Election Day 2010 has come and gone, and if you’re a Democrat, it’s been a tough week.
The Democrats lost the House and have a much reduced majority in the Senate. John Boehner is likely to be the new Speaker, and 3rd in line for the Presidency.
Mitch McConnell is still Minority Leader in the Senate, and he’s made it plain that his top priority for the next two years isn’t jobs or budget balancing or anything that will do any good for the average American. In his own words, his top priority is to make Obama a one-term president.
In my opinion, what he’s saying could reasonably be paraphrased as, America will have to wait a couple of years for us to do anything really productive (if then), because our Republican political agenda comes first. America comes second.
I’m sure [today’s guest, conservative talk show host Natalie Arcenaux] will take exception to that interpretation and we’ll likely discuss McConnell’s remarks during the show, so I won’t expand on them here.
In any case, after a reasonable grieving period, Democrats are going to have to start picking themselves up and looking toward to 2012.
As we go forward, we need to look at these election results and figure out what the takeaways are for next time.
The first big takeaway is that Democrats can’t win if they don’t show up to vote. According to every poll I’ve seen over the past several years, among eligible voters who express a preference, Democrats have a clear advantage over Republicans in terms of favorability and in terms of who will fight for the Average American.
Republicans, however, are more likely to actually vote. Why?
I can give you my theory. It starts with this old business truism: “90% of your complaints come from 10% of your customers.” Why? Because most customers are satisfied, indifferent or apathetic if they have a minor problem. But about 10% of your customers tend to be very vocal when they’re unhappy, and there’s a significant fraction of the population that is very hard to make happy.
I don’t have a statistic on that, just my personal experience. But I’ll tell you that in all my years in retail and customer contact, there are some folks that just refuse to be satisfied, no matter how much you try to help them with their problems.
A cartoon I once saw sums it up this way… A customer service person says to an obviously irate customer, “What if we refund your money, fire the salesperson, shoot the manager and close the store. Will that be satisfactory?”
So, how does that analogy apply here?
I think that Republicans and Conservatives, generally, just tend to be chronically irritated. They’re irritated about government, and particularly about Democrats, Liberals, taxes and social programs.
Irritation often translates into action, and action in this case is voting.
Democrats, on the other hand, will often complain to each other about this or that, but too many Democrats don’t make the connection between the challenges in their lives and their votes, so they stay home.
But there are some bright linings for Democrats in this year’s dark clouds.
Exit polls are very clear: Ballots were cast by roughly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. The balance was decided by so-called Independents.
Generically, these Independents actually prefer the Democrats over the Republicans, but were unhappy with the economy. Polls show that most were NOT voting FOR Republicans, but were casting a ‘protest vote’ against Congress, which was controlled by the Democrats. That doesn’t change the totals, but it does mean an opportunity to win them back.
There’s also this big point to remember. This was a pretty good turnout for an non-presidential election year. Current estimates are that about 40% of eligible voters turned out. But in Presidential election years, you usually have about half again as many voters coming to the polls. Close to 60% or more. And young voters who tend to vote Democratic often stay home during Congressional elections, but turn out more heavily for presidential elections.
I’m not alone in believing that this year’s election results didn’t come about because Democrats did too much. I think they didn’t do enough. They compromised too much on the promises that got them elected in 2008, and too many folks were unhappy with the result.
So what are the lessons for 2012?
- Do what you promise, or at least show that you really tried
- Don’t be ashamed of your beliefs. Stand or fall by them
- Speak your mind loud and often, or your opposition will do it for you on their terms
- Don’t be embarrassed to call yourself a Liberal. Remind people what Liberals have done to benefit people in America since the early 20th Century.
- And the really, really big one: SHOW UP TO VOTE. All the whining and moaning is meaningless if you don’t express your opinion at the polls every election day. If you don’t participate in the choice, others will make the choice for you.
We can safely assume that Republicans in the next Congress will do what they usually do: Tax breaks for the 3% of Americans who are rich and powerful; tax breaks and favorable treatment for the 3% of corporations that earn 90% of business profits while sometimes paying less taxes than you; and enacting into law Libertarian anarchist principals that will send working Americans back to the 19th century in terms of wages, benefits, protections and social safety nets.
American voters may be fickle, but they’re not stupid. Democrats just have to remind them what the Republicans are doing, and remind them loud and often.
And keep reminding them that they have to show up to vote.