Democrats Claim Obama Broke Their Party, Call on Him to Fix It

Some of his party's leaders want the president to save them.

obama-fixing-america

POLITICO reports on some tensions within the Democratic Party under the headline “Democrats to Obama: You broke the party, now fix it.” I’m reminded of Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Rule.

Enough, Donna Brazile told White House political director David Simas the day after the midterms.

Democrats are in worse shape than when President Barack Obama came into office — the number of seats they have in Congress, the number of governors, a party approval rating that’s fallen behind Republicans for the first time in recent history, enthusiasm, energy. The White House, Brazile said when she came to meet with Simas, has got to focus for the next two years on getting the party into better shape, and Obama’s the best and most effective person to get out the message.

Well, so far, the only Democrat identified as wanting what the headline says they all want is Donna Brazile. And she’s using a rather odd definition of breaking the party: having fewer elected officials than at the high water mark at the peak of the pro-Obama/anti-Bush wave in 2008. Even if Obama were a fairly popular president and things were going swimmingly, the party would likely be “broke” by that standard, since the 2006 and 2008 elections temporarily put Democrats into seats that had long been held by Republicans. They were always going to win a lot of those seats back.

“The base craves his leadership,” Brazile said in an interview later that week, following a meeting of the DNC committee that’s beginning to set the rules for the next presidential nomination. “They want him in the mix, talking about what Democrats accomplished, what Democrats are fighting for, and what the president has done to make lives better.”

But he just spent months doing that with less than spectacular results. Indeed, many Democratic candidates explicitly didn’t want Obama doing it in close proximity to them, lest they be diminished by association.

Nancy Pelosi was reelected minority leader. So was Harry Reid. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s term at the DNC isn’t up until 2017. Obama said repeatedly before and after the votes were counted that he wasn’t going to fire anyone because of election results. But if no one’s going to take the blame for 2014, Democrats are hoping he’ll take responsibility for getting things better for 2016.

Now, wait a minute. Why is it Obama’s fault that House and Senate Democrats, elected independently of Obama and not beholden to him in the slightest, have just re-elected their failed leadership? Or that the party-in-organization is sticking with their failed head apparatchik?

“He may or may not be the best messenger,” said Vic Fazio, the former California congressman who was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair for the 1994 rout. “But at this point, he is still our messenger. And the first year is very important.”

At least until the next presidential campaign begins in earnest, Democrats say, it’ll be up to Obama to centralize the Democratic message around something other than simply trying to paint the Republicans as extreme.

Interviews with leading party strategists turn to three main suggestions: Obama should be a much more frequent and strong voice on Democratic priorities, he should transform his West Wing political office from a midterm clearinghouse to an instrument for true party outreach, and he should reinvest his energy in the Democratic National Committee — including seeking a full-time chair who can begin the major clean-up and overhaul they need ahead of 2016.

 

We’re now up to two named Democrats—and perhaps more, since it’s not clear whether “leading party strategists” is a collective noun for Brazile and Fazio or there are others—who want Obama to do what he’s already done, unsuccessfully, hoping that the results will be more successful upon repetition. Which, if I recall correctly, is the definition of insanity.

And if doing it for the party isn’t enough for Obama, Democrats say, do it out of self-interest.

“A strong party is the key to a lasting legacy,” said a senior Democratic strategist. “Whether it’s for our ideals as Democrats or it’s for his personal legacy — if we lose the White House and continue to get gutted down ballot, they will repeal the ACA and everything else we’ve fought so hard for, and all of this will be for naught.”

That should be a short-term worry for Obama too, Brazile said.

“The Republicans have not retreated from the battlefield, so why should President Obama surrender?” she said. “He can’t give up, he can’t waver. All of that looks to Democrats like he doesn’t stand for much, and it’s not the truth.”

But, even flush off midterm victory, Republican leadership acknowledges that they’re not going to repeal the ACA. And there’s zero evidence that the president intends to “surrender” or “retreat from the battlefield.” Indeed, he’s been as combative as ever post-election, rejecting the counsel of some that he should seek to be more conciliatory and work with Congressional Republicans a la Bill Clinton after the 1994 debacle.

