July 23, 2024

Why Democrats stayed home



Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Why Democrats stayed home

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Conventional wisdom says Tuesday’s election was a referendum on President Obama. The president agrees, and he said so in his Wednesday press conference. Voters don’t like the gridlock in Washington, and as the head of government and leader of his party, the president is accountable. But there’s more to the story.

“To those of you who voted, I hear you,” Obama said, noting that only a third of eligible voters cast ballots in the election. And to the two-thirds who did not, Obama said, “I hear you too.”

Their voices were loudest. The electorate did not resemble the coalitions that elected Obama in 2008 and 2012; this election was more like 2010 when Democrats lost the House. It was smaller, whiter, and older, in other words, voters who more closely resemble the Republican base.

Turnout was 75 percent white in a country that is growing more diverse by the day; 37 percent of the voters were over age 60, five percentage points higher than in 2010, a year which Democrats thought was their nadir in attracting young single women and minorities to vote.

But those who didn’t vote probably got a result they wouldn’t necessarily support, that is if they had enough faith in government to think it might actually matter. That sums up the challenge for Democrats if they want to regain their majority status.

In the White House’s backyard, two candidates the Democrats took for granted as easy wins turned out to be shockers on election night. In Virginia, Democrat Mark Warner ran as a centrist, so the left wing of the party wasn’t sufficiently inspired to come out and vote.

Challenger Ed Gillespie punctured Warner’s balloon, saying if he’s a centrist, how come he votes 95 percent with Obama? Warner won, but Gillespie came closer than anyone could have imagined, and they’re still counting absentee and provisional ballots.

In Maryland, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown fell to Republican Larry Hogan, who painted Brown as “the second-string for Martin O’Malley’s third high-tax term.” Brown didn’t campaign aggressively, relying on the more than 2-to-1 advantage Democrats have in voter registration over Republicans in this deep blue state. Big mistake; people like to be asked for their vote, not taken for granted.

The Republican base came out across the country, motivated by anger and frustration at Obama. The GOP turned a cascade of world events to its advantage, using the rise of the self-declared Islamic state, ISIS, and the spread of Ebola from West Africa to assail Obama’s leadership.

Domestically, Republicans have been successful in painting Obama as a failed president in the midst of an improving economy and falling gas prices, typically measures by which an incumbent president is judged.

Voters did not give him credit for an economy that is vastly better than what he inherited in 2008, for getting the country out of two wars, and for a health-care law that has proven successful.

But Obama was realistic, admitting in his press conference that the good news is overshadowed by the fact that wages are stagnant, and people vote their pocketbooks. The stock market is going gangbusters, but most people are not prosperous enough to own stock.Lastly, as a result of the immigration impasse, the Hispanic vote was down by several percentage points in key races.

As Obama grapples with an emboldened Republican majority in Congress, he is standing firm with his promise to take executive action by the end of the year on immigration, but former top advisor David Axelrod tweeted POTUS that he should agree to shelve the executive order for up or down vote in House. That’s good advice, but only if John Boehner agrees, a big if .

Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2014 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.




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