Dear Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Schultz,
You’ve been played for a sucker by the Republicans, and it worked.
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Tuesday night’s blow to Democrats could have been prevented; in fact, you could have won big, nationally. But you lost, and here’s why.
Back on the night of January 20, 2009, when most US citizens were out celebrating the end of the Bush years, and Barack and Michelle were dancing at the inaugural balls, a group of powerful Republicans was planting the seeds of your loss this week.
At the Caucus Room restaurant here in Washington, DC, Republican leaders drew up a plan to sabotage President Obama at every point possible and deny him any sort of legacy.
Over juicy steaks and fancy cocktails in a private room in the back of the restaurant, the Republican bigwigs promised each other that they would filibuster and obstruct any and all legislation supported by President Obama.
Congressman Pete Sessions, who was at the four-hour long dinner, even promised to use “Taliban-like” tactics to achieve those goals.
Kevin McCarthy, now the Majority Whip, said that they’d obstruct every single piece of legislation. That includes things the Republicans used to support.
The Caucus Room conspiracy had three major objectives.
The first was to use obstruction – knowing the corporate media would call it “gridlock” as if the Democrats were responsible, too – to prevent President Obama from having any legislative success.
The second was to sabotage any legislative victories that the president did manage to win – like Obamacare – and convince US citizens that they were actually failures.
And the third was to blame all the economic damage caused by Republicans on BOTH parties and then come out in a critical election like 2014 and say that Republicans are the party that will make things right in Washington as if the state of the economy was the Democrats’ fault.
Based on Tuesday night’s shellacking, it looks like the Caucus Room conspiracy was a success.
But here’s the thing.
Democrats could have pointed out the relentless obstruction by Republicans.
They could have highlighted the constant filibusters by Republicans in Congress with regular political theater by doing stunts in front of the Capitol building every time the Republicans filibustered or refused to consider a bill.
Democrats could have called out what was going on for what it was, sabotage and they could have made the Caucus Room conspiracy a household phrase.
Instead, Democrats played right into Republicans’ hands, so the Caucus Room conspiracy was wildly successful.
Democrats didn’t point out the Republican obstruction. Democrats didn’t point out the real cause of all the so-called “gridlock.” And Democrats didn’t point out what Republican voter suppression and obstruction efforts were really all about.
And, to make matters even worse, as the New York Times points out, US citizens had absolutely no idea what either party stood for in this election.
Neither party really ran on the issues affecting US citizens.
As the New York Times Editorial Board writes, “Even the voters who supported Republican candidates would have a hard time explaining what their choices are going to do.”
Instead, Republicans near universally ran on the President Obama’s inability to overcome the Caucus Room conspiracy, and it worked like a charm.
Meanwhile, Democrats failed to show Us citizens how they were different from Republicans.
Democrats failed to run on their platform, and to publicize the issues that US citizens really care about.
In 2012, the Democratic Party published their platform. Among other things, it outlined the party’s plans to put people back to work, grow the middle-class, reform Wall Street, reel in campaign spending and enact sensible tax reform.
Where was all the talk about these issues in this last election? Why wasn’t this platform out there for the US people to see? Why weren’t candidates across the country highlighting these issues, and their plans to tackle them?
If Democrats had clearly shown the US people what they stood for, and called out the Republicans every time they tried to obstruct legislation that the people want, then the Caucus Room conspiracy would have backfired on the Republicans.
But while that’s now all in the past, there’s still time for Democrats to turn things around for 2016.
That turn-around starts with Democrats clearly showing the US people what the party stands for.
Democrats need to take a page out of the Truman playbook, and make the differences between Democrats and Republicans as clear as night and day.
If Democrats can get that right, it’ll put the terms of the 2016 election in the landscape of traditional Democratic positions and values, which the US people – even in the deep south – overwhelmingly support.
Just look at the ballot measures – raising the minimum wage won hugely in Arkansas, for God’s sake.
Meanwhile, Democrats also need to step up and embrace their progressive base, instead of marginalizing them.
Republicans are great at embracing their base, and Democrats need to start doing the same thing with the progressive movement.
For proof of the potential success of such a strategy, look at Al Franken and Jeff Merkley – it was progressives who came away with the biggest wins for Democrats on Tuesday.
So, Chairwoman Schultz, yes Tuesday was rough, and yes, Democrats took quite the beating.
But there’s still time for the party to turn things around, and to learn some valuable lessons from 2014.
The Caucus Room conspiracy may have worked this time, but let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again.