The Democrats’ mutual denial society


President Obama holds a press conference at the White House after the 2014 midterm  elections, Nov. 5, 2014 (whitehouse.gov)
President Obama holds a press conference at the White House after the 2014 midterm elections, Nov. 5, 2014 (whitehouse.gov)

“There is much that is going right in this country, and there is still time for Democrats to say so.”

New York Times Editorial Board, October 21, 2014

If President Obama would not have delayed acting on immigration until after the election, he may have saved the seats Democrats lost in the Senate, that he was trying to protect by not acting. That wasn’t his idea. It was the idea of the Democratic Senate candidates.

If the Democrats running statewide in North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky had not tried so hard to distance themselves from Obama, by not meeting with him, not having him campaign for them, touting his economic record and and his call for a raise in the minimum wage, the successes of Obamacare and the efforts at fair pay and immigration reform, they might have won.

They disavowed the leader of their party by refusing to say if they voted for him, by stammering through questions about his policies and even by omitting their party affiliation from their campaign ads. They could not run away fast enough.

When the president said at an economic speech at Northwestern University in early October, “But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot — every single one of them,” Democrats groaned.

Then he told Rev. Al Sharpton, at the end of the same month:

“The bottom line is though, these are all folks who vote with me; they have supported my agenda in Congress; they are on the right side of minimum wage; they are on the right side of fair pay; they are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure; they’re on the right side of early childhood education.”

And in an effort to get the Democratic base fired up in Georgia, he called an Atlanta radio station two days later and gave the Republicans this little morsel for an attack ad:

“If Michelle Nunn wins, that means that Democrats keep control of the Senate. And that means that we can keep on doing some good work.”

The problem with all of these assertions that the president made isn’t that they weren’t true. They were. The problem for the Democrats in states the president recognized he lost in 2012, was that they became blatheringly and disingenuously defensive. Rather than assert, “Yes, I support these policies. They are good for the middle class and for the American people,” they sought to distinguish themselves from President Obama with ineffective TV ads.

“I’ve always believed that it’s not an effective strategy to run against a president of your own party, unless you’ve been actively opposed to that president,” Obama political strategist David Axelrod told the Washington Post, a week before the election. “You’re going to get tagged with it anyway.”

They could have danced with the president. Instead, they left him by the punch bowl to talk about his agenda and accomplishments to anyone who would listen.

The New York Times editorial board urged the Obama deniers to change their ways. “By not standing firmly for their own policies,” they advised, “Democrats send a message to voters that the unending Republican criticism of the president is legitimate.”

In Georgia, in a rebuttal to charges that he was slow to help his fellow Democrats and was cozying up to Republicans to aid his future plans, Atlanta mayor and sometimes Obama surrogate Kasim Reed retorted, in a Tweet, “When the President landed to visit the CDC. I was there to greet him. That’s what a ‘true Democrat’ would do.”

And, he went on:

“I never saw any of them. When I was running for re-election, I proudly accepted President Obama’s endorsement and support… a ‘true Demcrat (sic)’ would not lead their party to failure and then get on Fox5 [local news] & blame ‘Obama, Obama, Obama…'”

“Wow,” he concluded.

There is no telling how Grimes, Pryor, Nunn or Hagan would have fared had they been more welcoming of the president. It’s all hindsight. The only thing for sure is that even good candidates with the best campaign volunteers in the country are unable to bring out the base better than he can. By definition, the base is the most committed to party principles. If you voice it, authentically, they will turn out for you. A “D” after your name doesn’t get you votes. Being what your party stands for does. Being “Republican Light” does not.

“Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.” – Samuel Johnson

-PBG

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