In the West Wing, they’ve been projecting optimism since the midterms. The trip to Asia was a success, they say: Obama showed with the China carbon emissions deal how big and how bold he could go without Congress. He ignited a national debate from the other side of the planet by making a few short comments and releasing a fact sheet about net neutrality. There was progress, even, on the trade deals that might make up a big chunk of the limited agenda on which the White House is hoping to find workable compromises with Republicans.

In other words, he remains the president of the United States?

Through the election cycle, people in the White House would often say they felt frustrated and Obama to get out more and talk more about his message. Now, aides see two years of opportunities for a president who won’t be constrained anymore, who’ll be able to say what he wants without worrying about how it could scramble anyone else’s political considerations.

Great, Democrats say. Now make something of it. Talk about the economic progress that’s happened. Talk about how to achieve job growth to build on it.

“The best thing he can do is focus on income inequality, and talk about and propose things, and just be a fierce advocate for addressing the economic divide,” said another Democratic strategist with ties to the White House. “That will leave people after two years saying the Democratic Party really stands for something.”

“What Bush failed to do, and to some extent Bill Clinton failed to do, is to make the final two years of their presidency something big, and advocate for it and make it a defining characteristic of the party,” the strategist said. “You have to come something that defines who your party is — even if you don’t make law and you’re not successful in the effort.”

Clinton failed to do so because he was mired in scandal. Bush failed to do so because the Katrina fiasco and the growing unpopularity of the Iraq War sapped him of power. Obama is likely to do so, not so because he’s afraid to speak out—there’s zero evidence of that—but because he’s out of agenda. His big ideas in 2008 were getting the US out of Iraq and Bush out of the White House.  His big idea in 2012 was, Meh, Romney.

Obama came to office at the low point in the Great Recession. Even in that environment, the closest he came to an income inequality agenda was negotiating the re-authorization of the Bush tax cuts minus the portion for the top bracket.  He’s governed six years as a pragmatist. Why do Democrats think he’s suddenly going to become Elizabeth Warren?

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “They want him in the mix, talking about what Democrats accomplished, what Democrats are fighting for, and what the president has done to make lives better.”

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA….

    In 2014 Dems didn’t fight for a single dam thing. A lot of them showed they don’t believe in anything except getting re-elected and for some I’m not sure they believed in even that. Obama changed the American health care system, and, so far anyway, for the better. Finding a Dem who will stand behind that achievement is almost as hard as finding a Republican who favors higher taxes on the rich.

    All that said, for a year before the election we all heard how it was a Republican year and afterwards it turns out it was… A Republican year. There is no need to hit the Panic button.

  2. stonetools says:

    OBama, IMO, is now officially in IDGAF mode. That’s why he is speaking out more on climate change, is issuing executive orders on immigration, and is just not bothering much with whole “let’s be bipartisan” charade. I think that he finally understands that there will be no chance of passing legislation through Reasonable Bipartisan Compromise. That dream is D.E.A.D. (thanks, Senator McConnell). He is probably just going to govern according to his vision, which is centrist liberal.
    What he has to do now is to protect his legacy (hope he is practising writing the word VETO) and help the Democrats get ready for the big comeback in 2016.

    Obama is likely to do so, not so because he’s afraid to speak out—there’s zero evidence of that—but because he’s out of agenda. His big ideas in 2008 were getting the US out of Iraq and Bush out of the White House.

    There is a bit more to his agenda than that, surely? Obamacare? The Republicans are concerned about that, I hear. Financial Reform. His coming EO on Immigration. He’ still working on getting out Afghanistan and is again trying to get out of Iraq. So there’s things to do and to protect.

    Even in that environment, the closest he came to an income inequality agenda was negotiating the re-authorization of the Bush tax cuts minus the portion for the top bracket. He’s governed six years as a pragmatist. Why do Democrats think he’s suddenly going to become Elizabeth Warren?

