Each new day seems to bring another story predicting Democratic disaster in the November election. One day it’s statistician Nate Silver predicting gloom for the Democrats. The next day it’s an obscure pundit like David Wasserman or Pew Center director Andrew Kahut.
All the overarching story lines by which media outlets try to make sense of everyday news seem to have a built in bias favoring the Republicans. One narrative is about discontent with Obama over the healthcare law, instead of discontent with the Republicans for cutting food stamps and unemployment benefits and blocking passage of a bill to increase the minimum wage. Another narrative is about the large sums of money the Koch brothers and others are spending to elect Republican candidates, and not about the large natural advantage Democrats have if their constituencies come to the polls.
Finally there is the story of the primaries, which, as in 2010, is all about the Republican candidates for the mainstream news media and nothing about the Democratic candidates. Stirring up interest in the Republican primaries will no doubt help bring out the party faithful in November.
These narrative spins wouldn’t disturb me if I thought the Democrats were taking the 2014 elections seriously, but so far there are few signs that they are. The President is content to sit on his treasure trove of campaign contributions. In too many states, Democrats are me-too-ing Republicans on such issues as charter schools, gun control, health care reform and taxes. For example, many of the positions taken by Governor Andrew Cuomo are embarrassingly right-wing. I can understand why many Democrats in New York might stay home rather than vote for a man who wants to lower taxes on businesses and give additional funding to charter schools, which are nothing more than vehicles for breaking unions and paying teaches less. But Democrats staying home will make it easier for Republicans to tighten their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives and win the Senate. With candidates such as Cuomo, the Democrats seem doomed to repeat the mistake of 2010.
Republicans are not taking any chances, however, passing laws in whatever states they control to make it harder to vote. But progressives take heart. Republicans can’t prevent eligible voters from exercising their voting franchise, all they can do is demand identification and limit voting hours.
It’s too early in the year to start to stress the importance of voting to millennial and minorities. By the time September and October rolls around, the atmospherics could be better for Democrats. Certainly as more people benefit from the Affordable Care Act, anger against the President, whose name is tied to the bill, will diminish. Perhaps, as in 2012, voters will respond negatively to moves to suppress the vote and overwhelm the polls.
If I were the Democrats, I would create a one-page set of messages on the bad that will come out of Republican control of both houses of Congress and start repeating it in ads starting sometime in August. I would also conduct as aggressive a voter registration and turnout campaign as possible. I would treat the 2014 election as if it were more important than 2016, and for one simple reason: it is a more important election. Emerging national demographics favor the Democrats in national elections and they will likely win in 2016, no matter what. But it will be for naught if the new Democratic President faces a hostile Congress.
Of course, if the Democrats run a Republican in all but name such as Andrew Cuomo, it won’t make any difference to the country who wins. We’ll continue down the path of economic decline and social disintegration created by policies that take money from the poor and middle class and give it to those who already are wealthy.