How Democrats can fight and win in 2014

New rule: If you don’t volunteer to help a campaign, you can’t complain

ObamacareAfter Democrat Alex Sink failed to win a Republican seat that has been held for decades, analysts — including respected analysts like Charlie Cook — have revised their prognosis for 2014. They now see a Republican wave coming — or, in the very least, a “really bad year.”

President Obama’s former campaign manager calls Sink’s loss “a screaming siren,” which is good because now is when such a siren can make a difference and save some seats.

Two HUGE things need to happen for Democrats to prevent loses in 2014 that will result in a Republican Party more steadfastly committed to the twin goals of obstruction and sabotage:

1. Democratic candidates need to fight wisely
2. Democratic voters need to start volunteering now to make sure the base shows up in November

This isn’t 2010. The economy isn’t cratering. Republicans can try to run against Medicare cuts but most if not all of them have voted for Medicare cuts AND gutting the entire program into a mostly privatized voucher system. The public agrees with Democrats on nearly every issue.

However, the GOP still has tremendous structural advantages this year. Democrats have to defend 7 Senate seats to defend in states Romney won. There’s the “6-year itch” where a president’s party has shed seats three out of the four last times a president has served a full second term. And President Obama currently has low approval ratings as most Americans are still not happy with the direction of the country.

However, Democrats cannot let a malaise and an unwillingness to defend their agenda translate into half-assed campaigns that spur the Republican base while discouraging their own.

Former Clinton adviser Paul Begala laid out exactly what Democratic candidates need to do to fight for Obamacare to The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent in the most important blog post you will read this year:

“We should open by saying, ‘my opponent wants to repeal your rights,’” Begala said. “He wants to take away your right to be protected against discrimination because you have a preexisting condition. He wants to take away your right to be protected against discrimination for being older or being a woman. He wants to take away the closing of the Medicare donut hole for seniors.”

“That’s point one,” he continued. “Then you say, ‘look, I’m open to working with everybody to fix the law. But I’ll never let them go back to the days where insurance companies could send letters saying your coverage has been canceled because you have a preexisting condition.’”

And then from there to an economic message: “Repeal is their whole agenda. They have no ideas for giving you a pay raise. No ideas for raising the minimum wage. No ideas about how to create jobs. No ideas about how to get your kid into pre-K. Their entire agenda as a party is repeal — to take away rights that you have won. I’m not going to let them do that.”

This isn’t a one-sized fits all solution.

In Michigan, for instance — where Terri Lynn Land insists she’s for full repeal one day and then cheers for Medicaid expansion the next and will eventually say she’s for banning pre-existing conditions without offering any real plan — Democrat Gary Peters can say “my opponent isn’t sure which of your rights she’ll defend.” Force her to say she wouldn’t vote for repeal in public as many times as possible because her voters will be discouraged, not ours.

Because Democrats need to recognize that what made 2006, 2008 and 2012 different from other recent elections wasn’t just an ability to keep up financially — it was the volunteers.

The Iraq War then President Obama inspired Democrats to get out to get out to vote in a way that makes the party nearly impossible to beat.

Sasha Issenberg who wrote The Victory Lab points out that Democrats may never be able to replicate the incredible volunteerism that drove Democrats over three out of the last four elections.

Democratic politicians need to realize that inspiring their base to join their campaigns is a huge part of their job. And they only do that by fighting for what we believe in.

And Democrats need to recognize that offering campaigns our time (and money when possible) is the greatest reward the politicians who stand for what we believe in. And it’s the best way we can encourage them to fight in the unafraid, inspired way winning candidates must.

[Photo by Will O'Neill | Flickr]
  • Doug Scott

    This is an excellent piece because it focuses on two key issues for Democrats: 1) We let Republicans ‘out frame us’ on issues, hijack the dialogue with voters and thereby put us on the defensive. We list the 146 things we are for but they never are framed as Begala suggests…protecting rights and values. 2) Mobilizing volunteers much earlier than September or October! Without the latter in off-Presidential election years, we can’t turn things around.

    • gene hayhoe

      How does one ‘explain’ the elimination of due process for American citizens with the BIPARTISAN NDAA of 2012? I will be ashamed for the rest of my life that I voted for Obama ONCE in 2008, based on his ‘opposition’ to ‘Newtcare.’

      Any ‘party’ that considers Obama ‘head’ is a party that I will NEVER vote for again. A ‘total surveillance’ society is NOT ‘my idea of a good place to be.’ The ONLY reason that I have voted for Ds when I have over the past 40 years is that for many years, I believed that ‘at least they’re not Republicans.’ And I was WRONG. What HAS Obama done other than ‘co-opt the Republican agenda?’ And I thought politics was hopeless in the 1960s and ’70s; REAGAN ‘was to the left of Obama’ and would never have DARED pull half the bs Obama has, and I despise Reagan and everything he stands for.

  • Contra Indicator

    You might help mobilize voters by holding primaries and encouraging public (and working class) participation in forming the Michigan Democratic Party’s agenda and policies. Because at the end of the day, this is not about partisanship for the sake of partisanship for the vast majority of people; it is about creating better communities, meting out justice for the corrupt forces that have denied it to so many, and creating sustainable and cross-generational equity. Yet I’m still in the dark on what will happen to the cities in receivership if Governor Schauer is sworn in (he did not seem to answer that question directly in your interview). I’m not altogether clear on why there’s a rush to create presumptive candidates on the basis of their access to campaign funds. To me, that still presents a threat to the long term interests of democracy and the working class. But if we do not demand more during the primary process (or if we basically eliminate primaries for all but state legislative seats), how do our values align with basic democratic standards?

  • Joyce AlterLee

    exactly …iam a dem and i refuse to give up to the GOP nightmare …we MUST FIGHT !!!!!!!! and GET the Message OUt NOW way before Nov 2014

  • Joyce AlterLee

    so of us where think about a March on washington for women and minoritys to get them energied …….WE MUST WAKE UP

  • Kim Jones

    TIME TO GET THE VOTE OUT, REGISTER, VOLUNTEER AND CAMPAIGN. DEMOCRATS ARE NOT FIGHTING BACK AND TAKING THE GOP LIES ON HEAD FIRST. WE NEED TO BE MOTIVATED AROUND MINIMUM WAGE, IMMIGRATION AND THE FIGHT AGAINST VOTER SUPPRESSION.

  • gigiz

    Every GOP member of the House voted for a fetal personhood bill. Rand Paul introduced the ‘Life at Conception Act’ in the Senate. I don’t know of any GOP candidate for the House or Senate who isn’t anti-women’s reproductive freedom. Dems need to make this a major issue and not repeat the 2010 campaigns where they and the media allowed GOP candidates to go stealth on social issues.

  • Pingback: Paul Ryan just made sure health care won’t be a winning issue for the GOP | Eclectablog()

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