Election results? We don’t need no stinkin’ election results. If Barack Obama sounded defiant — as well as out of touch with reality — in his post-election press conference, the rest of Democratic leadership hardly sounds any more aware. Nancy Pelosi signaled full steam ahead for another term as leader of the House Democratic caucus, but Politico reports that some members wonder when Pelosi and her clique will take a hint from voters … but probably not enough of them to matter:
No Democrat is gearing up to challenge Nancy Pelosi in public, but behind the scenes some Democrats are saying it’s time for new blood at the leadership table ahead of 2016.
Senior aides said they hope the party’s big losses Tuesday would encourage the minority leader to expand her network of allies and advisers to include a broader set of voices for crafting election messaging and congressional agendas.
“If I had to make a bet, I think she would be the leader this coming cycle, but folks hope that Nancy Pelosi will reach out and include some folks that aren’t often included,” a senior Democratic staffer said. …
Nearly a dozen senior aides and Democratic insiders said there is a desire for a broader election message from party leaders. There are complaints about Pelosi focusing so strongly on women without a broader message that could play to other groups, such as older voters and men.
“As a party, we need to change,” another senior Democratic aide said. “[Voters] like our policies. All this leftie [talk], the country likes, but somehow the message about us as individual members of the conference isn’t breaking through. There is great unrest.”
Not great enough to consider, y’know, changing leadership after three straight losing seasons. Pelosi has now officially led Democrats to more minority caucuses (2010, 2012, 2014) than majority caucuses (2006, 2008). This isn’t an issue of getting more feedback from the caucus; it’s an issue of Pelosi’s militant progressivism being out of synch with American voters. It’s also an issue with House Democrats lacking a certain intestinal fortitude to point that out on the record and develop a challenge to her leadership before she leads them even further into the wilderness, and potentially damages their prospects for holding the White House the next time out.
They aren’t alone in that regard, either. Harry Reid plans to run for another term as caucus leader even after the debacle on Tuesday, but that’s not the only way in which Reid has distanced himself from reality. He’s planning to double down on Kochsteria even after the miserable failure it produced in this election:
Prompted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats spent millions of dollars spotlighting Republican ties to the billionaire conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch. But despite Republicans — and some Democrats — publicly decrying the strategy after Tuesday’s GOP wave as an ineffective waste of money, Reid told allies on election night that he planned to continue hammering the brothers, according to an operative close to him.
And big-money liberal groups ranging from the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm and House super PAC to the outfits run by billionaire Tom Steyer and conservative-turned-liberal enforcer David Brock all signaled that they intended to pursue anti-Koch spending and oppo tactics headed into the 2016 election.
Brock’s American Bridge outfit on Thursday began circulating a memo to senior Democratic congressional aides and big money groups making the case for redoubling the effort to make the Kochs into boogeymen.
Titled “Dear Koch Brothers: We Aren’t Going Anywhere,” the memo, obtained by POLITICO from a source who received it, contends that the GOP takeover of the Senate makes it more important — and potentially more effective — to call attention to the Kochs’ influence in the GOP.
Tom Steyer? Isn’t that the multibillionaire who spent $57 million or more to make climate change the central issue of the midterms? How did that work out for Democrats, anyway? Besides the hypocritical irony of harnessing a billionaire to go after another billionaire for being active in politics, the message is false on its face. Reid and the Democrats are going elsewhere — into the minority, in large part because they ran a campaign that harangued voters about non-sequiturs like Kochsteria, the “war on women,” and climate change when voters cared much more about the economy, jobs, and competent governance.
In my column for The Week, I note that the theme running through this week of utter denial actually goes back months, and on these same points:
The president was absolutely right — his administration and agenda were definitely on the ballot, in all but name. But instead of approaching this dynamic honestly, Democrats instead adopted a strategy of distraction. Both the Democratic Party and their big outside groups tried talking about nearly everything except what voters considered most important in this cycle — the economy (which still gets low marks from voters), jobs in an era of historically low workforce participation, and competence in government.
In a stunning display of denial of the mood and interest of the electorate, Democrats instead launched broadsides against the Koch brothers, spent tens of millions of dollars to talk about climate change, and continued their demagoguery about a “war on women.” In Colorado, they even managed to combine the latter two into an epically foolish NARAL-produced ad known as “Sweet Pea,” in which a boyfriend patronizingly tells his girlfriend that Republican Cory Gardner not only caused a condom shortage but refused to acknowledge that climate change is “weirding our weather.” …
The election results speak to the wages of denial and of lecturing voters rather than listening to them. So do the exit polls. In Colorado, women accounted for only 48 percent of the vote, the lowest in 22 years. Nationally, women only favored Democrats by five points, far below what they expected and certainly below what they needed to remain competitive.
Ironically, it was this turnout on which Obama built his argument that the midterms weren’t a referendum on him at all. “[W]e’ve got to look at is the two-thirds of people who were eligible to vote and just didn’t vote,” Obama said in his press conference on Wednesday. In 2008 and 2012, Obama continued, “[w]e got folks to vote who hadn’t voted before, particularly young people.” However, in 2012 Obama got fewer voters to the polls and a smaller share of the vote, and since then lost ground in every single demographic. That includes “young people,” which moved more than 10 percent to the GOP from 2012 to 2014, and was one of the rare demos in which Republicans improved over 2010. He also failed to address the fact that while about a third of the electorate turned out, two-thirds of the electorate still feels that the country is going in the wrong direction, as Josh Gerstein pointed out in Politico after the press conference.
The hair-of-the-dog strategy won’t fix Democrats’ failures; it will only deepen them. Their first move should be to get rid of the leadership that led them into a second straight midterm disaster. The votes that will take place later this month on those positions will demonstrate whether the reduced numbers of Democrats on Capitol Hill will join them in denial, or wake up and get serious about listening to voters rather than haranguing them with demagoguery.