Sensing Disaster, Democrats are Already Picking Out Their Scapegoats

Following the 2012 presidential elections the Republican Party was forced to take a good hard look at itself. What were we doing wrong and how do we fix it? What are our principles and how do we adapt them to modern challenges? What do we want the future of the party to look like and how do we get there?

To that end the Republican National Committee put together a 97-page report that admits that the party is “marginalizing itself” in no small part because young voters are “rolling their eyes at what the party represents.” To fix that the report suggested that “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” “attack corporate welfare,” be more “welcoming and inclusive” of generational differences, including attitudes toward gay marriage, and “be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life,” among a host of other things.

College Republicans offered a similarly scathing assessment.

“We’ve become the party that will pat you on the back when you make it, but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there,” the report states.

We suggested numerous avenues to rebrand the GOP to be more inclusive, to improve its messaging approach for a Millennial audience, and to refocus the agenda to emphasize entrepreneurship, opportunity and growth.

Republicans were not always so introspective and thoughtful. Back in 2006 the GOP was fresh off some big wins, filled with hubris and in denial that the political landscape was shifting beneath us. Chris Cillizza writes for the Washington Post:

The similarities between the 2006 and 2014 midterms are striking.

Like Bush, this is the second midterm election of Obama’s presidency. Like Bush, Obama is not at all popular nationally. (Gallup’s daily tracking puts his job approval rating at 41 percent.)

Like Republicans in 2006, the fate of Democratic control rests in the hands of a handful of incumbents — Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Udall (Colo.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.) — who sit in states that, at best, swing between the two parties and, at worst, are firmly Republican at the presidential level.

And in each of the five races, the Democratic incumbents have spent much of the past 22 months successfully fighting against the negative pull of their national party — making the case that voting for them has little to do with supporting (or not) Obama.

Cillizza actually misses many of the more interesting parallels. For instance, we were convinced that we held a “massive data advantage” from George Bush’s first-of-its-kind microtargeting operation. We fully believed that our considerable financial advantage would keep Democrat gains in check. And we leaned heavily on a bogeyman in the form of MoveOn.org (Democrats use the Koch brothers) to draw attention away from questionable policy choices.

Republicans obviously learned their lesson. The recipe for success is not big data and messaging gimmicks. The truth is that you can’t win without good candidates talking about good policy. But Democrats are already showing signs that they have no intention of breaking through their ego in order to figure out the dysfunction that is pushing them into minority status. Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill:

Democrats are starting to play the blame game as they face the possibility of losing the Senate in November. . .

“Yes, you’ve seen pre-emptive finger pointing in the last couple of weeks,” said Gerald Warburg, a former Senate Democratic leadership aide and assistant dean at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. . .

With control of the Senate in jeopardy, some Democrats are eyeing potential scapegoats: Obama’s low approval rating; low turnout from Hispanic voters; overly centrist messaging; and the media, to name just a few.

The list of scapegoats is long: an agenda that antagonized Latinos, disorganized campaigns, Reid’s self-imposed gridlock, and Obama’s falling foreign policy numbers.

The one thing Democrats don’t mention is that voters are simply tired of excuses for why their policies have not brought the prosperity they promised. Pointing the finger of blame at yourself is often difficult. But if Democrats want to have a chance in the future, it’s what they’ll need to do.