Some reasons why Democrats lost yesterday

3 Nov

1. The Citizens United decision last year from the Supreme Court let corporations funnel millions of dollars into advertising for and against candidates. A handful of organizations, such as 60 Plus, were able to take those dollars and run ads under their own label. We have no idea who was actually funding the ads.

2. The Democrats ran against themselves. When they were under attack–especially false attacks–they did not rebut the claims. For example, Democrats were accused of voting for a “government takeover of health care.” They didn’t respond, and people interpret that inaction as an admission. They should have simply said, “One, it’s not a government take over of health care. Your doctors, your hospitals, are not going to become government employees. Two, it’s simply a requirement that everyone be insured. Three, whatever imperfections, the health care reform was better than the alternative: doing nothing.”

3. The Democrats did not run on their record. No mention of financial reform. No mention of the jobs created by the stimulus bill (at least a million jobs–how hard is it to say “unemployment would have been worse”?).

4. The Democrats did not have a theme. A soundbite like, “My opponent and her party drove this economy into the ground before 2008. We can’t afford to give them the keys to the car again,” would have done wonders.

5. The White House (I’m talking to you, Mr. President) sat this race out until the very end. Mr. Obama should have been campaigning for Democratic congressional candidates since May, using good messages (such as my idea in No. 4, above).

6. The DNC abandoned the 50-state strategy that Howard Dean implemented despite criticism from other party leaders. The strategy paid off in the 2008 election.

So, where do we go from here?

The White House must realize that it cannot compromise with the extreme Republicans in the House leadership. Reaching across the aisle will accomplish nothing. Senate Minority Leader McConnell is on the record saying that the Republicans’ number one goal is to make sure President Obama does not win re-election. That doesn’t sound like someone who is willing to work with you, Mr. President.

Democrats have to start thinking about the 2012 election–and the 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections as well. The opposition is doing that already. Democrats must look at the example of the Republicans after the Goldwater drubbing. The right wing that backed Goldwater put their heads together and developed a long range plan. They didn’t plan to win just two years later–they planned to build a movement that would provide a long series of Republican wins: Reagan in 1980 and 1984, Congressional takeover in 1994 that lasted until 2006, and 2010. They put together a set of principles that became a mantra: government is the problem and taxes must be cut. They repeat that every election cycle.

The Democrats have no principles that they can make into a mantra. There are some excellent ideas out there (I highly recommend the Bill Scher book linked to there), but nothing coming from the party leaders.

The one thing the Democrats cannot do is assume that they lost because they were not moderate enough. The conservadem Blue Dogs lost about half of their members last night. While not conclusive, those losses strongly suggest that being a Blue Dog is not the answer. After all, as Harry Truman once said, “If you give the people a choice between a watered-down Republican and a Republican, they will choose the real thing every time.”

As discouraging as last night’s losses are, it’s no time to whine about how badly Democrats were beaten. It’s time to get up, brush the dust off, and start fighting back.

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