Saturday, January 20, 2018

Who Will Prevail In the Shutdown?

Michael Tomasky makes a good point: The 2013 shutdown, which lasted just over two weeks, was widely blamed on the Republicans. And yet, the following year, the electorate rewarded them with 13 House seats and 9 Senate seats, not to mention a stranglehold on state houses and legislatures. The moral of the story was that most voters have short memories.

But Andrew Sullivan also has good point: Democrats lost the 2016 election partly because of a perception in middle America that they were soft on immigration and shutting down the government over the Dreamers, no matter how noble a cause, won't sit well with them. If anything it feeds the narrative that Democrats have become the party of identity politics.

So who's right? Well, at the risk of playing devil's advocate, both and neither. Yes, Tomasky is right when he says most voters have short memories. I remember thinking while Ted Cruz was pulling his "Green Eggs and Ham" stunt on the floor of the Senate, this is gonna cost the GOP big time.  But it didn't. The sad truth is that in this great U S of A, attention spans are about as long as a rational thought on Fox and Friends.

And, yes, Sullivan is right. A majority of voters in the Midwest do not believe the Democratic Party speaks for them and they made their voices heard loud and clear in 2016. Going to bat for eight hundred thousand people who do not look like them will only reinforce their worst fears that Dems don't care about them, thus giving Trump and the Republicans the ammunition they need to smack them around.

But here's what both are missing. The main reason the GOP scored huge wins in 2014 was because Democrats didn't give their base much of a reason to show up at the polls. Remember the words of President Obama immediately after the midterm results? "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 was that last sentence that summed up what went wrong. Obama knew something his party didn't. They had run away from the things that had defined who they were. They tried painting themselves as more moderate versions of their Republican opponents, which turned off their base and allowed the GOP to define the election on their terms. In short, Democrats played right into the hands of Republicans and they paid dearly for it.

In 2016, the electorate was again looking for Democrats to come up with a message they could rally around. Instead, the Party nominee had all the political conviction of a used-car salesman. Despite her rather extensive and impressive resume, Hillary never came across as genuine to a majority of voters. Instead, it was Trump who came across as the straight shooter and, just like in 2004, when George Bush beat a far-more qualified John Kerry, voters rewarded the candidate that resonated wth them.

Even in politics, a moral compass goes a long way. Having the courage of one's convictions is a philosophy the Party would do well to embrace as they head into the midterms. The Dreamers are people who were brought to this country as kids by their parents. They're teachers, doctors, cops, they serve in the military, and all of them are in jeopardy of being deported back to a country that none of them know. Republicans may call them "illegals" all they want, but an overwhelming majority of people feel they should be allowed to stay in the country.

Standing up for Dreamers isn't just the morally correct position for Democrats, it sends a clear message to voters that the party that in 2016 nominated someone for president who took a poll for everything from trade policy to what she was having for breakfast, might actually have their own moral compass after all. And they will energize their base in a way that they didn't in 2014 when they lost the Senate.

A look at the returns in the both the Virginia and Alabama elections showed a tremendous uptick in Democratic turnout. No doubt a large part of that was because of Trump, but the rest was because the Party nominated candidates who were authentic and had convictions they weren't afraid to voice. Frankly Ive been impressed by how resolute Democrats seem to be over the last few months and the generic polling seems to be bearing this out. What they need to do is show some spine here and make their case to the voters.

Look, Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the White House. They're the ones who need to show they can govern and so far they've done a piss-poor job of doing it. Democrats are willing to cave on border security and increased defense spending in order to allow almost a million people to legally stay in the country.

That's a winning argument for them if they stay on point and don't waiver.

No comments: