As predicted by pretty much everyone, the Republicans have gained control of Congress. Not just the House of Representatives, but also the Senate. The whole Congress. All of it. I keep repeating it because perhaps it will be less painful when I do. It’s not.
Last time a really important election was lost, I was angry. I cried to my best friend for an hour. I wrote the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The latter almost printed it. I’m very glad they didn’t. My letter was very emotional, railing at the idiots that reelected George W. Bush, damning them to the future the deserved. While the future I predicted did come true, it would be rather embarrassing to have that letter in a Google search at the moment.
This year I’m not angry. I’m…resigned. I saw this coming. Don’t get me wrong, I participated in some positive delusions, like hoping for a big surge of Democratic voters showing up to the polls. I imagined a large group of very informed voters, sitting at home, drinking their tea, ignoring the pollsters’ calls and cackling at what they knew would be a surprise upset. Yes, while most have sexual fantasies, I have political ones.
I need to get out more…but I digress.
This year I will not blame the voters…at least not the ones who showed up. I blame the candidates. In particular, the Democratic candidates. The ones that spent more time asking for money than votes. The ones that spent more time speaking to those that would never vote for them, instead of the ones who would. The ones that listened to beltway campaign consultants instead of reality and, most importantly, their base.
When Democratic voters don’t show up to vote, Democratic candidates don’t win. When Democratic candidates are too clueless to realize that the Democratic president is still extremely popular with the base and don’t campaign with him, they don’t win. When Democratic candidates run away from the very issues voters find popular, they don’t win.
The Affordable Care Act is working and is popular – even in red states. The economy is slowly improving and unemployment has dropped in many states. Democratic voters want more progressive policies. Yet, Democrats in battleground states did not run on any of these things. Instead, they allowed the Republicans to control the narrative, stayed on the defensive, and never spoke to what matters to the voters – the ones that would actually vote for them.
When you run scared, you deserve to lose.
I get that red states are tough for the progressively minded. I also know that in many of these districts there is virtually no Democratic base. But I also know that chances are very small that a Republican is going to vote for a Democrat in those areas. So why lie to them? Why try to win their votes by hedging on policies that, quite frankly, are antithetical to the Democratic platform? Why not just proudly proclaim you are a Democrat, you support the president, and his policies?
What’s that? They won’t vote for you? Well guess what, they didn’t vote for you anyway.
Here’s the one thing Republican candidates do well: They don’t try to gain support from those they don’t agree with. They get away with it because, contrary to the results from Tuesday tonight, the majority of America doesn’t agree with them. They are very good at rallying those who will vote for them by telling them what they want to hear. As a result, their base shows up.
In the meantime, they use other tactics to suppress the vote of those that won’t vote for them. While there is much to be said for the ongoing onslaught on (non-Republican) voters’ rights, this election wasn’t lost because of that. This election was lost because Democratic voters didn’t show up – even in blue states. Democratic candidates ignored the base and, in turn, the base ignored them.
As for the voters that didn’t show up, they aren’t off the hook.
As a Democrat that lives in one of the bluest states in America, I can assure you that having the perfect candidate is not always possible, even when both of your choices are Democrats. I know what it’s like to be ignored. In fact, our governor didn’t even campaign. Really, 42 percent of California didn’t even realize he was on the ballot. I also guarantee we will probably have one of the lowest turnouts in recent history. Yet, it won’t matter here.
It mattered everywhere else, though.
This election wasn’t about one issue, or annoyance that President Obama wasn’t liberal enough. This isn’t high school. This election was about – and I’m loathe to write this – the presidential election of 2016. With complete control of Congress, the Republicans can now focus on their main goal: making President Barack Obama campaign poison. It’s worked before. Remember Monica Lewinsky?
What few remember about the Lewinsky scandal was that Republicans had been trying for years to find something against President Bill Clinton. Before he was elected to his first term, they brought out Gennifer Flowers. He won. They tried investigation after investigation during his first term, and he still won. Unable to stop him from being elected, they stumbled upon the blue dress, held an impeachment hearing no one wanted, and got what they wanted: President Bill Clinton off the campaign trail in 2000.
Al Gore ran away from him, picked a running mate that voted for his impeachment and lost not only Clinton’s home state, but his own. That is how George Bush won.
Now, because Democratic voters didn’t show up, the next two years will be about making sure Jeb Bush (or Ted Cruz or Mitt Romney) wins.
There will be attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but neither chamber will have a veto proof majority, so it is unlikely to happen. There will be a government shutdown over something, and perhaps the president might concede on a few points. In the end, however, there will be virtually nothing done to address the issues that affect our country.
However, the Republicans will tout all that they have “passed” and Democrats “obstructed”. There will be talking points of how the President refuses to lead and all the things that weren’t done. There might be investigations, a fake scandal, something the press will eat up. They will be able to stop him from taking credit for what he has done, including the economy, because no one will listen to him. His image will be tarnished, as well as his legacy.
Most importantly, no Democratic candidate in the country will be able to use his impressive legacy, his charismatic personality, and his popularity with the base to rally support – especially the presidential candidate.
Correction – they could, but they won’t.
Like in 2000, and the midterm election of 2014, the candidates will run away from him, allowing the Republicans to control the narrative and rob them of their biggest asset. They’ll take the money he will dutifully raise in private, but won’t thank him in public. They will do their best to prove they are the anti-Obama to try to earn the votes of everyone that would never vote for them in the first place.
The Democrats will run scared and lose America. Again.