    He doesn’t need to become EW. His job is to set the table for EW-or maybe an HRC who will likely be sounding a lot like EW.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools:

    There is a bit more to his agenda than that, surely? Obamacare? The Republicans are concerned about that, I hear. Financial Reform. His coming EO on Immigration. He’ still working on getting out Afghanistan and is again trying to get out of Iraq.

    I mentioned Iraq. He followed the Bush-negotiated timetable notwithstanding some pressure from some Republicans to stay longer. So, kudos.

    Afghanistan was on his agenda, to be sure. He doubled down on the “good” Bush war but simultaneously sabotaged it with the 2014 deadline declaration. I’m not sure it was a significant part of his campaign, however.

    Obamacare is his signature accomplishment and, yes, it’s a big deal. I didn’t list it because he didn’t really have an agenda there aside from doing something. He essentially let Congress lead the way on the particulars.

    Financial reform was pretty negligible, all things considered.

    The EO on immigration is pretty tangential as well, not a major systemic reform.

  4. LaMont says:

    Donna Brazile needs to shut the hell up and put herself in time-out. The messaging is not just Pres. Obama’s responsibility. Not only that, but Obama touting himself has less merit. It was always better for someone else to sing his praises which was easy to do considering the fact that America is better today than it was when Obama took office. Yet, the Demcrates chose to allow Republicans to dictate the narrative and ultimately ran away from Pres. Obama. At this point in time, I honestly feel that Pres. Obama doesn’t give a crap about what the Democrates want.

  5. JKB says:

    Got popcorn?

    I see the far leftists want Obama to define the party as far left. I support that whole heartedly. Opposed and soon to be going public are the old-time self serving Dems, who are feeling their phoney baloney jobs are at risk.

    But more importantly, an Obama party rebuild would ensure that Obama is front and center during the 2016 primary and perhaps general election campaign. He already won’t be able to restrain himself, but give him control of the party image and see what he’ll do?

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Here’s someone with a little more perspective than some mouth-piece from inside the Beltway.
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/19/connecticut-governor-dan-malloy-to-democrats-grow-a-pair.html
    Have a compass. And follow it.

  7. Moosebreath says:

    “Democrats are in worse shape than when President Barack Obama came into office — the number of seats they have in Congress, the number of governors, a party approval rating that’s fallen behind Republicans for the first time in recent history, enthusiasm, energy.”

    And the last 2 term President for whom that was not true after 6 years in office was…? I’d have to check Wikipedia to see if Wilson accomplished that, but I am pretty sure no one since has.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    OTB has been conspicuously ignoring the China deal…as well as the profits made by the program that funded Solyndra.
    The ISIS “non-strategy” strategy continues to be a success.
    The Iran nuke negotiations will be coming to a head soon.
    But I understand…you have water to carry. Still…that doesn’t excuse this nonsense:

    “…the closest he came to an income inequality agenda was negotiating the re-authorization of the Bush tax cuts minus the portion for the top bracket…”

    He’s tried multiple times to get an Infrastructure bill going. There is Obamacare. He’s fought for a higher minimum wage and more spending on early-childhood education. And of course…Immigration. Inequality is about far more than just tax rates.

  9. Guarneri says:

    I’d certainly not want to be in Obama’s shoes with an income leveling goal. He’s apparently wedded to climate change and immigration agendas which will be wage suppressing or job retarding. He could go the higher taxes on “the rich” route but the simple redistributive arithmetic doesn’t work in any material way and would only harm the existent risk averse / risk seeking capital imbalance. The Feds QE has been incalculably adverse to lower income (retirees) vs holders of equity wealth. He would have to jettison Auntie Janet, which is beyond his reach. And his vision seems to stop at a combination of increasing minimum wage prescriptions, greater transfer payments and good intentions speeches. All are mostly impotent and largely retain the status quo.

    To quote a former presidential candidate: “it didn’t work, it’s time for a change.”

