I CAN SEE THE FUTURE, or at least that is what I tell people. Wait, let me explain before this starts sounding like the rantings of a mad man. I have been watching the shifting of electoral politics in this country and this is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series about the ramifications of the massive shifts this country is seeing right now.
First, some basic facts that need to be addressed; since 2006 every election except 2012 has seen the House, Senate, or White House change hands. In 2006 the Democrats took Congress, in 2008 the Democrats took the White House, in 2010 the Republicans took the House, and in 2014 the Republicans took the Senate, and when you look at such shifts it makes 2012 one of the most game changing elections in decades, almost as an afterthought. We are witnessing the entire electorate change, and in some ways turn itself on its head.
To go any further in this we need to go back in time to the magical year of 1980. Both parties were in the midst of bruising primaries, in which Ted Kennedy was challenging incumbent Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination, while Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were slugging it out for the Republican nomination. Jimmy Carter of course beats Ted Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan beats George H.W. Bush, and so both men were going into a general election with major problems with their parties. As a result, these men had to rally their bases and independents both to their respective causes. Now Carter was horribly unpopular, and Reagan was seen by the country as nuts. Both men had major problems with the electorate, but when Reagan overcame his problems he brutally crushed Carter in the general election. At the time few realized just what happened, or how game changing that election really was. In fact, in was so groundbreaking that from 1980 to 2004 of the seven presidential elections, democrats only won two of them (Or three depending on how you count 2000). The Reagan coalition was a juggernaut and the only reason Bill Clinton was able to crack it was because he rebranded his whole party as the centrist party and was from the south, and Ross Perot pulled from a lot of traditionally conservative groups. So just to make sure you understand this, Reagan won so freaking hard that the only way his opposition party could win was to nominate a more conservative Democrat than what was typical of the party, who was also a once in a generation politician from a region that had become a GOP stronghold. That is the very definition of winning, and winning hard.
So why the history lesson? Because 2008 and 2012 changed everything. Barack Obama won by not playing to conservative issues at all, but by being a center-left candidate and playing to center-left issues. He beat two center-right candidates that did very well with independents (Romney freaking won the independent vote!) and by comfortable margins. So what does that mean? That conservatives are in a lot of trouble. The Reagan coalition is dying in front of our eyes and the GOP knows it. The issue is not that they don’t have a Reagan to bring it all together; it’s that even if Reagan came back, he might actually lose a Presidential election.
But wait! What about the Republicans winning in 2010, and 2014! They won by huge margins and in some ways the Republican party has never been stronger, and I say to you “good point.” Right now, only Obama has figured out how to use the massive changes in the electorate, and the rest of the Democratic party thinks that because of wins in 2008 and 2012 that this is all you need to govern. The GOP has invested heavily in statewide elections and as such has the largest house majority since 1920. They have a comfortable majority in Governorships, and has a huge majority in state legislatures, as well as a narrow majority in the Senate. Republicans right now are able to use their old playbook and issues to keep winning. (A president with mediocre approval doesn’t hurt either) As a result, even though the country has shifted to the left the Republican party is actually primed to retake the White House in 2016.
“What!!!” you say in shock “But what about all those things I see about demographics?! You just said the country was more liberal now!” True, I said all of that, but the biggest issue (and I can’t stress this enough) is that the Democratic party doesn’t have a freaking clue on how to win. Obama knows how to win, and Democrats seem to be going out of their way not to learn those lessons.
First lesson for Democrats in how to win- screw advertising, and focus on turnout. Win the majority of the country that agrees with you and will vote for you; don’t bother with winning them over if you’ve already won them over, just get them registered and get them to the polls. This is why the voter I.D. laws are so controversial. (I’ll go into these more later) They lower voter turnout for Democrats and help Republican candidates win close elections in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.
Second lesson, focus at State level offices like legislatures and governorships. The GOP field, while crowded and self-destructive, is also well qualified. Walker, Bush, Perry, Huckabee, and Kasich are all successful Governors and while you might hate their policies, they’re strong candidates. The Democrats have neglected this field and only has one former Governor running for office- Martin O’Malley. If you haven’t heard of him, you really aren’t missing much. As a result, you have a choice between Hillary and Bernie Sanders but really, if you’re a Democrat, you will be getting Hillary. (Also, more on THIS later)
So when 2016 rolls around you will have a choice between Hillary, who doesn’t know how to win with this very new electorate, and a Republican who will know how to win with an old electorate, but knows how to get them to turn out. It will result in a brutal and confusing campaign that will result in a very conservative republican winning, and Democrats wondering how in the heck that happened once again..