Thanks for the Progress, Democrats.
(Now, get the hell out.)
There has been a lot of ribbing of yours truly for my dearth of posts to the website. I
wish I was able to do more to defend myself from said ribbing, but the facts are the facts: I
haven’t written nearly as much as I should to offer that other half of the “perspective you love
from the side you hate.”
Since I am never one to shy away from self-examination, I asked myself why I was
avoiding contributing to a portion of a website that I have near complete editorial control over.
The very easy answer was that I was simply uninspired. With everything happening in the
world, with everything Doc and I talked about on every weekly show, I simply had nothing I was
worked up enough about to make what I felt to be a meaningful contribution.
What to do, I thought. I was so tired of the bickering; I was so tired of the circular
arguments. I was also paralyzed by a sense of contributing to an online narrative that was
negative by definition: yell about things to give other people things to yell about that will make
you yell about those new things. But I couldn’t just give up, right? If I wanted to be a part of
the conversation, I had to contribute something to that conversation, right? So, I did what I
always do when I need to generate a little heat under my collar.
I went to Facebook.
As one could gather if one has watched or listened to a minute of Doc n’ Lefty, I have a
great deal of conservative friends. I also grew up in Le Mars, Iowa—25 north of Sioux City, in
the heart of what came to be known as Steve King country—there’s no way you can come from
that background without learning a little something about conservatives and even making friends
with a few of them. Conservatives make up a not insignificant portion of my Facebook friends
list. For years, I had enjoyed going around and around with them (not unlike Doc and I arguing
in the street while shoveling snow), arguing, getting fed up, holding my head in frustration.
Over time, I got so exhausted with the endless “debate” that I quietly disengaged from the fracas.
“Just in case you Democrats don’t really understand how bad you LOST, here’s the facts.
And you know why you lost? It’s because your policies and ideas failed, and don’t work. I just
hope that Republicans can actually do what we put them there to do.” This quote is taken from
one of my friend’s walls, sharing a link to an article on ijreview.com. I happen to like this guy a
lot—we have the same taste in music and a similar distaste for the state of Nebraska (although I
love Omaha: the West Des Moines of West Des Moines). As much as I like my friend, I do find
his statement to be rather silly. Here’s why.
When Barack Obama took office in 2009, unemployment averaged 9.28%. So far this
year, the average yearly rate is 6.27%. On January 20, 2009, the day that President Obama was
inaugurated, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 7949.09. As of this writing, the Dow closed
at 17,613.74. Home prices have gone up; gas prices have gone down. We avoided a second
Great Depression and expanded health care coverage to upwards of ten million people who had
never had it before. All of this happened in spite of a Republican House of Representatives and
a Republican Senate minority unwilling to vote on legislation they themselves introduced if the
President endorsed it. That’s a lot of positive progress coming from an administration that many
on the right would love to see impeached—over what, they can’t say, but they’re pissed, dammit!
“But Blake,” you protest, “you’re talking about the past.” It’s not that the public hates
Democrats for the things they did (except Obamacare, naturally), it’s that the public is afraid of
what the Democrats WILL do if left unchecked. I read into my friend’s status update that the
Democrats lost the 2014 midterms in part because the public isn’t with them anymore. The
Democrats are out of touch with the country. This too, is largely wrong.
According to the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll (the poll that missed the Joni Ernst/
Bruce Braley margin by a percentage point), 65% of Iowans are in favor of a minimum wage
increase back in March when the poll was conducted. Nationally, the Pew Research Institute
showed 73% of respondents in favor of raising the minimum wage around the same time as the
Iowa Poll. On healthcare, Gallup has found that the uninsured rate has dipped to 13.4%, the
lowest quarterly rate since 2008. Further, 66% of the country appears to be satisfied with how
health care is working overall. According to Gallup, 51% of the country supports marijuana
legalization. There is broad support in the country for immigration reform that includes a
pathway to citizenship (87% according to a June 15-16 Gallup poll). Gallup also places national
support for same sex marriage at 55%. Personhood has not been able to find a foothold around
Clearly, November 4 was a message to Democrats: “We don’t want you anymore.” But,
just as clearly, the country is saying that “We like what you have to offer.” What explains this
seeming schizophrenia? In a word: turnout. The 2014 midterms offered some of the worst
turnout for any general election in decades. According to a study by Michael McDonald at the
University of Florida, only 36.4% of eligible voters turned out on November 4. This pool was
older, whiter, and richer than in 2012 or 2008 (check out the Wall Street Journal for an
interesting set of exit poll data). What happened to that Democratic ground game? Why did all
the kids stay home?
No one really knows for sure, but speculation abounds. Perhaps it’s because younger,
lower income voters have a harder time making it to the polls; they have class, work, unreliable
transportation, etc. Perhaps it’s because they’re disconnected—more content to watch YouTube
clips of deer fighting with dogs (look it up) or cats riding on Roombas (look it up). Perhaps the
increase in spending and negative advertising have disillusioned the more sensitive Democratic
voter—making the Republican voter (seasoned and hard as a 100 year old oak tree) the only
voter with the toughness necessary for today’s political scene.
I don’t have a good answer to the turnout question either, but I have my suspicions. The
Democrats have had the better ground game for a long time. Though the Congressional
pendulum seems more like a wrecking ball in recent years, political dynasties in this country
were possible. The Democrats held uninterrupted control of the House of Representatives for 40
years; the Senate for 26. While it’s likely that gerrymandering (a bipartisan maneuver currently
enjoying primary Republican patronage today) played a part, the Democratic ground game was a
very real thing. Backed by powerful, cohesive labor unions and galvanized by a desire to keep
the Republican president in check (seriously—from 1968 to 1992, the Democrats were only able
to get Jimmy Carter elected—to one term), the Democrats dominated Congressional elections for
I posit that the decline in the labor movement and the Democrats recent successes in
Presidential elections have contributed to their recent shortfalls in Congressional elections. It
was as recent as 2008-2009 that the Democrats held a filibuster proof majority in the senate
(with the two independents, of course). But, this was at the crest of the Democratic wave at the
tail end of an unpopular Republican presidency. Republicans have been chipping away ever
since. The turned the tide in 2010, and even though they lost the popular vote overall in 2012,
held on to their majority in the House. And, in 2014, though hardly anyone voted, those who did
It will be fascinating to see if the Republicans decide to attempt governing after so long
in opposition. The noises from the past week have been mixed: Mitch McConnell says he’d like
to work with the President but Reince Priebus says there will be hell to pay if Obama tries
anything on immigration without Congress. Also, there is probably going to be a 50th vote on
repealing the ACA. All of this falls on a backdrop of a Democratic party that looks old, tired,
and more than a little stressed out.
Come to think of it, Democratic leaders look a lot like my parents did at the end of each
week when I was growing up—kind of worn out, a little grumpy, and a little exasperated with
my sister and I if we did something stupid.
Makes sense. They were the adults. And they were the only folks in the house doing any
AKA Blake D. Lubinus