This ad from Alison Grimes in Kentucky that Cenk Uygur dissects here is emblematic of the failure of Blue Dog Dems in 2014, Kentucky Democrat's Weak-Ass TV Commercial Against Mitch McConnell 09/15/2014:
Hoeever, as Howie points out in his post:
No surprise that McConnell won. And not a surprise that that was the very first race called last night. The Democrats had a weak, inauthentic, poll-driven candidate who didn't inspire anyone who didn't already hate McConnell or who wanted a family friend of Bill and Hill to win or just a generic woman in office. McConnell won by a bigger margin than most pundits were predicting-- 754,777 (55.7%) to 557,652 (41.2%). But all those millions of dollars spent on her race were hardly a waste. As of the October 15 FEC reporting deadline, Alison Grimes had raised $17,487,650 and McConnell had been forced to raise $27,956,687 to defend his seat. As far as independent expenditures, the DSCC spent $2,240,122 and the Senate Majority PAC spent another $5,590,112. Various unions and Democratic-allied groups spent another couple million plus.
As much as I was disgusted by Grimes' Blue Dog campaign, Howie is pointing out there the benefits of what former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean called the "50-state strategy." Even in long-shot campaigns, having a challenger forces the Republicans to spend money in their own state rather than send it elsewhere. It also helps the Democratic Party build its infrastructure and brand in "red" states that tend to go Republican.
A practical downside of a 50-state strategy is that in practice it's likely to bring more Blue Dogs out of the woodwork as candidates. But the Blue Dog problem is ultimately a more general branding problem for the Democrats. If the Democrats can't enforce a little more practical party-line discipline in Congress - and, yes, more political/ideological discipline, as well - they're going to wind up with a Party "brand" that's way more diffuse than it should be. We saw in 2010 and again this year that midterm elections are about turnout, turnout, turnout. Democrats have to get their base voters to the polls. How they think they can do that by pretending to be Republicans is a genuine mystery to me.
The Dems today could learn something about branding from Harry Truman:
09/18/1948: "I think the last Congress conclusively proved that the Republicans are entirely for special privilege, and you can't afford to have that sort of an administration in the Government."
09/27/1948: "The Republicans in Congress have persistently been sabotaging the best interests of the people of this country by refusing to pass laws which benefit all the people. They are a special interest Congress. They have done absolutely nothing for the people of the country since they have been in session, but they have done a lot to them."
09/27/1948: The people will have to decide between the Democratic and the Republican Parties; and that is really a decision between two different kinds of government.I think it's safe to say that President Truman didn't share President Obama's notion of Bipartisanship as being a good thing in and of itself.
The Democratic Party will give you the kind of government that Sam Rayburn stands for--government in the interest of the farmer and the workingman and all the people. And when the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn will have a powerful voice in seeing that you get the kind of government you ought to have.
Some people have wondered why I keep on talking about the Republican 80th "do-nothing" Congress. Well, I'll tell you why. It's because they raised a storm warning that tells us what we could expect, if we had a Republican President as well as a Republican Congress.
We might have "unity" then. I don't know. But if we did have unity, what kind would it be?
09/28/1948: "I could continue to give you the record of these predatory animals in Washington, and of the fight that we have been carrying on against them, but you're intelligent people. You know the record. Just study the record--that's all I ask you to do. Study my record. Study the record of the 80th Congress, controlled by Republican leadership, and see the difference." Lawd have mercy! I do belive that sounds downright "uncivil." It would send poor Chuck Todd straight to the fainting couch to heah such a thing!
09/29/2014: "The Republicans always have been for special interests. The Democratic Party is the party of the people."
10/01/1948: The Republicans are not interested in the welfare of the whole people. They are only interested in special privilege, they are only interested in helping the rich. It is a policy of the Republican Party that the big fellows ought to get all the big money, and let just a little of it trickle down to the everyday fellow in the street.But despite the Democrats' very real branding problems, and the Republicans' understandable desire to interpret the 2014 election as some fundamental political shift, it wasn't actually that unusual a midterm election.
That is not the Democratic way. We believe in beginning at the bottom, and letting the good things go up. If a man has got ability and brains and energy, I am glad to see him get to the top, and get a big salary, and have everything that is coming to him; but I want the common everyday fellow to have his fair share of the good things in life.
