Thursday, March 13, 2014


So Democratic House candidate Alex Sink lost a Florida special election to Republican David Jolly on Tuesday by 2 points -- and the conventional wisdom seems to be that Obamacare is absolutely toxic and radioactive and a third rail for Democrats nationwide, and they need to run screaming from it as quickly as possible.

Funny, I don't seem to recall a similar response when Virginia Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost a close gubernatorial race last fall. I don't recall anyone arguing that Republicans need to rethink their near-universal opposition to abortion rights, or their relentless campaign to restrict those rights. In fact, I see that many states, including swing states such as Iowa and Missouri, are considering Cuccinelli-esque abortion restrictions this year. I also see that, in Washington, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a major anti-abortion bill back in January.

Was there even widespread agreement that Cuccinelli's positions on social issues lost him the race? Karl Rove said Cuccinelli's social-issue positions "weren't the problem" -- he merely had a history of expressing them a tad too forcefully, "with polarizing language and an acerbic tone that even allies found off-putting" (unlike the outgoing governor, Bob McDonnell, who was "equally conservative on social issues, but ... advocated them in a way that won respect and encouraged civil discussion"). Ben Domenech countered that Cuccinelli wasn't forceful enough on abortion during the campaign -- he "tried to tone down the things that actually worked for him in the past," something he shouldn't have done because it "cedes the conversation" on women's issues "to the media and the left." And The Weekly Standard's Francis Cannon argued that the real problem was "GOP elites," who kept saying that Cuccinelli was "too 'controversial,' 'divisive,' and “strident.'" All agree, however: Cuccinelli's actual stance on abortion and other social issues was just fine and dandy, and not a threat to Republicans nationwide.

Other observers credited Democrats' ability to turn out African-American voters, or pointed to the Democrats' superior fund-raising, in contrast to the inadequate support from the Republican establishment for Cuccinelli. Still others mentioned the scandals engulfing outgoing Republican governor Bob McDonnell, and the federal government shutdown, which took place a month before Election Day in Virginia. Oh, and some pointed out that Cuccinelli's defeat wasn't that bad because he lost by only a couple of points. Oh, and the Democrats were hurt by Obamacare!

What you didn't get on the right was a chorus of Republicans whining "OH MY GOD! OUR POSITIONS ARE REPULSIVE TO VOTERS! WE'RE DOOOOOMED!" That's what Democrats do. And maybe the self-blame, all by itself, is part of the reason Democrats can't win non-presidential elections.


aimai said...

This is just too global. Democrats win "non presidential elections all the time." There are states that are entirely blue, and districts that are entirely blue too. But its true that in certain states and gerrymandered districts the number of people who are persuadable by more democratic or liberal rhetoric to switch their vote may be negligible. I wish the Democrats had a stronger top line message, and an angrier and more self confident one, for local Democrats to glom on to, too. But you are also forgetting that when Bush was toxic plenty of Republicans ran away from him, at the local level, and refused to run on the Iraq war or other Bush touched initiatives. Here in MA you practically can't even get a Republican to use the letter R in a sentence if they are running for office, let alone in their advertisements.

This is a natural feature of the timidity of the political class generally. There are blowhards on the Republican side who don't have to care whether they actually win difficult races, thats true. But their electoral strategy isn't built on those guys. The tea party ran candidates that lost races for them by being so out and proud about programs and beliefs that the voters simply didin't accept. Christine O'Donnell and Akin etc... lost, they didn't win. Not repudiating them is good for our side, not a sign of the strength of the far right.

Victor said...

I didn't understand the reason Democrats ran away from PPACA in 2010 - and I don't understand those who'll do it this year.

Sure, PPACA is flawed.
But it IS, at least a first attempt at a national health care policy!

And I could actually understand running away from it, if the Republicans had a viable alternative.
BUT THEY DON'T!!!!!!!!!!!!


Ray said...

What needs to be pushed hard and heavy is that a no show up voter is a GOP vote.
Let all hear loud and clear that their choice not to vote wins a vote for GOP and support their policies.