An overlooked factor in the Democrats winning control of the House of Representatives in 2006 was the recruitment of middle-of-the-road, culturally conservative candidates. At the time then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who headed the effort, infuriated many on the left by aggressively recruiting dozens of “blue dog democrats” to challenge GOP incumbents. The effort worked, but the Democrats soon forgot the lesson.
After Obama’s election, Democrat leaders believed they had a mandate for progressive policies. In the first two years of his term, Congress tacked far to the left, tackling cap-and-trade and ObamaCare. Corporate bailouts and billions in stimulus repelled independents. In 2010, House Democrats suffered the biggest electoral loss in history. Blue Dog Democrats, who had made up almost 25% of the Democrat caucus, were decimated.
Obama’s reelection has apparently again convinced national Democrats they have a mandate for their progressive ideas. Obama has all but ruled out serious spending cuts and is aggressively pushing for even more tax increases. Democrats across the country are pursuing gun control legislation with a zeal that hasn’t been seen in decades.
They are also vowing action on climate change, amnesty and a hike in the minimum wage. They are moving much further down the left-policy road than the rest of the country.
When Democrats lost the House in 2010, they also lost hundreds of seats in state Legislatures, giving Republicans a strong hand in redistricting. As a result, to win back the House, Democrats need to win more than a dozen seats that were won by Mitt Romney last year.
Obama’s hard tack to the left may be good for his base voters. The political fortunes’ of House Democrats are not built on his base voters, though. They need to appeal to independent, moderate voters who live in areas that lean GOP. They are building the wrong agenda for that task.