Women are more than their uterus

Cannot say I followed the Colorado Senate race all that closely, but it is clear that Mark Udall has been panned for overly focusing on women’s reproductive issues in his campaign.  I thought about that upon seeing this TNR piece headlined:

The Most Female Congress Ever Will Be Terrible for Women

You know what?  It very well may be.  I’m of the opinion that most Republican majority Congresses are not good for women (and not so great for men, either).  But to make the case, the article focuses entirely on abortion.  Look, I get the importance of reproductive rights to the overall status of women in society, but there is still a lot more to being a woman than that.  And liberals of any stripe– be they soon-to-be-former Senators or journalists don’t do the liberal cause any good by suggesting that abortion is basically the be all and end all of women’s political interests.

Photo of the day

From a Telegraph gallery of the Midterms.  Praise Jesus!  Or at least Joni Ernst.

US midterms - Republican fan

Luke Martz cheers for Joni Ernst, newly elected Republican for the U.S. Senate, at an election night rally in West Des Moines, IowaPicture: Bloomberg

The Democrats’ message problem

Hey, I’m a political scientist and I still think basic PS stuff (e.g., unpopular president, turnout, etc.) explains a large part of the results, but it’s clear that’s not all and I’m increasingly persuaded the Democrats really do have a message problem.  They are just not offering a consistent and compelling message.  And it shouldn’t be so hard.  A number of good takes…

Greg Sargent:

No question, the map/turnout problem was daunting. But some evidence suggests that in some places, Democrats actually did push up turnout among core groups from 2010 levels. Democrats appear to have performed pretty well among these voters. But this wasn’t a 2012 electorate, and there just weren’t enough of them. Which leads to the related problem that John Judis points out: Democrats underperformed so badly among older voters and blue collar whites that it became impossible to make up that lost ground. This wasn’t just a turnout problem; it was a persuasion problem, too.

“We have a problem,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who polled on the Kentucky Senate race, told me. “If we’re really going to expand our chances in the Senate and House, we have to appeal to a wider group than we are now.”…

These pollsters argued that this was above all the result of a failure to connect with these voters’ economic concerns…

“People are deeply suspicious that government can deliver on these problems,” Mellman says, in a reference to the voter groups that continue to elude Democrats. “And they are not wrong. We’ve been promising that government can be a tool to improve people’s economic situation for decades, and by and large, it hasn’t happened.”

Harold Meyerson:

Tuesday’s verdict makes clear that the Democrats cannot win by demographics alone…

Yet the same factors that lowered the turnout of the Democratic base also cost the party votes among whites: the failure of government to remedy, or even address, the downward mobility of most Americans. Democrats who touted the nation’s economic growth did so at their own peril: When 95 percent of the income growth since the recession ended goes to the wealthiest 1 percent, as economist Emmanuel Saez has documented, voters view reports of a recovery as they would news from a distant land…

But with the exception of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has been plenty outspoken about diminishing the power of Wall Street, the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to re-create the kind of widely shared prosperity that emerged from the New Deal.

Stephen Pearlstein

But the surest way to win elections is to have a strong enough positive message to offset it. In other words, a strong brand.

For Democrats, that message, repeated day after day by candidate after candidate, might go something like this:

“I’m a Democrat. In economic terms, that means I believe we need an active, competent government to ensure that prosperity is broadly shared by protecting ordinary people from the occasional excesses of markets and the undue power of businesses. That’s why Democrats are for raising the minimum wage, closing down corporate tax scams, putting tighter regulation on Wall Street and providing adequate funding for a world-class public education system from pre-K through college. And it’s why we are proud to have passed legislation to ensure that all Americans finally have a basic health insurance plan regardless of income or health or which company they work for. With oil and gas prices falling, it means I’m even willing to raise energy taxes by a few pennies per gallon so we can reinvest in the infrastructure — highways, ports, airports, subway systems, the electric grid, the Internet — on which all of us and the economy depend. Republicans are uninterested in, or unwilling to do, any of these things or in making any of these investments. Are you with them, or are you with us Democrats?”

Yeah, that.  And Alec MacGinnis:

I was hardly alone in ascribing Obama’s reelection under tough circumstances to his and other Democrats’ ability to frame the choice in the terms Bimberg laid out: we, the Democrats, are on your side, and those guys, the Republicans, are not. One of the biggest questions hanging over the Democrats in the wake of this week’s drubbing is why they failed to apply that lesson of 2012 to in this election. Yes, as many have noted, the context of this election was simply different in a midterm with lower turnout, with most of the competitive Senate races in unfriendly terrain.

Still, it is worth asking why Democrats failed to replicate that fundamental framing. The groundwork for it is still there: despite Obama’s dwindling popularity since 2012 and voters’ sour feelings about the direction of the country, surveys still show the public strongly favoring Obama and the Democrats on the “who cares more about people like me” question. Wall Street and big business strongly favored Republicans in this election, as they did in 2012. And issue referenda on this Election Night showed how popular the Democrats’ economic policy proposals are in isolation, even in deep-red territory, as initiatives to raise the minimum wage passed easily in Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Alaska.

Of course, as I’ve seen pointed out elsewhere, minimum wage doesn’t really apply to all that many families.  Democrats really need to do more, not just messaging-wise, but policy-wise to directly benefit the middle class– or at least to have the middle class think they are directly benefiting.  Paying less in taxes is pretty obvious, on the opposite side (and maybe that’s a big part of the problem).

Yes, Democrats are well-positioned with a growing minority and youth share of the electorate, but unless they find a way to more successfully reach out middle-class white voters with message and policy, there’s a real problem.  As we saw Tuesday night.

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