The Republican Party has a presidential election problem. The GOP’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a 2012 postmortem referred to by the press by its pallid nickname “the autopsy,” made several recommendations for how the party could fine-tune both its technical operations and its message to persuadable but unconvinced voters in demographic groups that don’t traditionally vote Republican.
It became clear this week that Democrats have a midterm problem, and it’s not going to go away on its own. The president’s party is also going through a perceptible period of introspection and self-examination, and many of the recommendations Democratic leaders are making will sound quite familiar to the GOP.
“If we’re really going to expand our chances in the Senate and House, we have to appeal to a wider group than we are now,” respected, long-time Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.
Republicans know this condition well. Sargent points out that the “frail and pale” midterm electorate, one which is general older and whiter than the electorate that turns out in presidential years, is distinctively hostile toward the Democratic pitch. Mellman added that this means the Democrats will not only have to refine their messaging targets but the message itself.
“People are deeply suspicious that government can deliver on these problems,” the Democratic pollster continued. “And they are not wrong. We’ve been promising that government can be a tool to improve people’s economic situation for decades, and by and large, it hasn’t happened.”
That is a hard truth, and Democratic pollsters do not believe the president’s party can just hope it goes away when more of Obama’s coalition of young, single, and minority voters turns out in 2016.
“We have a huge problem: People do not think the recovery has affected them, and this is particularly true of blue collar white voters,” Democratic Pollster Celinda Lake told Sargent. “What is the Democratic economic platform for guaranteeing a chance at prosperity for everyone? Voters can’t articulate it. In the absence of that, you vote for change.”
She concluded by noting that the Democrats need to formulate and articulate an economic vision ahead of 2016. Sargent’s piece is worth reading to get an idea of how a reform-minded Democrat is going to approach the process of party rebuilding ahead of 2016, but it seems not all liberals got the memo.
Over at The New York Times opinion page, the left has taken to wagon circling, bias reinforcement, and the mockery of a set of American voters that were foolish enough to give Republicans power.
The columnist Charles Blow engaged in what should have been a private catharsis when he heaped scorn on an American public tacky enough to vote GOP.
“Candidates adopted a faux rustic aura, like a strip mall Olive Garden,” Blow wrote of the new Republicans who will make up the likely 54-seat Senate and 250-seat House majorities in the next Congress. “The nearly dimwitted, Goober-esque affectations came together with an ocean of dark money in a midterm where the map and the math already favored them to give Democrats a drubbing.”
Who knew that the Times’ sophisticated readership would so appreciate the uniquely literary sobriquet “Goober-esque” applied to their adversaries?
A wounded Paul Krugman joined the chorus of voices assuring Times readers that it’s everyone else that must change. Krugman made the case that Republican policies of the Obama era have been an “intellectual debacle,” and the GOP’s one true victory is in somehow tricking the electorate into believing that reflexive obstruction of the president’s agenda is a governing philosophy.
“Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process,” Krugman wrote. “So all they saw was the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party.”
And the reason why prosperity was not forthcoming? The voters exercised the same brutish instincts to punish the president’s party in 2010 when his policies were not delivering much in the way of an economic recovery.
“Dems don’t seem to see how they minimize their many advantages when leading liberal voices tell voters they’re stupid,” National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote in response to this exercise in self-aggrandizement by Krugman. He’s right.
Which leads us to one more reform Democrats should embrace, one with which Republicans will be intimately familiar: the necessary marginalization of the liberal entertainment complex. The left’s political media, as exemplified by the willful blindness that graces the opinion pages of the nation’s most liberal newspaper or the unconvincing, expletive-laced, anti-Republican screeds that are broadcast on Comedy Central every night, are misleading their audiences. What’s more, these entertainers are casting the party in a negative light. No Democrat would want to awake to a day when Jon Stewart might be dubbed the “titular head” of the party of Roosevelt.
If it wouldn’t devastate the left’s unearned sense of superiority, Republicans could teach them all the lessons they need to learn in order to become a more viable party. In fact, all Democrats really need to do is take their own advice.