When it comes to analysis of the 2010 midterm debacle we are now about to see the results of there has been no shortage of explanations for why particular Democratic officeholders and candidates fell short this fall.
Some have been simple to understand and simple to grasp.
Some have blamed Obama surrogates.
Some have blamed Blue Dogs.
Some have blamed Fox News... or the Tea Party ... or the Koch Brothers.
I, for one, have always believed that the essential failing of the Obama Administration and of Democrats following the 2008 triumphs was one of weak and unfocused messaging that everything they were doing was for our benefit.
More after the fold...
This week brought some confirmation of that point of view in the one publication where analyzing marketing campaigns is the milleu: Advertising Age.
Bob Garfield is the resident ad critic at Ad Age. His reviews of Super Bowl ads, and campaigns throughout the year, are crisp, cutting, and honest.
In reviewing the 2010 election results one need only look at the article headline and sub-headline to see where he places the majority of blame.
Democrats, Obama Failed by Abandoning Core Consumers
Weak Marketing Effort Beside the Point After President Ignored Passionate, Engaged Coalition
If Obama didn't have you at hello, to use the "Jerry Maguire" analogy, then he certainly had you by the DNC convention, and, for some independents, maybe it took the debates. But by Election Eve, 2008, he had the country with him.
Not only did he have our collective energy, our attention, and our hopes - he had our e-mail addresses and our cell phone numbers!!! We were champing at the bit for those texts during the 2008 campaign. We couldn't wait to find out what the latest news from the campaign was. We knew all the key campaign players: Axelrod, Gibbs, Plouffe, Jarrett, Goolsbee, etc...
I don't know about you, but when the DNC became OFA I felt like I lost my BFF. "The fierce urgency of now" became somewhat less fierce in the way OFA communicated. OFA didn't stir passions anymore. Even the artwork was muted. It felt less like we were being asked to wage campaigns on particular issues that really f***ing mattered than to participate in some feel good exercise -at least that's how it felt to me.
Then Garfield goes straight for the jugular - we lacked the urgency in 2010 because we were never energized enough from the person and party who needed us the most to BE energized on their behalf!
While a variety of demagogues and dimwits were squealing on cable about "tyranny" and "socialism," the Dems should have reminded the electorate every single day that they guaranteed health care to millions and saved the world from Dustbowl economic catastrophe.
Can't prove a negative? So what? You can't disprove one, either, and economic consensus was on their side. Anyway, since when do politicians soft-pedal claims? God knows the Republicans were blaming every opponent for killing jobs in their respective states. Every single day.
Let me repeat and re-emphasize.
"Every single day."
Every. Single. Day.
EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
EVERY!!! SINGLE!!! DAY!!!
That was how often we needed to hear it - from Obama. From Pelosi. From Harry Reid. From Steny Hoyer. From Chris Van Hollen. From James Clyburn. From Chuck Schumer. From Robert Gibbs. From Rahm Emmanuel. From Hilary Clinton. From Joe Biden. From Bill Burton. From Timothy Geithner. From Kathleen sebelius. From Larry Summers.
And we needed to hear it as a single voice - not as disparate individuals. Not after he sat down with insurers and big pharma and the hospital companies - BEFORE! And Obama needed to be courageous and KNOW he had people willing to get his back if he did take a tough stand. Hell, healthcare is about people first. No one was going to have the backs of the healthcare industry... if he got US energized before the GOP and the nascent Tea Party got themselves energized (or exorcized - take your pick).
Then Garfield delivers the haymaker punch:
And while Obama was trying to look presidential by not blaming the previous administration for running up the debt financing a ruinous war and for letting banks run hog wild, the Republicans managed to tar him both for bailing out and regulating Wall Street. Neat trick.
Shame on them? Maybe, but that's like faulting a shark for eating. Blame the Democratic National Committee for getting bitch-slapped day after day and responding with strongly worded press releases. Blame the president for risking his party -- and his re-election and his vision -- for the sake of comity he is destined never to see. Instead, he used the bully pulpit to sound concerned.