  10. gVOR08 says:

    Thank you, James, for treating the POLITICO article as the horse race nonsense it is. And so typical of them.

  11. Moosebreath says:

    @Moosebreath:

    “I’d have to check Wikipedia to see if Wilson accomplished that, but I am pretty sure no one since has.”

    Wilson did not, as the Democrats lost both houses of Congress between 1912 and 1918. If you count Teddy Roosevelt as a 2 term President, in spite of being the vice Presidential nominee in 1900, he fits (though, by that standard, Kennedy/Johnson does as well). Otherwise, we may be going back to Andrew Jackson.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:

    He’s apparently wedded to climate change and immigration agendas which will be wage suppressing or job retarding.

    Nonsensical opinions…unsupported by anything…but stated as fact.
    Nice try. Thanks for playing.

  13. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Finding a Dem who will stand behind that achievement is almost as hard as finding a Republican who favors higher taxes on the rich.

    One example of a Dem who has is Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who is unilaterally responsible for setting up an exchange in this most red state. My general feeling about red-state Dems is this: they don’t have to be clones of Bernie Sanders or Al Franken, but if they’re going to behave like Republicans with a D after their name, what in God’s name is their point?

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @Kylopod:
    And Dan Malloy, the Gov. of CT, who is the subject of the article I linked to above.
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/democrats-claim-obama-broke-their-party-call-on-him-to-fix-it/#comment-1986363

  15. MBunge says:

    Bill Clinton broke the Democratic Party.

    You can argue it needed to be broken and you can argue, thought I can’t imagine how, that Bill Clinton then tried to rebuild a better party.

    But it is Bill Clinton who broke what we used to know as the Democratic Party. That’s not debatable.

    Mike

  16. Kylopod says:

    @MBunge:

    But it is Bill Clinton who broke what we used to know as the Democratic Party. That’s not debatable.

    It is actually very debatable, and we’ve debated it before, and you’ve never provided an adequate answer to my objections.

    Your argument boils down to the idea that Clinton singlehandedly caused the 1994 midterm disaster, and that he also “caused” Al Gore to lose by getting only half a million more votes than his opponent.

    I’m not going to point out the flaws in this reasoning, but I’ll just ask this: do you think the same thing about Eisenhower and Republicans? He also began his presidency with strong majorities in both houses of Congress that he went on to lose. He also couldn’t get the sitting vp elected president. He also governed as a centrist, relative to his party. Yet I’ve never heard anyone suggest Ike “broke” the GOP.

  17. Indeed, many Democratic candidates explicitly didn’t want Obama doing it in close proximity to them, lest they be diminished by association.

    Given how many of those democrats ended up losing anyways suggests this was not a good strategy. Admittedly I’m not someone sympathetic to much of the DNC’s political agenda, but I find their fear of standing up for what they actually believe to be rather bizarre.

  18. Eric Florack says:

    the Democrats problem with Obama is not that he was a failure, but rather that he was wildly successful in implementing policy that was every leftists wet dream since Reconstruction.he didn’t break the party, he’s simply implemented what they’ve been wanting. The problem isn’t Obama, he’s merely a symptom. The problem is the philosophy driving the Democrat Party.

  19. Stan says:

    @James Joyner: “Obamacare is his signature accomplishment and, yes, it’s a big deal. I didn’t list it because he didn’t really have an agenda there aside from doing something. He essentially let Congress lead the way on the particulars.”

    The two big mistakes Bill Clinton made in trying to pass his version of health insurance reform were first, writing the bill in the White House, and second not getting the health insurance industry on board. At the time Daniel Moynahan, in my opinion the most over-rated political figure in recent history, was the key Senator when it came to health insurance. His support for Clinton’s plan was at best lukewarm, and he didn’t conceal his satisfaction when it failed. He might have behaved differently if he had been given pride of authorship. By contrast, the Obama administration let Senator Baucus take the lead on the bill, and it paid off.
    The other smart move the Obama people made was getting the health insurance industry to see that it could make a ton of money by expanding the insured population. As a result we didn’t see Harriet and Louise commercials during the fight to pass the law, and if the New York Times is to be believed the industry will fight tooth and nail against its repeal. The same is true of the pharmaceutical industry and the big hospital chains.

