Last night did not come down to policy, and it didn't even come down to President Obama's approval rating, which hovers between the low to high 40s. Last night was just a repeat of a pattern, which we've seen since 2008. As Dixiecrats fled the Democratic party to join the Republicans and as Democrats solidified strong numbers amongst all minorities (not just African Americans) and young people, we (Democrats) became a presidential party, which loses badly in the older/whiter midterms.
Though President Obama received 42% of the white vote, much of it comes from the younger/middle-aged whites. Midterms in 2010 and this year were rough on Dems because of one thing and one thing only: turnout. Any Democrats reading this, who fail to vote in midterm elections, you are the reason we have bad off years.
To further emphasize my point. Look at these two graphs:
The top graph above was the likely vs. registered voters in 2012. Even in 2012 (presidential year), the likely voters were tied. That being said, excellent Democratic GOTV operations were able to run away with the election by turning out "unlikely to vote" registered voters.
Now look at the likely vs. registered voters for 2014 (2nd graph). Likely voters aren't tied at all.
In my predictions (the last post I made), you could see that I was trying to be an optimist if you did the least amount of reading between the lines. My optimistic hope was that we'd end up w/ a 50/50 split, which would've required Orman (KS) to win and caucus with the Dems. I was also optimistically hoping that the polls were wrong in IA and CO, but they weren't. The only big shockers of the night were NC, which was seen as a close/toss-up race, and VA, which we still won.
From my 11-03-14 predictions post:
"Sadly, I'll admit that my 50/50 split prediction is being optimistic for the Dems. The experts claim there is just as much of a chance that Republicans will gain a 53 seat majority as there is a chance that Democrats will retain a majority at all:
This means the odds are with the Republicans getting a majority."
Did anyone really believe that Democrats were going to do good in statewide races in the South during a midterm election year? I didn't, and I called us losing all of the Southern states besides NC (side note: not even President Obama won NC in 2012, when we were having our wave year). All of this should've been no big surprise, and I didn't even pay attention to the House of Representatives races since we are in the minority there until either 1) post-2020 redistricting (in 2022) or 2) demographic changes, which will take even longer. Here's an article on the effects of demographic changes on the states:
Was there any good news last night? Heck yes there was. For a year that was destined to be a repeat of 2010, we only lost seats in areas that were only red to purple. Unlike 2010, we didn't lose a blue state like IL. Don't get me wrong, CO and IA were disappointing since those were the two purple states we lost, but we'll have a good chance at taking those seats back in 2020 (because of presidential turnout numbers). However, we don't have to wait until 2020 for good news in the U.S. Senate though. In 2016, we'll be looking at a map with many more vulnerable Republicans, who were lucky to be running during the 2010 midterm (states like IL, WI, OH, PA, FL...already enough for control right there). We're taking seats back in 2016, and we may even take back the majority.
Other good news: I'm happy to report that the wave year appears to have mainly only affected the U.S. Senate race, here in CO. While things are still close in certain state races (where I've been working this cycle), chances of retaining the state legislature have improved (and look good in my view) and Gov. Hickenlooper (D) went on to be re-elected. 2016 will definitely be a good year for CO.
More good news? State ballot initiatives faired well for the left, even with red state voters (which means Democrats are not losing the policy debates). Check out these minimum wage initiatives, which passed with large margins in red states: AK 68.8%, AR 65.9%, NB 59.2%, and SD 55.1%. Also, all of the voting restriction measures failed, the background check ban for guns failed in WA, all of the important pot measures passed (except FL, which gained 57.6 % of the vote...needed 60% to pass), and all of the anti-choice measures failed except TN, which only passed because of an awful turnout in TN. For more details on this, check out this link:
To sum all of this up, Democrats are suffering from two problems: 1) midterm election turnout (I honestly think we need to start shaming presidential only Democratic voters by mail and direct contact) and 2) messaging. The good news is that we aren't losing on policy stances, but we're simply doing a terrible job at communicating those positions to voters, who lean Republican (while also failing to turn out our harder to turn out base during midterms).
The most important piece of good news: conservative ideology is aging and dying, and, unless the GOP comes back to the middle (they are further to the right than they've ever been...not really much of a difference between Republicans and tea partiers now), they will lose in the long run. Because of demographic changes, GA, AZ, and even TX will eventually turn blue. Once the House redistricting gives us more favorable maps (they couldn't get much worse than they are now), we'll be able to take it as well. As older, more conservative, voters die, they will be replaced by a more diverse and more tolerant population, which won't tolerate the GOP, unless they adapt and move to the middle on a whole host of issues. Currently, it looks like they won't be moving to the middle any time soon.
So keep your heads up, Democrats! We have another wave cycle in our favor coming in 2 years. We have 4 years to figure out how to turn out these folks, who don't vote in midterms, and we have time to figure out how to communicate our issues better with more moderate/reasonable Republicans, who we need with us in midterms (the tea party folks aren't budging because logic doesn't matter to them).