Not that the Republicans' just cruised to victory. They had lots of special interest money and a political strategy, as Josh Marshall reminds us You Broke It, You Won It TPM 11/06/2014:
... it is much easier to break the government and reap the benefits of doing so if you are not the party of government. This is obvious when you put it this way. But it's worth considering what a central reality this is.Turnout is so crucial in midterms, and the Republicans consistently do better at it. As Digby Parton says, "Until Democrats can figure out a way to get their voters to the polls in midterm elections, this will happen. We have known this for some time. And yet everyone's acting surprised." (You mean this didn't signal an epic sea change in American politics? Hullabaloo 11/06/2014)
We should also remember that this is exactly what Republicans did in 1993 and 1994. The script was identical. The difference is actually a good one for Democrats in that they got a lot more accomplished in 2009-10 than the more entrenched Democratic majority of 1993-94. Still, the strategy was identical and it had a similar result - the difference being needing three cycles to finally grab the Senate. [my emphasis]
Which gets back to that branding problem.
The Democrats need a more unified brand nationally. The President has a lot to do with setting the tone, and Obama has unquestionably been deficient in that regard.
But Cenk Uygur rightly cautions us against laying the blame accruing to the Democrats for their performance in this year's elections all on Obama, Dems Viciously Blame Obama As Era Of Compromise Begins The Young Turks 11/05/2014:
I'll be curious to see what the post-election studies show about turnout, especially Latino turnout. (Latinos Activists Angry, But Vindicated, After Democrats Lose Senate; Pilar Marrero, Ojos están puestos ahora en Obama para que actúe sobre inmigración La Opinión 11/05/2014) Delaying his promised Executive Order on immigration reform until after the election was classic Blue Dog thinking on Obama's part. In practice, it angered the base, especially Latino voters, and did nothing for him with the swing voters, of whom there are few in midterm elections. Pilar Marrero's report refers to a poll with a sample of 5,000 Latino voters in Tuesday's election, apparently nationwide, which found "que el 45% dijo que inmigración era el tema más importante y que 67% dijo que era uno de los más importantes" ["that 45% say that immigration was the most important issue and that 67% say that it was that it was one of the most important"]. (emphasis in original)
But there again, there were problems down-ticket on immigration, as well. Here is an Alison Grimes ad dated 10/07/2014 on her YouTube site for her losing Senate campaign in Kentucky this year, blasting Mitch McConnell for not being more opposed to Latino immigrants than St. Reagan was, Alison for Kentucky TV Ad "Largest Ever":
As of this writing, the YouTube site has a notice, "This video is unlisted. Be considerate and think twice before sharing." It's kind of appropriate, like a warning of a porno video you hide in some closet. Although it's from her "Alison for Kentucky" YouTube channel, it doesn't show on the channel video list or pop up in a search of the channel.
Now Obama's promising again to do immigration reform by Executive Order if Congress doesn't act by the end of the year, which of course they won't. (Pilar Marrero, Obama promete actuar en inmigración antes de fin de año La Opinión 11/06/2014)
Pro-immigrant activists are planning to keep the pressure on him, as María Peña reports in Activistas alistan más protestas para exigir alivios migratorios La Opinión 11/06/2014.
And, of course, race had something to do with Tuesday results (Chauncey DeVega, Time Traveling Through the 2014 Midterm Elections. What Year is it Really? The End of Reconstruction? The Gilded Age? Neo Jim and Jane Crow? WARN 11/05/2014):
The Republican Party's win in the 2014 midterms is not a rejection of the Democratic Party's policies (on specific policy issues the American people overwhelming support the Democratic Party) per se. it is a channeling of general angst and hostility toward a government which has been broken by the Republican Party, an angst that they in turn have masterfully deflected back on Obama and the Democrats.
For the White Right and the Republican Party, more generally, the midterms are an actual and symbolic repudiation of Barack Obama, the United States' first black president. From Birtherism, to their embrace of neo Confederate language and ideology, and overt acts of racial animus and paranoia, the Republican Party and its media machine have dedicated themselves to putting the "uppity", "arrogant", "usurper", black tyrant "back in his place".
For the White Gaze, Obama is also a stand-in for Black Americans, as well as the idea of a changing and demographically more diverse United States. For the White Right, beating Obama (the wish of doing so literally; the act of winning an election, figuratively) is a way of reasserting dominance--as though it was ever lost--over the life chances and political fortunes of Black and Brown America.