As many here have pointed out before, Democrats are at a disadvantage in 2014, for the simple reason that it is an off-year election. However, when our voters turnout, we win. It may seem simplistic to reduce the challenges Democrats face in 2014 to a single factor, but it is not so far-fetched: increase voter turnout.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Keeping voter turnout anywhere near presidential-years, especially among Democratic base voters, has always been a challenge. Nevertheless, we owe it to the Americans who are needlessly suffering due to Republican obstructionism and callous policies to try our best this year, rather than wait it out until our chances are more favorable in 2016 or beyond.
However, I think there is one message, off-year or not, that rings true with most Americans, and that pays off with valuable dividends at the polls.
The Republican Party is stealing your right to vote.
With laws against voting where you go to school, they are stealing the votes of our future leaders, trying to expand their horizons and improve their value to our society.
By restricting absentee and mail-in voting, they are stealing the votes of the citizens who are sick, or caring for sick, or in otherwise difficult situations, and have a difficult time making it to the polls.
By making voting more time-consuming and inconvenient and reducing voting hours, they are stealing the votes of the diligent workers trying to provide for their families and working long hours and cannot risk losing their jobs because of an extended trip to the polls.
By preventing people who have run afoul of the law from voting, they are stealing the votes of people who have dutifully repaid their debts to society, and should have a say in how the government treats them, just like anyone else.
The fact that many of these populations are also the historically underperforming Democratic voters in off-year elections is no coincidence. Republicans have realized that these voters not coming out to vote in off-year elections is the real reason they captured so many seats in 2010; these voter disenfranchisement measures are their efforts to artificially recreate this effect for all elections.
However, once people know that certain officials are trying to keep them from voting, it makes a lot of them much more motivated to show up at the polls, to put up with long lines and uncomfortable situations.
The idea that publicizing the GOP's efforts to disenfranchise voters will bring Democratic voters out in force to stop them seems logical in theory. But as Yogi Berra says, "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."
In fact, there is considerable evidence that this effect materialized as recently as 2012.
"Republicans thought that they could suppress the vote, but these efforts actually motivated people to get registered and cast a ballot," said Ohio State Senator Nina Turner after the election. "It's no surprise that the communities targeted by these policies came out to the polls in a big way--they saw this not just as an affront to their rights, but as a call to action."Furthermore, forcing Republican candidates to become more vocal about their support for various voter disenfranchisement policies is an effective issue to drive a wedge between the candidates and their more rabid constituents. The Democratic Party cannot afford to overlook these effective political tools.
One of the problems recently, as with Voter ID, is that the debate is often on the Republicans' justifications for these various measures. Republicans claim with voter ID laws, for example, that they decrease voter fraud, and then the majority of the time is spent on refuting this claim.
(As a side point, it offers an illuminating example of Republican hypocrisy: they are ok with making it harder for you to vote to stop a few offenders, but they are against stronger regulations for corporate crooks, they are against stricter gun control to prevent gun violence, and they are against stronger action against polluters. But, this is not the main point.)
Whether or not the justifications for these various voter restriction measures are valid, Democrats must hammer the main point home: these measures make it harder for people to vote, restrict the times you can vote, and prevent many legitimate voters from voting, just to stop a few offenders.
And any effort to make it harder to vote, before all else, should be treated as an attempt to steal one of your precious rights as an American.