Do Democrats Know How to Win Votes in 2016?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock


Obviously Republicans had a good night,” said President Barack Obama following the election results in November. “What stands out to me though is that the American people sent a message — one that they’ve sent for several elections now. They expect the people they elect to work as hard as they do … To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you, to the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you too.”

It’s no secret that the midterms did not go as planned for the Democratic party. First of all, the voter turnout was incredibly poor. Add to that the majority loss in the Senate, 11 state Democratic governors lost, and 30 state-legislative chambers gone, and it was more than a close call, it was a hammering. “It was less about governors. it was very much about the national wave against Democrats,” said former Democratic Delaware Governor Jack Markell, according to Politico.

Republicans had their own explanations for the midterm loss, many of which hinged on the president’s own unpopularity and polling droops. Recently though, the Democratic Victory Task Force published its preliminary report on Democratic election losses, possible causes, and necessary solutions — and it outlined exactly how devastating Democratic losses have been, going back to 2008. Since then, 69 House seats have been lost, 13 Senate seats, 910 State Legislative seats, 30 State Legislative chambers, and 11 governorships. But past the initial Band-Aid-ripping, sections of the report were either complete gibberish or so obvious it hurt to read them. “Having a clear, values-based narrative that unites us as Democrats and engages and appeals to the broadest swath possible of the American electorate,” feels like something that came out of a basic definition for what a political party needs to be. The Washington Post compared the report to the Republican’s version of the same document, calling the review Democrats put forth “largely political pablum.” And it’s true, in the past Republicans have been a bit more on the nose with criticisms within their party — particularly on the need to appeal on social grounds like same-sex marriage, women, and immigration concerns because of the large population of Hispanic voters in America.

However Democrats are slightly different in that the changes they need to make find their root in a different area. Republicans need to recognize the diversity of voters they hope to appeal to, and recognize the changing public opinion on things like LGBT rights. Many, many Americans have changed their views on same-sex marriage, or know someone, whether friend, family, or acquaintance, who is gay. The party alienates an increasingly large population without outright homophobic or sexist commentary, even if the base of the party still has religious reasons for opposing same-sex marriage.

Democrats, on the other hand, have a diverse social appeal. Their rhetoric at least targets a broad group of Americans, but their economic message does not seem to be pulling in the crowds, or more importantly, motivating the crowds, that they need to see at the polls. So if they don’t need to change the rhetoric, what do they need to do? Well, for one thing, they may need to wait until the national atmosphere adjusts. The political field is a fickle thing, and having a Democrat in the presidency opens a lot of doors for critique that Republicans haven’t had to face. The grass is always greener, as they say. But the recent election report does bring up three decent points.

“Build relationships with Americans that motivate them — and mobilize them — to vote.”

Finding a way to get voters to the polls is a major challenge the Democratic party needs to overcome. The midterm election was such a deafening loss for so many Democrats, not because they lost party members so much as because they lost motivated party members, members that would go out and vote. Honestly, many of the other items listed in the report seem to be subtly or not so subtly getting at this point as well. Engaging with local parties and seeking out young people to become involved is about mobilizing voters, as is using new technology and communication methods.

“Proactively protecting and expanding every American’s right to vote” and “Building a three-election strategy for redistricting — at the state and federal level.”

ID laws became an issue right before the midterm, and while not necessarily a game changer, that in combination with redistricting, could add up to some major changes. By ensuring that populations who are statistically far less likely to have state issued IDs — who also tend to be groups that vote Democratic — remain in the voting pool, the Democratic party can retain a significant group of voters.

Redistricting is always a battle between parties, and it’s a significant fight for good reason; how the lines at the state and national level are drawn can have very significant effects on how election results add up.

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