Here is the problem with the old-style Obama strategy of slicing and dicing the electorate into aggrieved minorities and then gluing them back together to achieve a 51% majority. On almost every issue in this election that they should be running on, they simply cannot. And on those that they are running on, they probably should not be.
Let me explain.
We Didn’t Do What We Did
Consider the failed Russia “reset,” the bugout from Iraq, the “leading from behind” in Libya, the Benghazi scandal, the Iranian soon-to-be bomb, the smearing of Israel, the special relationship with a thuggish Erdogan, the dissolving Middle East, the eroding NATO, and an ever more bullying China. No Democrat will run on something like, “I fully support the Obama foreign policy initiatives and the brilliant work of Secretaries Clinton and Kerry.” Foreign policy, then, cannot be a campaign issue, in the positive sense of defending the status quo. No Democrat even made the attempt.
How about bigger and competent government?
No Democratic congressman would wish to campaign on, “Obama made government work for you — just look at the new and dynamic IRS, VA, ICE, GSA, NSA, and Secret Service.” “Not a smidgen of corruption” is not a viable campaign theme. No candidate even tried that.
Why don’t Sens. Landrieu, Pryor, and Udall play up their support for the Obama economy?
We did not see a candidate commercial like the following: “I was instrumental in keeping interest rates at zero percent for six years. I made sure that we borrowed another $7 trillion and oversaw the $1 trillion stimulus. We kept GDP above 1% and unemployment below 7%.” Apparently avoiding a depression is not felt to be an economic renaissance, and thus not a winning message.
How about Democratic ads trumpeting new big-ticket government initiatives?
Do any local, state, or national Democrats barnstorm on, “Soon Obamacare really will lower costs, expand coverage, and reduce our deficits in 2015 — just wait and see”? Or how about, “We almost had cap and trade in 2009; I’ll make sure Obama finishes the job and gets it passed in 2015”? Or perhaps, “Thanks to my efforts, we stopped all new fracking leases on federal lands”? Bragging on record oil and gas production despite, not because of, Obama is not a rallying cry either.
Maybe immigration could have been a Democratic winning issue?
No Democrat aired a radio spot like, “Those Central American children are just the beginning of what we can accomplish on the border. Let’s keep our borders open and welcome in more of our neighbors.” Democrats privately concluded that subverting immigration law to gain constituents was something to keep quiet on rather than boast about.
In other words, most of what the Democrats have done since 2009 has either failed or was contrary to what most voters wished when they voted for Democrats in 2008. That is not my summation, but the Democrats’ own, given that they chose not to run on anything they had done or might do with another Democratic victory.
So if Democrats cannot run on what they have done or plan to do in the next two years under Obama, what are they running on?
There You Go Again
They are mostly back to the old race/class/gender incitement that seemed to have worked in 2008 and 2012. But the problem here is not that in theory it cannot work yet again. Ginning up women, the poor, and minorities by depicting Republicans as 19th-century racists, exploiters, and sexists is not necessarily a losing strategy. Race and gender baiting appeals not just to the special interests that benefit from such smears, but influences the proverbial ‘”swing” voter as well, who privately does not wish for the social stigma of voting for Republicans, if such support is branded by the popular culture as illiberal and uncool.
That said, after several past successful assaults, the latest version of “Sexist!/Racist! /Homophobe! /Nativist!” seems to be so predictable that it is becoming flat and boring. In other words, after six years of the constant race and gender barrage from Obama, Eric Holder, Harry Reid, the Congressional Black Caucus, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Elizabeth Warren and Wendy Davis wing of the Democratic Party, lots of people are not only unreceptive, but snoozing. That indifference only causes the Democrats to turn up the volume even higher, which in turn puts even more people off. It all reminds me of the last days of the 1980 presidential campaign, when in the final week Reagan finally broke through the distortions and media bias to expand his tenuous lead in the polls, which in turn prompted Carter to go lunatic in his venomous charges.
Mythologies Are By Nature Untrue
Is “hands up, don’t shoot” a winning slogan, when most Americans either don’t know what happened in Ferguson, or believe that Michael Brown committed a strong-armed robbery of a small business, stormed out high on drugs, walked down the center of the street, assaulted a police officer and was fatally shot in the fray? Statistically, have even liberal papers since Ferguson been more likely each week to report serial Fergusons, in which police are on a shooting rampage against unarmed African-Americans, or reluctantly cover disturbing interracial violent crime, in which young black males this autumn have been involved in well-publicized violent attacks on police or unarmed innocents?
Evoking Ferguson may galvanize more African-Americans to vote, but the distorted “hands up, don’t shoot” slogan is just as likely to turn off others. When Barack Obama goes on the demagogue Al Sharpton’s radio show, he polarizes as many as he energizes.
On all the other hot-button social issues — abortion, birth control, gun control, immigration — it may be easy to contort positions and caricature Republicans, but do Democrats really believe that most Americans support late-term abortions, or are being shut out of the overpriced condom market, or want to make it hard for the middle class to obtain firearms, or wish to see another Central American children’s crusade at the border?
Polls suggest that this time around Democrats are on the wrong side of all these various wars against women, Latinos, blacks, gays, etc., in the sense that voters do not necessarily believe that there are any wars at all against anyone. And if there is a so-called war, many voters believe it is mostly waged by the alliance of the upper-class liberal aristocracy and the dependent underclass against the over-taxed, under-employed, often smeared, and widely reviled middle class.
A final note on the final desperate Democrat attempt to deal the race card. The mythical average voter is, again, probably confused because it presents a heads-you-lose/tails-we-win dilemma for him: if you elect Obama twice as president, then you are — for a while — granted probation as not being a racist. But if you just once falter and tire of his failures, then you are racist in a way you were not actually when you gave him your unthinking vote of confidence.
Voters realize that such a paradox is unsustainable, sort of like the so-called “dreamers” disrupting lectures to rag on the speakers about the absence of amnesty. Think of that contradiction: Is it lawful Americans’ fault that Mexican citizens broke American law in entering the U.S. country? Are Mexican nationals to show their love of America and their desire to stay in the U.S. permanently by blasting American citizens as nativists if they do not grant blanket amnesty, while showcasing ethnic chauvinism? In terms of electoral strategy, that, too, is not necessarily a winning formula to convince Americans to grant amnesty.
Tuesday Will Tell
I am cautiously optimistic about Tuesday, even without a major Republican blowout. Of course, we should not assume that just because the race/class/gender wars of the Democrats are absurd that they will finally fail this time around. Who, after all, could be so confident in an America of 2014 that has been conditioned for six years to identify people by appearance and assumed identity rather than by their character and achievement?
My point is, instead, that about half the country is tired of a failed foreign policy, a failed economic recovery, and a failed big and corrupt government. All the venom and the smears cannot hide that fact. The fed-up half is nearing 51% of the electorate. Democrats embraced the Obama-style community-organizing in hundreds of elections, given the failed substance of Obama himself — and yet still will not quite win lots of races. On Tuesday we shall see whether Americans would prefer to be poorer, fleeced, and less safe just as long as they are not smeared as racists, sexists, homophobes, greedy, and selfish.
In politics, if you lose more races than you win, it doesn’t matter that you lost most of them by 51-49%.
You are still a loser.
(Artwork created using a modified Shutterstock.com image.)