Michigan Democrats, Michigan Republicans — March 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

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]