    Maybe I’m going off topic here, but I think passage of the Affordable Care Act was the most important public policy accomplishment since the civil rights and Medicare bills passed during the Johnson administration. It’s more than just a big deal.

  20. @Eric Florack:

    policy that was every leftists wet dream since Reconstruction

    I’m trying to unpack exactly what Reconstruction has to do with nationalized health care.

  21. stonetools says:

    @Kylopod:

    Yet I’ve never heard anyone suggest Ike “broke” the GOP.

    Actually, there are conservatives that do say it. The current conservative movement grew out of conservative dissatisfaction with establishment Republican moderation. That movement dates to the final years of the Eisenhower Administration.Rick Perlstein, in “Before the Storm” chronicles the start (Haven’t read the book, but the reviews are great).

    I agree with you that Clinton didn’t break the Democratic Party. Perlstein argues that the Democratic Pary was broken by liberal overreact in the late sixties. That discussion, though, is porobably beyond this thread(although I’d love to have it).

  22. stonetools says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m trying to unpack exactly what Reconstruction has to do with nationalized health care.

    Both were things that could benefit black people. You have to think the way Eric does.

  23. DrDaveT says:

    His big ideas in 2008 were getting the US out of Iraq and Bush out of the White House.

    His big ideas in 2007 were getting the US out of Iraq, doing something about climate change, and replacing “No Child Permitted Ahead” with educational and vocational training programs that might actually succeed in getting people out of poverty. Oh, and health care for everyone.

    His big idea in 2008 was getting the US out of the mile-deep economic sinkhole W and company had parked it in. The economic emergency that arose between the time he started running for President and the time he took office overwhelmed every former bit of agenda he had. For at least his first term.

    Obama’s biggest problem is that he has succeeded in making people forget how very grim the economic picture was when he took office. He’s being scored against people’s general baseline of what the economy ought to be like, rather than on the basis of what he did with what he had to work with. The counterfactual — what the US would have been like at this point after a Romney administration — is invisible.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:

    he was wildly successful in implementing policy that was every leftists wet dream since Reconstruction

    Are you able to explain that?
    Or is just something you read on one of your extremist right wing sites that sounded good, so you repeated it?

  25. Tillman says:

    I get the idea the anonymous aides here are just venting their half-assed political science to anyone who will listen. The named people are switching gears from the conventional wisdom pre-November 4th, advocating the exact opposite of what the party did for the last six months.

    Democrats are in worse shape than when President Barack Obama came into office — the number of seats they have in Congress, the number of governors, a party approval rating that’s fallen behind Republicans for the first time in recent history, enthusiasm, energy.

    First off, the ending of this sentence is atrocious.

    Second, it’s symptomatic of imperial presidency, isn’t it? The legislators got their asses kicked hard, and they blame the executive they didn’t want anywhere near the incoming sh!tstorm. Considering the recent history of Congress’s pathological inability to assert itself as a branch of government, this shouldn’t be surprising. It’s still disappointing.

  26. edmondo says:

    Obama is the perfect person to fix the Democratic Party. Look how he brought the Republicans back from the dead.

  27. stonetools says:

    @Stan:

    Maybe I’m going off topic here, but I think passage of the Affordable Care Act was the most important public policy accomplishment since the civil rights and Medicare bills passed during the Johnson administration. It’s more than just a big deal.

    Edmondo will be along soon to tell you that this was THE GREATEST SELLOUT IN THE HISTORY OF SELLOUTS and that Barack “Corporate” Obama could have passed single payer if he had only used the magic bully pulpit , sprinkled pixie dust around the Oval Office, and used his Green Lantern power ring to force Republicans to vote single payer.

  28. stonetools says:

    @stonetools:

    Welp, he beat me to it.

