By Lauren Victoria Burke
If there was one lesson to be learned on Election Day it was this: Until President Obama is gone and the Democratic Party leadership changes, Democrats will continue to lose.
Under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership over the past four years House Democrats have lost 74 seats. In 2010 alone, Democrats lost 63 seats. This week they dropped another 12. For the 2014 campaign it was as if leaders of the party never talked to one another on strategy. Obviously, there was none.
President Obama was out bragging about his record week after week while Democrats were campaigning against it.
In a speech on September 28, President Obama said, “There’s almost no economic measure by which we are not better off than when I took office. Unemployment down. Deficits down. Uninsured down. Poverty down. Energy production up. Manufacturing back.” That’s what the president was saying this campaign season.
“Make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them,” Obama said at Northwestern University on October 10. Those words were then immediately used by Republicans to beat Democrats all over the country.
It’s one thing to say that Democrats should have run on the things they’ve gotten done. It’s another to pretend you don’t see that the overriding message of the 2014 campaign is an anti-Obama one. That’s what President Obama did. He pretended not to notice this entire campaign was a referendum on him. When you consider that race mixed with “stopping Obama” was a driver for some of what happened on election day that conclusion should have been easy to come to.
President Obama should have known that saying,”These policies are on the ballot” would not help Democrats at the polls and was bad strategy for this election cycle.
On Oct. 20, the president said so many of the Democrats avoiding him on the campaign trail were “strong allies and supporters who “supported my agenda in Congress.” Of course, that’s true and of course that message ran counter to what 95 percent of the Democrats running were saying. Within all this you see a complete strategic disconnect between the president and his party.
“What’s most important to the American people right now, the resounding message not just of this election, but basically the last several is: Get stuff done,” the president said at a news conference after election day.
No, that wasn’t the message.
The message was a complete and full repudiation of President Obama. No one voting for candidates like Tom Cotton, Thom Tillis, Joni Ernst, Dan Sullivan or Mitch McConnell was voting to “get stuff done.” That cast of candidates has committed to nothing after they take office. Voters were casting a vote against the president. Yet, he still doesn’t get it.
This week, President Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi have chosen to pretend that the election never happened. Pelosi is already calling members of the House asking for support to again lead the Democratic Caucus – an idea that should be laughable.
After the president ignored the Democratic National Committee and instead created Obama for America and erased Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, there is no strategic party apparatus. Obama, as leader of the Democratic Party, has been non-existent in building party infrastructure. That will be a big part of the Obama legacy as he leaves office. That is, that the Democratic Party as a whole is much weaker now than it was in 2008.
Why? Because Barack Obama is the RGIII of American politics: It’s all about him. And no team can win a team sport when it’s all about one player all the time. Additionally, no team can score and win on defense. The Democrats have been on defense since 2010 after the Affordable Care Act was signed in to law, even after 11 million Americans have signed up.
The Democratic Party keeps bragging that Georgia is the next state that will turn purple. That talk will end, at least for now. Just as in Texas, where the Democratic Party invested nothing to build its power in 2008, Georgia is now an example of how Democrats have failed. Even after the party spent $60 million to register and get out voters this year in states like Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas, Democrats still lost.
In Georgia, there were five African Americans running statewide and a race for governor and Senate. But the state did not come close to turning blue. Georgia is just one example of how Democrats need to get their policy message in line with their campaign strategy. That Michelle Nunn only received 25 percent of White votes should be impossible.
But until the party’s leadership changes and is replaced with leaders focused on investing in state and local strategies, the same losing trends will continue.
Lauren Victoria Burke is freelance writer and creator of the blog Crewof42.com, which covers African American members of Congress. She Burke appears regularly on “NewsOneNow with Roland Martin” and on WHUR FM, 900 AM WURD. She worked previously at USA Today and ABC News. She can be reached through her website, laurenvictoriaburke.com, or Twitter @Crewof42 or by e-mail at LBurke007@gmail.com.