An 2014 election post-mortem: too much like 2010. Will we ever learn?

Let’s start this thing with the bright side. And there actually is one.

  • Republicans will have control of the entire Congress, so they can no longer use the Senate to deflect. It’s all on them. How many bills they pass, and what bills they pass, can’t be blamed on Democrats.
  • Thank GOD Harry Reid didn’t kill the filibuster, as many progressives wanted. And if you want to know why he didn’t have 51 votes to make it happen, well… this is why. Now, Democrats have the filibuster, which means, along with President Obama’s veto power, they will have two methods for killing truly heinous bills.

It’s funny, really. I have received so many messages chiding me for “trashing” progressives, which I do not do. In fact, if you look closely, everything I say could happened, actually happened. This election was marginally better than 2010, but that’s because 2010 was just so epically bad, it will be hard to top. For the first time in a generation, PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade – I prefer that to “emo”) and the professional left actually helped Democrats put together a winning streak in 2006 and 2008. Of course, they immediately turned to whine mode when every detail of the Obama presidency didn’t go exactly as they wanted.

Seriously, by March 2009, the progressive “blogosphere” was in full whinge. Hell; they even started before the inauguration, when Obama tried to appear conciliatory, by choosing Rick Warren to give the invocation. I don’t like Rick Warren, either, but I like the idea of an invocation even less. Who in their right mind cares who gives the invocation at an inaugural, since it’s unconstitutional anyway? And don’t get me started with the nomination of Timothy Geithner. How dare Obama bring someone into Treasury who actually understands the underpinnings of the financial instruments that led to the economic crisis we had just gone through?

And the whining continued for two years. they trashed Obama for not being “progressive enough.” They kept demanding that he ignore the law, when he was actually trying to change the law. It was NOT ignoring DADT and DOMA that led to the demolition of those laws. If he had simply not enforced the law, he would have created a different status quo that would have lessened the urgency of getting rid of those laws. Apparently, these folks think he should have spent his time in the White House wearing a dashiki and giving black power salutes. He entered the White House as a grown up Urkel, and they wanted Huey or Bobby.

They also trashed Democrats incessantly. They apparently thought 60 was a magic number of Senators that would make us immortal, and would allow Democrats to do anything they wanted. Unfortunately, Democrats never really have 60 for very long. If you’ll recall, Al Franken’s first race was so close that it took months in court to get it certified. Franken didn’t take his seat until July, which is just before the summer recess. Then, in August, Ted Kennedy passed away. Of course, even before that, Kennedy and Byrd were in the hospital more often than not, because they were being treated for serious illnesses. In all, Democrats had 60 votes for about 35-40 session days. And then, we allowed Scott Brown to win Kennedy’s Senate seat, thus making the 60-vote thing a moot point.

And now, four years later, thanks to these same PUB and pro left geniuses, instead of needing 2-3 more seats to have a supermajority and make the filibuster moot, which is where we were in 2010, now Democrats are in the minority in Congress, with absolutely no power, except to block things.

Why do we not seem to learn? A great many “progressive political junkies” claim to pay close attention to politics, but they don’t seem to understand how it works. The best possible candidate has to win the most seats in the legislative body to get good laws passed. Best possible. In what universe would you expect the democratic process, which includes everyone (hopefully), to come up with a full-on progressive as a candidate? It can only happen in those few districts made up of mostly progressives. There aren’t many of those, although there could be more, if those who portray themselves as “experts” on “progressive” politics had half a brain.

We have two political parties in this country. It doesn’t matter if you like it. It doesn’t matter if you dream of a smorgasbord of election choices. You have to deal with reality. You can try to change reality, but you have to do it in the background, and start small. You don’t start by running for president, you start by running for a school board, and work your way up. Prepare for it to take a decade to get to statewide office, and two decades to break into federal offices. It could take a half-century to become a permanent fixture. But even then, a progressive party would have to work with Democrats, not against them, because the reality is, you need to have the most votes to get anything done.

Why do I even have to write this out oud? It’s a democratic system. If you don’t win elections, you can’t get anything done. There are no “moral victories.” There is no “sending a message.” Either you win and make policy, or you go home and wish for things. It’s been 40 years since progressives have had a major say in policy in this country; when do we get tired of this?

Democrats didn’t lose yesterday, progressives did. And our loudest, most obnoxious segment is directly responsible for the loss. You can’t spend the entire election year complaining publicly about Democrats and making ridiculous false equivalencies with Republicans, then claim that no one reads or listens to you anyway, and absolve yourself of responsibility. It doesn’t work that way.