  29. Eric Florack says:

    @Stormy Dragon: the time frame, nothing more

  30. Eric Florack says:

    @C. Clavin: I shouldn’t think I would have to explain it. You can explain it for me. What part of Obama’s agenda what part of the policies that Obama has put into practice is not exactly what the Democrats have been wanting all along?

  31. stonetools says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Obama’s biggest problem is that he has succeeded in making people forget how very grim the economic picture was when he took office. He’s being scored against people’s general baseline of what the economy ought to be like, rather than on the basis of what he did with what he had to work with. The counterfactual — what the US would have been like at this point after a Romney administration — is invisible.

    Yup. His biggest problem here is that he should have made it clear that what we were facing was not just another post WW2 recession, but another Great Depression. (Note numerous posts from Doug lamenting the “poor”recovery. Well, three years after the 1929 crash the unemploymentr rate was 25 per cent and six years later, it was 13 percent). Obama made things worse by not fighting for a much bigger stimulus, then blaming Republican obstructionism for failure to pass a bigger stimulus.

    Anyway, water under the bridge. The Democrats need to change messaging, and Obama should be part of that. The Center for American Progress is on it:


    There was a bit of frank discussion about how Democrats are articulating the party’s message on the economy during a panel on the middle class. Two of the panelists, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who co-founded Second Avenue Partners, said there had been a bit of a disconnect in how Democrats articulated their message on the economy in the 2014 midterms and until that changed, Democrats would keep “getting their butts kicked.”

    Near the end of the panel, during a conference sponsored by the Center for American Progress, Hanauer was asked about actually successfully getting liberal policies passed into the federal level when they had been passed at the local level. Hanauer, in response, said that he thought “we did a horrible job as progressives of connecting with voters on these issues.”

    He added that “we have not advanced an alternative theory of growth, frankly, that people can find compelling and until we do we’re going to keep getting our butts kicked. But there is much to be done around the country locally.”

  32. Surreal American says:

    @Eric Florack:

    policy that was every leftists wet dream since Reconstruction.

    So civil rights is a liberal thing after all. Good of you to admit that.

  33. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I shouldn’t think I would have to explain it.

    Well you do…because, like most of the crap you type, it’s utter nonsense.
    The most obvious example is the Republican Health Care Reform that was made into law.
    Then there is drone warfare.
    Domestic Surveilance.
    And cuts to SS…which Republicans refused to consider.
    So yeah…please…explain.

  34. LaMont says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Are you referring to Obamacare, which is basically Romneycare born from the ideology of the Heritage Foundation (a conservative group)? Perhaps you are referring to the record increases in deportation, marijuana offenses, and oil drilling. I’m having trouble with your assertion Florack. Perhaps you really should explain it. What policy has President Obama pushed to date that is considered extremely liberal?

  35. Guarneri says:

    @stonetools:

    I guess the “B” key was stuck the day they printed the BACA. Or was its exclusivity to blacks another subterfuge of its marketing?

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: You quote Hanauer saying,

    “we have not advanced an alternative theory of growth, frankly, that people can find compelling…”

    This is true. It’s also pathetic.

    The GOP theory revolving around tax cuts, anti-Keynesianism, wealthy job creators, trickle down, etc. is nonsense. Proven nonsense. And they have a history of poor economic growth. Dems have Keynes, Piketty, stimulus, an understanding that aggregate demand drives job creation, etc. All true. Plus Dems have a far better record. OK, our stories are more complicated than the GOPs little morality tales. But jeez, we’re supposed to be the creative ones! We can’t tell a story?

    I’ll offer my aphorism – That a rising tide lifts all votes is true, but trivial. The miracle is that lifting the smaller boats brings in the tide.

  37. @Eric Florack:

    the time frame, nothing more

    The progressive movement stared ~30 years after reconstruction, so it still seems a very odd reference.

  38. Guarneri says:

    @gVOR08:

    And precisely how do we lift those boats?

