Democrats need to get it together. Just a few weeks ago, things seemed rosy for the Dems; President Obama’s approval rating was above 50 percent and the Republican Party’s ratings were at all-time lows. Benghazi, the NSA and other scandals had simmered down, and it seemed that Obama was going to be able to weather the storm and get past the second-term slump that plagues most presidents. Favorability of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was on the rise, and it seemed Dems were on pace to fare well in the 2014 elections and hold a sizeable edge going into 2016. Since then, the White House fumbled the ACA’s rollout. Several deadlines were extended. Bureaucrats that thought they were technocrats rushed to repair the website that was broken upon launch. Many Americans discovered they were losing their health insurance plans or doctors, contrary to an Obama half-truth implanted in their heads during the campaign. Many on the left have run ‘against’ Obama and distanced themselves from the ACA in the past few years, a technique that may have brief electoral success for individual candidates, but reveals instability and fragmentation within the party. The administration has given off an impression of instability as of late. Obama, Dems and particularly the ACA have lost their previous appearances of infallibility. In reality, this is common sense; in politics, it could prove to be a fatal blemish.
President Obama’s greatest political advantage has been the trust of voters. After the Bush administration, Americans have been more than willing to give the other side a chance. If Democrats continue to trip over their own feet, however, they’ll no longer reap the rewards of their greatest intangible advantage.This all comes at a time when great opportunity lies in front of Democrats. Republicans have an image problem and they’re not doing themselves any favors. The Right is on the wrong side of same-sex marriage where public opinion has quickly left them in the dust. Pot legalization seems headed toward a similar fate. Unprecedented attacks on women’s reproductive rights in state legislation nationwide harkens back to traditional attitudes before the pill and reproductive revolution. Voter ID and beefed up voting
requirements significantly impact disenfranchised voters proportionally more.
Yet, the Republicans still claim racism is a thing of the past – just as they did Sunday, from their official party Twitter, in a tweet celebrating the impact of Rosa Parks (read for yourself – @GOP). This prompted the hashtag #RacismEndedWhen to trend nationwide, prompting widespread criticism and scathing satire from thousands of Twitter users eager to jump in. As we learned in 2012, voters want to give Democrats a chance. Voters, however, also have a short memory. Democrats have the inside track in many key demographics: the youth, minorities, women, elderly, and lower class. The party has a sizeable image advantage with popular policy ideas of the future — defending social welfare programs, modest tax hikes on the wealthy, campaign finance reform, immigration reform and so on. If progressives don’t have electoral success, they’ll be unable to follow through on these popular initiatives that the country needs.
In 2014, Republicans have two historical trends in their favor: voters are critical of the party in power, and conservatives turn out to vote in midterm elections. If Dems forge unity and popular confidence in their administration, Congress is theirs for the taking next year. If Dems can govern and campaign with unity and thoughtfulness, they’ll bury the slow-to-adapt Republicans, until 2016 and beyond.
Contact Seth Martin at [email protected]