By Robert A. Vella
When progressives look at the Democratic Party, they see both great potential and abysmal leadership. Its potential rests with a latent numerical advantage in elections which will only grow with time. Its leadership at the national level, however, has largely failed to exploit this enormously valuable asset. Now that the Democrats’ 2014 midterm election strategy is being revealed, it appears once more to be plagued with the mangled political priorities of self-defeating pragmatism.
The Priorities USA Action PAC, supporting Hillary Clinton for President in 2016, says it will NOT support any Democratic candidates in the off year election this november…This according to The Ed Show this afternoon…
Priorities USA Action was the largest liberal super-pac during the 2012 presidential election cycle. It raised over $79 million in donations and spent over $65 million in advocacy ads to reelect President Obama (see: http://www.opensecrets.org/).
With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous — and the House all but beyond reach — some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate.
Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP’s way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency.
The triage idea is taking hold in phone conversations among donors and in strategy sessions between party operatives. Even some of the people who have invested the most to get House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi back into the speaker’s chair are moving in that direction.
As the great Green Bay Packers (NFL) head coach once yelled in frustration from the sidelines, “what the hell is going on out there?”
Obviously, Democrats are in a dispirited mood after a rocky 2013 which saw their leader in the White House suffer damaging hits to his popularity. The NSA surveillance revelations, the ongoing drone strike killings, the authoritarian persecution of journalists, the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, the botched Obamacare roll-out, and the fake Benghazi and IRS scandals, all contributed to Obama’s presidential approval numbers falling by nearly 15 percent.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Democrats also know that the voter turnout they depend on drops precipitously in midterm elections (see: http://elections.gmu.edu/voter_turnout.htm).
But considering that the Tea Party-dominated GOP has done nothing to endear itself with the majority of the American people, one wonders why Democrats aren’t tackling this last problem head on.
Sitting at the intersection of these crossing currents is the state of Georgia. In the past few years, every demographic trend in Georgia has favored progressives. Ruy Teixeira at the Center for American Progress sums it up nicely:
In the last decade, Georgia had a rapid rate of increase in its minority population, going from 37% to 44% minority over the time period. The increase in the minority population accounted for 81% of Georgia’s growth over the decade.
How has this played out in elections? In 2000, whites made up 75% of voters in the Georgia presidential race. Twelve years later, they made up 61%. Mitt Romney won the state, but only by 304,000 votes – despite the fact that Obama hardly invested any time or energy there.
The question of whether Georgia will become blue is actually a question of when. The answer to that question depends on voter registration. There are more than 600,000 unregistered black Americans in Georgia, plus thousands of unregistered Latinos, Asian-Americans, women and millennials. At an average cost of $12 per registration, it would cost less than $8 million to register virtually all of Georgia’s unregistered black voters. If even half of them had voted for President Obama in 2012, we would be having a very different conversation today.
That’s over 800,000 unregistered people in Georgia alone who would tend to choose Democratic candidates over Republican candidates if they could be motivated to vote. What might motivate them to vote? It certainly isn’t the status quo corporatist politics practiced by both parties at the national level. On the contrary, it is the message of economic populism that speaks directly to the experience of everyday Americans which might motivate them to vote. Why aren’t Democrats promoting this message? Why aren’t Democrats countering the Republicans’ anti-government propaganda with a public information campaign that advocates for civic participation?
Why aren’t Democrats answering these questions? Do they want to lose the 2014 election? If not, they sure have chosen an odd strategy. Trying to minimize losses is not a recipe for victory.