President Obama says he intends to act quickly to offer executive amnesty to illegal immigrants, and aides say that move could come as soon as this week. This need for haste may be due to his party growing weaker with each passing election.
Since Obama was first elected, Democrats have lost at least 14 Senate seats. (Louisiana is another likely loss.) The party has lost more than 70 seats in the House, and will field its smallest caucus in the next Congress since before FDR. Only 18 states have Democrat governors, compared to 29 states when Obama took office. Around 1,000 state legislative seats have shifted to the Republicans. The GOP will control 68 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers, again the largest disparity since before FDR.
In the immediate aftermath of the Republican midterm landslide, Senate Democrats prepared for their return to the minority by elevating Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren to their leadership team. The move was reported as an acknowledgement by Democrats that they needed to better communicate their “message.” Setting aside the fact that every losing political party always says it needs to improve its messaging, the Warren appointment suggests the Democrat party is still in denial about the election results. Rarely has a political party lost so comprehensively up and down the ballot.
Republicans won the governors’ mansions in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland, as well as holding almost all of its current seats. The GOP captured the New Mexico House, the Senates in Colorado, New York, Maine, and Washington. The party swept both chambers in Nevada. It made gains in almost every state.
Politically, all the gains Democrats have made over the past 80 years have been reversed in just 6 years. Suspend science for a bit. If someone went into a coma in the 1920s and woke up today, the political balance of power would be roughly the same across the country as it was then.
The losses of the last six years present Democrats with an enormous challenge. The current belief by many Democrats that Hillary Clinton will be their nominee in 2016 may be based on little more than the realization that the party has no other real option. There are few obvious candidates among their current crop of just 18 governors. The party’s most successful governor, Jerry Brown, would be almost 79 on inauguration day. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has a strong national pedigree, won reelection this year with an unimpressive 57% against an underfunded challenger. Governors Hickenlooper in Colorado and Kitzhaber in Oregon barely survived.
When Hillary Clinton eventually exits the national stage, Democrats will face a long process of building a credible roster of candidates for national office. By contrast, probably around a dozen major Republican candidates can make compelling cases for a presidential run. This is the position into which the left has driven the Democrat party.
Obama linked his own compelling personal narrative with a strong left-populist message. On the domestic front, Obama pushed a robust, activist government financed by higher taxes on wealthy earners. With Obamacare, he achieved an enormous expansion of federal power. It is hard to imagine Sen. Warren making this case better than Obama. The Democrats’ message itself is the problem.
In the 2006 midterms, when Democrats captured Congress in George Bush’s second term, Democrats won male voters by three points. It won women voters by 12 points. This year, Democrats only won women by four points and lost men by sixteen points. The party lost married women by ten points. The electorate in 2006 was less urban, more rural, and much “whiter” than the electorate in 2014.
Democrats lost white voters by four points eights years ago. Last time, it lost white voters by 22 points, losing white men by a 2-1 margin. This year, Democrats only won among voters who went to graduate school or did not complete high school. Republicans won every other education level by eight to ten points. Republicans also won middle class voters by ten points. In 2006, middle class voters broke strongly for Democrats.
The modern Democrat party is far better at rallying opposition than governing. Its eight-year run of being in power reversed all its recent and even long-term gains. It is currently in a worse position with the electorate than anyone alive can probably remember. With the November 4 election, the party is now safely back in its comfort zone of opposition.