Off-Message: Why Democrats Failed to Ignite Their Base During the 2014 Midterm Elections

Like a bad first date, Democrats were simply unable to talk about who they were and what they had accomplished to the American people.  

Like a bad first date, Democrats were simply unable to talk about who they were and what they had accomplished to the American people.  

So apparently, there was some kind of election a couple weeks ago?

I've always been hesitant to play armchair analyst when it comes to events like The Tuesday That Shall Not Be Named.  I feel there is a lot of things said in the heat of the moment and those of us that consider ourselves true progressives definitely got our asses handed to us on a variety of issues that we care deeply about.  As Spandan pointed out Democrats clearly dropped the ball by avoiding President Obama like he was an Ebola patient.  That, without question, plays a large part in it.  In addition, LL is rightfully concerned about the future of our political system where we seem stuck in a Vonnegutesque infinite loop of rotating political power all the while not being for the two major political parties to get together in this country to pass meaningful legislation.


And yet, I feel the need to offer my own autopsy of the Democratic Party's shellacking in the 2014 midterm elections.  Obviously, there was no single thing that would have magically swung the Senate, or the House (lol) in the Dems' favor.  And yet, when we experience the lowest voter turnout in 72 years we need to ask ourselves why that is.  What is it exactly that is causing nearly 2/3 of our country to not participate in our democracy, especially when a large percentage of those people seem to be in agreement with most of, if not all of the Democrats' views on important issues?  Why are these people not fired up to vote when they've seen that not only will Republicans not support their issues but they also will actively try to take away rights from them that they have fought decades to achieve?

For me, it all boils down to the fact that the Democrats suck at messaging.  I wish I could sugarcoat this, but I simply can't.  They are terrible at it.  They're like a bad first date:  They know what they want to say, they know they have a lot going for them but when it comes time to talk about themselves they do it meekly and awkwardly, so much so that the other person just assumes this person doesn't have a lot going for them.  At the end of the night, you've heard all about this person and you kind of remember what they said about themselves, but at the same time they didn't seem too into what they were doing with their life so you decide not to call them back for a second date.

Thanks, but no thanks.

So, allow me to give the Democrats a laundry list of talking points in order to try and achieve a second date with the American voter:

-97% of scientists believe humans contribute to global warming

-90% of Americans want expanded background checks on gun sales 

-83% support lowering student loan rates

-76% support raising the minimum wage

-62% support earned citizenship as a way to address comprehensive immigration reform

-60% support equal pay, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick days

-59% support marriage equality

As you can see it shouldn't be hard for Democrats to relate to the average American voter.  Especially when a progressive issue like minimum wage can be successful in such deep red states as Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  And yet, there remains a large disconnect between voters and the issues they support.  It's why Arkansas can raise the minimum wage and yet elect a senator who wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  It's why Oregon can choose to legalize and regulate marijuana but not label its GMO food products.  It's why Texas women can band together to support access to Planned Parenthoods across the state and yet end up giving 52% of their vote to a governor-elect who seems hellbent on limiting access to women's healthcare.

So then, why the disconnect, not only in these states but nationwide?

The issue, in my opinion, is the fact that Democrats simply don't have an official platform.  As terrible as Republicans are for the country and for humanity as a whole, they excel at having a unified message and they stick to it like clockwork.  If they get asked a "gotcha" question they immediately change the subject and return to their pre-programmed responses or they outwardly lie.  However, in this day and age with the sorry excuse for mainstream media that we have, they never get called on it on the air and even if it's later proven to be false, they never issue a retraction because why would they?  There are no repercussions except for an article here or there which disappears in a few days.  I still have yet to see an interview with Mitt Romney where he hasn't lied through his teeth and that man nearly became president of the United States.

Which brings us back to the Democrats.  They did have a candidate in 2008 and 2012 that won over the American voter in record-breaking performances and he did it running a truthful campaign on issues that resonated with the American people.  And, what does this candidate turned President come to support after six years in office?  Yup, you guessed it, all of the above issues for our Democrat trying to score a second date:  Man's involvement in climate change.  Expanded background checks for gun sales.  Lowering student loans.  Raising the minimum wage.  Comprehensive immigration reform.  Equal pay for equal work.  Marriage equality.  Running on these issues has a proven record of success.  If you lay out what you stand for, and the American people support you on these issues, you will be successful.

Shocking, I know.

The progressive moment in this country is at a crossroads.  The issues are there for the taking but the Democratic Party is too scared to actually take up these issues and run real campaigns on them.  With the millennial generation beginning to start their own families, the Democratic Party has a prime opportunity to solidify its base for generations to come.  Study after study has shown millennials to be the most progressive voting bloc to date and yet as this past midterm election showed, they were given no clear reason to get to the polls.  When that happens, you have 13 million fewer voters from age 18-29 in 2014 than you did in 2012.  By not having a viable progressive platform, Democrats lost out a large chunk of millennials who could have swung the election in several key races throughout the country.

And so Democrats, the choice is yours:  You can cater to the centrist, middle-of-the-road, kinda-sorta progressive voters in your party or you can go all in on issues that the American people actually care about and are supportive of.  If you go middle of the road, know that you're putting the millennial vote in play, especially for a generation that, for the most part, remains politically independent.  If you actually run on progressive issues that the American people support, then you have a legitimate shot to regain the trust of the American people you threw away by playing it safe for the 2014 midterms.  If you can do that, then you will be able to energize your base that you kept dormant through your lackluster midterm messaging.

If you can't, then the 2016 presidential election becomes in play for anyone who has a consistent party platform and that can appeal to moderate and independent voters.

That, is how we end up with a President Rand Paul.

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