Mr. Obama, and his party, have to do a far better job of explaining their vision and their policies. Mr. Obama needs to break his habits of neglecting his base voters and of sitting on the sidelines and allowing others to shape the debate. He needs to do a much better job of stiffening the spines of his own party’s leaders.
This is what happens when you neglect the base:
- The 2008 electorate was 74% white, plus 13% black and 9% Latino. The 2010 numbers were 78, 10 and 8. So it was a considerably whiter electorate.
- In 2008, 18-to-29-year-olds made up 18% and those 65-plus made up 16%. Young people actually outvoted old people. This year, the young cohort was down to 11%, and the seniors were up to a whopping 23% of the electorate. That's a 24-point flip.
- The liberal-moderate-conservative numbers in 2008 were 22%, 44% and 34%. Those numbers for yesterday were 20%, 39% and 41%. A big conservative jump, but in all likelihood because liberals didn't vote in big numbers.
Add to these figures the fact that overall turnout was down by about a third, or more, from nearly 130 million to about 82.5 million. That's at least 45 million no-shows, and the exits tell us the bulk of them were liberal, young, black, Latino. If 25 million of these no-shows had voted, Democratic losses would pretty obviously have been in the normal range, and they'd still control the House.
What has happened has happened. I'm less interested in talking about the ways the administration screwed up, than in what they're going to do about it in preparation of 2012. First thing's first -- stop bashing the base, or the professional left, or whatever liberal boogeymen pisses them off. Fact is, people who fall in those disaffected categories -- the young, blacks, Latinos -- don't read blogs, or watch Keith Olbermann, or read Firedoglake. But they are losing their jobs and their homes, and they see Wall Street get all manners of bailouts without any of it trickling down to them. That has killed us. Make their lives better, or (since nothing will happen with Boehner in the House) at least fight to make their lives better.
This isn't about throwing a bone to the base to make them happy, it's about doing the right thing for America -- fight for jobs, fight for opportunity, fight for equality under the law. Democrats believe that government can make people's lives better, so embrace and fight for that belief. If Democrats are in it to protect Goldman Sachs, they might as well flip to the other team.
The administration needs to stop pretending they're going to woo the Right, and start looking at their reelection battle the way Bush saw his -- as a time to mobilize the base and get them engaged in an epic war. Luckily, they won't have to deal with the Beltway Blowhards screaming about "bipartisanship", since that's no longer operative in a GOP-led House. The media only cares about bipartisanship when the Democrats have both the White House and Congress.
Obama needs to fire Tim Kaine at the DNC. He's been useless. His political team also needs to provide an honest assessment of OFA's effectiveness, given its inability to get Obama's most rabid young supporters to the polls. Heck, why not bring back Howard Dean to give us a DNC that many activists and state parties can believe in again and once again work towards a national 50-state party? Tim Kaine is yet another Blue Dog-style Democrat of the kind that got decimated last night. We don't need more of that polluting our party.
It's going to be a tough slog in the next two years, but as we learned yesterday, two years is a political eternity and everything can and will happen. The American people are schizophrenic -- exit polls found that:
- Republicans are more unpopular than Democrats, yet they still voted GOP;
- 35 percent believed Wall Street was to blame for the terrible economy, yet they still voted for the GOP. (56-42, to be exact).
- 31 percent of voters wanted the new health care law expanded, yet 14 percent of them voted Republican. 30% want the law kept he same as it is now, and 30% of them voted Republican.
There's more, but you get the point. Democrats didn't lose because Republicans are suddenly popular, or people embrace their agenda. Democrats lost because people are angry and desperate and flailing and had to punish someone for the nation's economic woes. There's little there for the GOP to build on.
Furthermore, we're about to see an epic civil war between DeMint and his disciples, and the GOP establishment. There's no way Boehner can thread the needle between governing and maintaining ideological purity. The two are not mutually compatible. We're already seeing it with Boehner's contortions on lifting the debt ceiling -- no matter what he does, he can't win (avert economic disaster, or appease the teabaggers). Throw in a GOP presidential primary that will be a race to Crazyville, and the GOP is in for a rough couple of years.
But for once, let's not win because the GOP screwed up royally. Let's win because we find and support strong leadership. That starts at the top, and Obama has to step up. But it runs through the DNC (Bring Back Dean!). It runs through us as we help identify great new candidates for House and Senate races, as well as local races all the way down to school board.
The decimation of the Blue Dogs means that our own internal war will be quick and easy. It's kind of hard to argue that Dems should move Right, when the Blue Dog caucus went from 54 members to 26 literally overnight. So sure, we'll have to deal with Third Way's corporatist bullshit, but aside from that, we can focus on the important thing -- and that's beating back the Boehner House and the crazed teabaggers that have taken over the GOP.
I see them gloating today, and all I can think is, "bring it on, motherfuckers". Because 2012 will be here sooner rather than later, and I can't wait.