"Now I know that folks are hurting..."
No shit, Dick Tracy.
Does he not understand how patronizing such pabulum sounds to the unemployed? Good grief. Nobody wants his understanding; they want jobs. And if they can't have them, they must feel that they are making a temporary sacrifice to rebuild the economy and the society to achieve America's greatest aspirations.
That concept shouldn't be too foreign to Obama. It's the one he ran on. What in the world happened to "Yes we can?" For that matter, what happened to "we?"
I have said this before, and it still sounds like the truth to me: Americans respect strength of character on display. They respect strength of conviction put into action (sometimes in a wrong-headed way, but it's part of our national DNA). So when you make a decision to have civilian terror trials... and then you back down - people smell blood in the water. They smell fear. They know you can be manipulated. They know you'll end up having a "Beer Summit." And... unless Obama is playing one really cagey game of rope-a-dope... they go in for the kill - full guns blazing, from all angles. Because you can be outflanked and outgunned and outworked and outspent.
What Obama and Democrats have forgotten is that, at this level, it doesn't matter what style you are comfortable with. Obama and the Democrats had, if not a mandate, then they certainly had implicit permission to GO FOR IT and not be afraid of failing to push for strong legislation, strong regulatory structures and personnel, and strong judicial and personnel nominees.
Sometimes you have to read the room, and the room was desperate for action. Action to stop skyrocketing healthcare costs and insurance company meddling. Action to go after the bankers and financiers who were taking advantage of every loophole and advantage money could buy to take people's homes and force businesses to lay people off (because on Wall Street a reduction in force is always a good thing, a reduction in costs - for outsourcing jobs to a country with lower wages, benefits, and environmental standards, for instance - always bosts the bottom line). Action to close Guantanmo Bay and end the wars. Action to end DADT. Action to strengthen federal agencies with consumer protectors, not industry shills. Action to create jobs through economic stimulus and development of a strong manufacturing policy, even if it pisses off the Chinese (better if it does - we like American jobs better).
By fall of 2010 it shouldn't have mattered who was driving the car or who wanted the keys back. Who the hell runs a campaign - after passing healthcare reform, financial reform, stopping combat operations in Iraq, and lowering taxes - talking about what the other guy wants to do? You campaign - with as much positive messaging as possible - on your own damned record... because it's a REALLY GOOD RECORD! And you tell them about all the other stuff you want to do, and can only do with EVEN MORE DEMOCRATS in Congress and the Senate. And you say it... EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Starting tomorrow, the message needs to be this:
These are the things we are going to work on to pass into law. These are the nominees I will want approved so our courts do not atrophy. Lame duck or no lame duck - this is what I feel - and what Democrats feel - is the best path forward, so we are going to get stuff done RIGHT NOW so Americans can see improvements to their lives. People's lives did not stop on Election Day, and neither did ours. We push forward. Bush's tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires - GONE. Step up and be part of America's recovery.
And you say that message... EVERY. SINGLE. DAY... until Election Eve 2012... and then you say it... EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
And we know we can do it. Because "Yes We Did." And we can do it again.
UPDATE:Rec list? Thanks everyone! First time. I am humbled. Glad you enjoy the diary.
UPDATE 2 (Electric Boogaloo) Top of Rec List??? Wow - I should write while exhausted more often! :-)
UPDATE 3: As if to prove my point...
Several senators expressed the opinion that Obama needed to show more passion, while party liberals renewed their complaint that Obama should abandon the pretense of bipartisanship in the face of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s intransigence and what they consider the Kentucky Republican’s blatantly political tactics aimed at making Obama a one-term president.
Others said Democratic leaders need to clearly spell out what they believe are the motivations behind the Republicans' positions: that they are beholden to special interests, who bankroll their campaigns.
If Democrats keep losing the message war, they worry, they will be wiped out in 2012.
"There was a lot of passion in that room," one senator said. "The reason is because the public is with us on our policies, but they’re not getting the message."