By Robert A. Vella

When evaluating the effectiveness of modern political party strategies in America, it’s quite obvious that Republicans are as adroit as Democrats are inept.  The GOP has an instinctive knack for simplistic messaging, the clever use misinformation and propaganda, all designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of public sentiment.  Conversely, Democrats often appear confused and conflicted, unable or unwilling to connect emotionally with the real lives of everyday citizens.  The consequences of this strategic mismatch are apparent.  Despite a numerically superior base of potential support, as well as a dramatically more reasonable policy platform, Democrats have been under-performing in recent elections especially at the state and local level.  As the 2016 presidential election draws closer, Republicans are planning to exploit a growing divide in the Democratic Party.  If I was a gambler, I would be placing my bets now on the GOP.

The Dems’ great vulnerability stems from decreasing voter turnout associated with the rise of economic populism in the U.S.  The unrelenting advance of wealth inequality, the stagnation of wages, and the loss of educational and occupational opportunity, has resulted in a disaffected, disillusioned, and increasingly angry populace.  Political analysts across the spectrum have recognized this evolving dynamic.

From The Washington PostBoth parties agree: Economic mobility will be a defining theme of 2016 campaign:

Presidential hopefuls in both parties agree on at least one thing: Economic mobility, and the feeling of many Americans that they are being shut out from the nation’s prosperity, will be a defining theme of the 2016 campaign.


“You talk to any pollster, on the Democratic side or the Republican side, they’re in complete agreement on the idea that there has to be an economic populist message,” said Matthew Dowd, a top strategist for former president George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. “Then it comes down to ‘Are there credible solutions and is there a credible candidate?’ ”
About 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line, according to last fall’s census estimates, while the median household income in the United States in 2013 was just under $52,000. Adjusted for inflation, the median is 8 percent lower than it was in 2007, the last full year before the recession, and 11 percent below what it was in 2000.

Wage stagnation has been a persistent problem for low- and middle-income workers. “Since the late 1970s, wages for the bottom 70 percent of earners have been essentially stagnant, and between 2009 and 2013, real ­wages fell for the entire bottom 90 percent of the wage distribution,” Lawrence Mishel of the liberal Economic Policy Institute wrote in a paper published this month.

The WaPo article goes on to describe how Republican 2016 hopefuls are planning to attack Democrats on this front:

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush last week became the latest Republican to signal a readiness to engage Democrats on what historically has been their turf, putting issues of middle-class wage stagnation, poverty and shared prosperity at the forefront of their political messages.

Bush’s framing of the economic and social challenges facing the country nearly mirrors that of likely Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as other possible contenders on the left. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has written a book on the subject, “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone,” to be published this week, while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has proposed policies for distressed communities that he sees as “the ticket to the middle class.”

And Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee who was portrayed by Democrats as insensitive to and out of touch with the lives of middle- and working-class Americans, has told friends he considers poverty a topic du jour as he weighs another run in 2016.

Economic populism has become so worrisome for the political class that GOP governors are beginning to resist the Tea Party inspired wave of right-wing extremism which emerged in 2009-2010 (see:  G.O.P. Governors Face Test in Shift on Ideological Agendas).

Where the Republican establishment seems eager to embrace the issue of economic populism, albeit disingenuously, the Democratic Party establishment is fighting back against it.

From Richard Eskow of the Campaign for America’s FuturePopulism Rises – And The ‘Center’ Strikes Back:

“Americans don’t want angry, defensive figures running for president,” Democratic operative Will Marshall told McClatchy’s David Lightman this week. But who, precisely, is angry and defensive?

As the pushback to Wall Street’s influence on government grows stronger, it is the banking industry’s supporters who sound enraged. And as economic populism gains traction in Democratic circles, it is corporate Democrats like Marshall who find themselves increasingly on the defensive.

Marshall and his organization (the misleadingly named “Progressive Policy Institute”) are part of a corporate-financed movement that has tacked the Democratic Party sharply rightward in recent decades. Marshall was a member of the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq,” which pushed hard for the invasion of that country in 2002, and signed a letter from the Project for a New American Century promoting that cause. On the domestic front, Marshall’s organization can be counted on to support such moves as last week’s deregulatory gift to Wall Street (see here for more).

Why are right-leaning Democrats like Marshall so worried? The answer may lie in the shifting internal dynamics of the Democratic Party itself. The financial crisis of 2008, the long-term economic issues that continue to plague the nation, and a growing public awareness of wealth inequality have all contributed to the consolidation of public opinion along economically populist lines.

And, from Daily KosModerate Dems angry that Warren liberals are raining on their pro-biz parade:

This is cute. The New Democrat Coalition—a “pro-growth, fiscally responsible” group of Democratic lawmakers—thinks the Democrats’ “lack of pro-business messaging” is what hurt them in 2014:

[M]embers also brought up concerns about the government spending bill that passed in December and the lack of pro-business messaging in the mid-term elections.

Okay, back to the story from Politico. Warring factions of congressional Democrats have emerged in the wake of the GOP’s failed effort this week to delay certain provisions of Dodd-Frank (you know, the law that’s meant to protect consumers from abuse by behemoth financial institutions).

Tension reached a boiling point during a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday over the party’s stance toward Wall Street banks, according to multiple sources at the meeting.Liberal Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano incensed the moderates when he said if Democrats support rolling back Dodd-Frank regulations, “you might as well be a Republican.”

Moderate Democrats—who suddenly feel under siege after Sen. Elizabeth Warren put the klieg lights on the dark corners of efforts to empower business at the expense of taxpayers—are arguing that Democrats will be confined to minority status forever if they don’t, well, moderate their efforts to protect consumers.

They were angered because that same legislation had garnered support from more than 70 Democrats in the 113th Congress, but became a political landmine after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) criticized the legislation as a Wall Street handout.

Americans’ anti-establishment mood could also spell trouble for the presumed 2016 frontrunners in both parties.

From The Washington PostA signal of distaste for dynasties bodes ill for Bush, Clinton:

AURORA, Colo. — It’s been a good few weeks for Jeb Bush, who has been setting the pace among prospective 2016 presidential candidates — at least in the view of some in the elite world of political donors, strategists and commentators. But even before the news that Mitt Romney is thinking about a third campaign, a dissenting view on Bush was registered here Thursday night.

A dozen Denver-area residents spent two hours dissecting the state of the country and its politics. The 12 participants — Democrats, Republicans and independents — are weary of political dynasties. They were dismissive, sometimes harshly, in their assessments of Bush, the former Florida governor. They were also chilly toward former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When the name of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was introduced into the conversation, however, many of those around the table, regardless of party affiliation, responded positively. To this group, who spoke in stark terms throughout the evening about the economic challenges of working Americans, Warren has struck a chord.

Much could change between now and November 2016.  The political winds are myriad and unpredictable.  Although, it is abundantly clear today which party is positioning itself for electoral success and which is not.  For Democrats, it looks like “we have met the enemy and he is us.

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