There are several messages that were perpetrated by progressive media repeatedly that undermined Democrats and led to low turnout, which is one major reason losses were bad:

  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz was a bad DNC chair. – While that may be true, it’s certainly not a campaign issue. And yet, it dominated a number of progressive blogs and talk shows for months, up to the end. Most of the articles made “the Democrats” seem incompetent. And since competence is a main criterion for most voters, it likely kept a number of voters who would really like to vote out the GOP to stay home. Worse, these “news” outlets never discussed the good things she did. I saw nothing about her takedown of Scott Walker in September.
  • Democrats are “corporatists.” – That word basically has no meaning, in the first place, and it most certainly doesn’t resonate with the average voter. It’s also untrue. When it comes to the deference to large corporations given by a political party, there is no comparison to be made between Democrats and Republicans. Among Democrats’ largest constituencies are those who work for large corporations, while the GOP caters to those who run them. Unions, educators and trial lawyers are the largest donor groups for Democrats, NOT “Wal;l Street.”
  • Democrats who actually represent their districts or states are “sell outs.” – This is the most damaging charge, and it was leveled against Mark Pryor, who lost, and Mary Landrieu, who will probably lose her runoff. You don’t get to be far left progressive Democrats and represent Arkansas and Louisiana. Allison Lundergan Grimes was a longshot to win in Kentucky, anyway; she would have had exactly zero chance in a state where Obama has a 30% approval. And our side’s constant whining about it made voters who were on the fence about voting against Mitch McConnell simply stay home.
  • Midterms really don’t matter. – Okay, few said this explicitly, but it was obvious if you would bother to read progressive media. Probably the number one topic was how “most voters” weren’t aware of midterms, and then making fun of people for it. The vast majority of articles were about how impossible it would be for Democrats to win a “midterm,” and a great many of them had a “wait until 2016” vibe to them. Only one problem; not gaining this year means it’s less likely Democrats will win in 2016, not more. There is only a one office difference between a midterm and the non-midterm; where did this idea come from that midterms are less important?
  • Democrats suck – This was a common theme on progressive media everywhere. I know, because I had to work my ass off to overcome it. I had to put this blog on hold while I tried to put out fires, and those fires were not caused by right wingers and teabaggers; they were caused by “progressives.” No matter how much ground we lose, and how many tiny victories we have to accept because we can’t manage any large ones, some “progressives” simply don’t understand the damage they do. Most voters already hate the GOP, and would like an alternative. But when there are two parties, and the only other choice is being trashed by us, why would they show up to vote? I haven’t seen final turnout numbers, but based on exit polls, it’s looking like it’s around 37-38% again. Get this through your thick skulls, PUBs and professional lefties; in presidential years, turnout is usually 55% or more and Dems win big. In midterms, it drops to 37%, and Democrats get their asses handed to them. What does that tell you? What do you imagine the solution to our problem is? And I do NOT want to hear “turnout always drops in midterms,” because we’re progressives. We’re supposed to defy expectations, not accede to them.

By the way, all negativity about the party closest to us ideologically speaking, which is the Democratic Party, should cease around Labor Day, and it didn’t.

Democrats got their asses handed to them for a very important reason. Progressives, once again, did not enthusiastically support Democrats everywhere as a viable alternative to Republicans. Every time we enthusiastically support Democrats, they win, and Republicans lose. When we don’t, Democrats lose, and Republicans win. I don’t know how clear it has to be. Look back at every election since 1980, when progressives put all of their energy behind Ted Kennedy for president, even though even he didn’t know why he was running. They then refused to support Jimmy Carter when the democratic process chose him as the Democratic  Party nominee. Slowly, but surely, a radicalized Republican Party, which hadn’t been in power for almost a half-century, suddenly gained an inordinate amount of power in the electorate. In 36 years, Democrats have held a majority n both halves of Congress and had a president in the White House (all of which, by the way, is necessary to get good, progressive laws passed) twice, for one election cycle both times.

Progressives cannot win if we’re negative. We can’t be like the right wing, because their goal is to make voters want to stay home. That’s not good for us.

Will we ever learn?

About Milt Shook

A writer with more than 45 years in the political game (and let's face it, it is a game). I am a liberal because facts have a liberal bias, and I really like facts. If you like facts, you'll like this blog. If not, you'll have a hard time.

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