Friday, November 11, 2016

Why Democrats Lose

Kenneth O’Brien

Well, Now the Democrats have nothing.

No Presidency. No Senate. No House. A minority of State Houses and State Legislatures.

Why is that the case? 

More than anything else it boils down to two factors – messaging and organization.

The Conservative message dominates talk radio. Fox News dominates the TV media. The internet is dominated by a plethora of right-wing publications, each one more extreme than the next.

For decades Democrats have mocked the accuracy and content of both of these outlets.

But they dominate the conversation at all levels.

And whether you like it or not their brand of personalities and spin constitute the “real world” for the majority of voters.

As for organization, the only real organization for the Party emerges every four years for the Presidency.

Alternate biennial elections are dominated by the influence of the Conservative media at the national, state and local levels.

The problem is not one of policies. The Democrats have the winning policies in economics, social matters and international affairs. Twice in the last thirty-five years they have been called upon to remedy the excesses of Republican administrations.

But, once they have set the nation back on course the White House has reverted back to the Republicans. And twice in the last sixteen years it has been as a result of Democrats getting more popular votes but Republicans winning the Electoral College.

And, subsequently, while the reputations of Republican Presidents have prospered as the result of active “legacy” projects, the reputation of Democrats has been diminished. One need only ask what people remember about Bill Clinton and the first thing will be his impeachment and philandering. I guarantee you that in ten years the same diminishment will happen to the reputation of Barack Obama.

Things are only going to get worse.

In two years there will be another round of Senate elections and far more Democratic seats will be at stake.

In four more years there will be another national census and, with Republicans controlling state legislatures, gerrymandering will persist. As a result, while more Democratic votes are cast nationwide in elections to the House of Representatives, just as in the Electoral College, Republicans will garner the majority of seats in the lower house.

Democrats made a serious mistake in the last election. In their fevered quest to make history with the first woman President they cast aside the populist message of Senator Bernie Sanders. As hard as they tried to sell Hillary Clinton to a skeptical public, the 25 year messaging of the Conservative media held sway. From the outset they were condemned to a task not unlike trying to convince former President George H. W. Bush to love Broccoli.

Contrary to the myth that it likes to perpetuate, the Democratic Party is not a bottom up exercise. It is clearly top down.

Until the Party begins to recognize this and put real effort into regaining influence at the state level it will forever suffer occasional holding of the White House and almost perpetual loss of the House and Senate. 

That effort must be coupled with a concerted effort to assert its presence in all media markets as well as on social media. It need not resort to the outright distortions of the Conservatives, but it must alter its focus and message, its spin, to more align with the interests of the hoi polloi. It must promote personalities who have a lot more fire and brimstone coupled with moments of pathos and less appeal to the intellectual and elitist elements. The latter need not be deserted entirely, but they must not constitute the front line of communications efforts.

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