  39. Moosebreath says:

    @gVOR08:

    OT, but I think the jury is still out (and likely will be for decades) on Piketty. My reading of the articles discussing his book (not read the book yet) is that he is extrapolating the last 30-50 years of economic history into the future and saying it is immutable. I’d like to see whether his theory holds true in an era when the prevailing political paradigm is in favor of the middle class, instead of class warfare in favor of the rich as the last few decades have seen.

  40. stonetools says:

    @gVOR08:

    Plus Dems have a far better record. OK, our stories are more complicated than the GOPs little morality tales.

    That’s the problem. The Democrats have good policy but lousy messaging and the Republicans have lousy policy but great messaging. And they’re winning.
    The Obama administration is really, really terrible at messaging. Obama is great at uplifting speeches. But when it comes down to explaining policy in simple terms he is awful. Maybe it’s the professor in him.
    Take the ACA. I asked all the way back in 2009, ‘Where is the elevator pitch for the ACA? Where is the catchy slogan or striking image?”
    FDR sold LendLease to the American public with the image of a hose you lend your neighbour when his house is on fire. Why couldn’t we figure out something similar for the ACA?
    Oddly enough, Jonathon Gruber had some ideas about how to do it. He described the ACA as a three legged stool. That image works because everyone understands a three legged stool. They don’t understand long winded explanations or bar graphs which is how liberals like Ezra Klein explain it. Gruber also wrote a comic book explaining the ACA. Why didn’t the Obama Administration come out with a comic book of its own?
    There are a lot of polls saying people don’t like the ACA. Well , the biggest reason is that we don’t like what we don’t understand, and the Administration just flat out never expolained to the public what was in it.
    One final thought. Do you remember a televised speech to nation from Obama explaining his signature accomplishment-the ACA, how it was passed,what was in it, how it worked? Me neither.

  41. superdestroyer says:

    @Kylopod:

    If you want to argue the point, The Democrats held the Senate for 30 years starting from when Eisenhower was President and held the House for 40 years starting when Eisenhower was President. Eisenhower laid the ground work for the economic problems of the 1960-1980’s by forgetting that the world economic conditions that existed in the 1950’s were not going to last forever.

    However, the Democratic Party brain trust knows that every demographic trend is in their favor and that there is no reason to change or fix anything because in the long run they are going to win independent of their performance in office.

  42. al-Ameda says:

    Age old problem – Democrats are too passive, unwilling to fight back. Republicans on the other hand are ready to fight and do whatever is necessary to win a political battle. Democrats, with the notable exception of Bill Clinton, lack the stomach for a political street fight.

    The 2014 midterms showed the spineless side of Democrats perfectly. Obama is less to blame for this than feckless Democrats like Mary Landrieu.

  43. Jeremy R says:

    Excellent Fisking of that article. Politico often plays fast and loose with their background source attributions, so I always enjoy seeing them called on it.

  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: Exactly. And Beshear is the exception that proves the rule.

  45. gVOR08 says:

    @Guarneri:

    And precisely how do we lift those boats?

    We were discussing messaging, not policy, so I don’t feel obliged to answer. But I see David Dayen at the Fiscal Times had a pretty good start a couple days ago.

  46. MBunge says:

    @Kylopod: It is actually very debatable, and we’ve debated it before, and you’ve never provided an adequate answer to my objections.

    Thanks for allowing me to clear up something upon which many people seem to be unclear.

    YOU WILL NOT ACCEPT ANYTHING AS AN ADEQUATE ANSWER TO YOUR OBJECTIONS.

    That is called arguing in bad faith. A lot appear to think “arguing in bad faith” is lying or being dishonest. That’s usually a part of it but only a small part. Arguing in bad faith, which you could also call sophistry, is being unconcerned with the actual truth of falsity of your position. It’s your position and nothing anyone ever says about anything is going to change your position.

    Granted, arguing in bad faith has become almost inseparable from our discourse, on- or offline, so that may be why the meaning has become lost.

    Mike