to shape the political climate 24/7/365 and more than ever it deserves to be scrutinized.
As Obama has said about Washington’s obstacles to policy solutions, the question is not whether there are enough “ideas” to help Democrats win elections - the U.S. electorate is demographically MORE LIBERAL today than it was in 2006 & 2008 - but whether there are enough PEOPLE that are willing and able to implement them.
And it starts with leadership! All it takes is one person at the top who has a vision and everyone else will become both “willing” and “able” to implement a plan in a hurry. So, with that in mind, we need to go beyond just dropping our comments in the Suggestion Box but really need to open up the dialogue beyond that.
And the fact is, the Democratic Party can never be as flexible and experimental as an individual activist, so even though some of the information gathered might not work for party organizations this kind of dialogue will offer us the opportunity to learn lessons that might be unique to our own issues and interests.
That’s why we need to focus on more than presidential primary candidates but a “Grassroots” Democratic Autopsy and long-term “Unite 4 Progress” campaign to help all smart candidates to WIN anyplace and anywhere!
A crowd-sourced forum will allow people to not be limited to emailing someone their feedback BUT to Share, Collaborate and Advocate for them, so best practices of all kinds can become more broadly championed and more easily percolate to the top of organizations instead of just getting read once and archived forever.
In particular, there is so much frustration among Obama supporters right now that this concept can be a great vehicle for channeling their energies by offering plenty of opportunities to promote legacy-building that will increase the President’s poll numbers and make him more of an asset to candidates for the next election.
Now, please join us in our quest for a growing a true Democratic Movement and let’s bring PROGRESS back in America!
Grassroots Social & Media Strategist Jim McBride writes about "post-partisan" forward-minded solutions to policy and campaign issues that prioritize strategies that appeal to broad coalitions of voters and supporters to ensure movement success.
He was the Founder of Generation Webb and Generation Obama-Washington, DC chapter as well as one of the lead organizers of Virginia For Obama’s grassroots-led primary campaign. He is currently the President of the grassroots community Network For Progress and has over 20 years in communications and political work.