Secretary of College Democrats Speaks Out

The 2010 midterm elections were anything but run-of-the-mill. From the primary season, it became apparent that an anti-incumbent atmosphere was settling in, and no one was safe, whether Democrat or Republican. What caused this anger to develop? Why is it that just two years after President Obama won the presidency by such a decisive margin, and with the Democrats gaining greater control of both the House and Senate, we are seeing a substantial reversal?

One explanation for this trend is that the Democrats took care of business out of order. President Obama and Congressional Democrats should have worked to strengthen the economy first, and left health care reform as a second-term job. Health care was, from the start, a very divisive issue that was bound to break down all hopes of bipartisanship. There are many instances of both Congressional Democrats and Republicans contributing to the disintegration of bipartisanship.

Fixing the economy was something that both parties wanted, and needed to achieve, making it a more effective beckoning call for bipartisanship because it is a common goal. Now that there is such an enormous divide between the two parties, all bets are off on working together on anything significant in the near future.

Going into these midterm elections, the economy was the most pressing issue for people walking into the polls. Perhaps if Democrats focused on fixing the economy, they would have fared better in the election, at least in the House.

What is particularly puzzling about the elections is the fact that it was predominantly the conservative Democrats that took the beating. For example, in the Third Congressional District here in New Jersey, Democrat John Adler — considered one of the ten most centrist members of Congress — was ousted by Republican Jon Runyan, a former NFL player who has had no experience in elected office at all.

These conservative Democrats were largely elected in 2006 or 2008, two years that were particularly good for Democrats. They were primarily elected in Republican districts. Adler was the first Democrat to hold his district since 1882 — it was therefore particularly easy for Republican challengers to uproot them the first year that was favorable to Republicans. Many of these Democrats tried to keep themselves as far away from the Obama agenda as possible, but ultimately still lost.

This turn of events should be a wake-up call to my fellow Democrats to move to the center. It is essential that we make this shift for our own sake if we are to take 2012 seriously. Trying to play to the progressive crowd has already alienated this party, as seen with the health care reform debacle. We took the issues out of order, and did not fix what was even more urgent — the economy.

A recent CNN poll found that 63 percent of voters are not confident that the Democrats can handle the deficit, while another poll also found that 58 percent are not confident in the Democrats’ ability to handle taxes. These results should be alarming to us since, just two years ago, our party was elected to fix these problems.

Indeed, it will take us far longer than two years to get out of the mess that the Bush administration and his Republican cohorts left behind. However, keeping in mind the nature of public opinion — a funny thing, which can swing one way or another at any given time — a party needs a unified focus, and by that I mean a convergence toward the center, where most preferences of Independents lie. We need to make sure that we are spending responsibly, working to make taxes more manageable and, most importantly, making conditions conducive to job creation — perhaps relieving many small businesses of some restrictions and taxes.

I only say this because I care. Now, more than ever, we need to pull together and get a clear focus of what we are doing. Otherwise, we are going to find ourselves losing even more ground in 2012. We need to get the public back on our side, and by embracing the centrists more, we can surely show that we are the party of the people.

David W. Chapman is the Secretary of the College Democrats, as well as a Senator-at-Large in the Student Government Association at The College of New Jersey.

RESPONSE — Call to Democrats, Rerouted

Comments

7 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Brandon,

    What killed the Dems wasn’t playing to progressives but pandering to the Republicans. With a super majority, Democrats were still unable to exert their will over the Republicans, instead constantly trying to appease them, leading to a watered down, corrupt healthcare bill that pisses everyone off. If Democrats want to win in 2012, they need to offer themselves as a leftist alternative to the Republicans, not model themselves off them. People are fed up with both parties. You don’t regain their support by becoming the very thing people are disillusioned with. Want to regain faith in the Democrats’ handling of taxes? Hike up taxes on the rich. It would win instant support in this country. The average voter has no faith in the Democrats since they do nothing to combat the blatant anti-working class agenda of Republicans but, rather, bend to the Republicans will. If Dems want to regain control, they need to grow a backbone and actually pass legislation that benefits the public rather than corporations.

  2. Mark,

    You say, “it was predominantly the conservative Democrats that took the beating” in the elections, and then say the solution is, DEMOCRATS NEED TO BECOME MORE CONSERVATIVE!
    Huh?!?
    I agree entirely with Brandon.

  3. If the Dems were pandering to progressives, they probably would have had the same support and enthusiasm (and votes!) coming from the left as they did during the ’08 election. If the Party’s constituency is scattered in disillusioned, it’s probably from watching the once their once shining knight of progress come out as as a prince of neoliberalism. The Dems didn’t pander to the left! The left wanted real health-care reform, not the unrecognizable bill we were presented. They wanted demilitarization, not escalation. It seems to me the DP is pretty darn central-leaning in the grand scheme of things. It’s not that you guys played to the left, it’s that you played them.

  4. Dave,

    Okay, so there are some things I want to clear up here. First, it was the Democrats who won in REPUBLICAN districts who took the beating. Again, to raise the example of Adler- his district is very Republican- it has Ocean County in it for Pete’s sake!!! Second, the people who voted in ’08 are not the people who voted in 2010. Basic knowledge of Political Science will tell you that people are simply not excited about midterm elections. There is simply no excitement about Congressional elections- people vote for the President (and sometimes Governor), but don’t know much or care much about Congress. Also hurting the Dems this year was Nancy Pelosi. It’s simple- she’s too polarizing! They’ve made a massive mistake by keeping her as the Minority Leader because she’s only hurting her own cause by helping to faction the party.

    Indeed, we played no one. There have been some decisions by the leadership that were not the best (like doing the healthcare bill first. No disputed the fact that they put the priorities out of order, so I must be right on that). People voted for Obama in 2008 with high expectations, and yet now everyone’s disappointed that he too makes mistakes and doesn’t always get everything right the first time. He’s human. We weren’t voting for the messiah in 2008, mind you.

    There is a clear misunderstanding here about my concern with them going too far left. First, did I ever say that they should emulate the GOP? NO! I am stating that the party as a whole perhaps needs to come back to the center more (or the center of the Democratic party more so, for the sake of healing over the factions). If we wish to win, we should look more to where most of the electorate is- the middle.

  5. Brandon,

    Pelosi isn’t polarizing enough. She has been unwilling to make the tough decisions and statements, instead going with the Washington flow of things. As soon as she became Speaker, she shot down any plans of impeaching Bush, an incredibly popular movement at the time. Pelosi has done nothing to rally her party in support of various pro-worker bills, like healthcare. Her weakness is what Americans hate.

    Voters are angry becaused Obama abandoned his voters. As soon as he entered office, Obama aimed to bail out big business, rather than push to actually create jobs or relieve the stress on the workers during this recession. Since then, he has continued to put bourgeois policy first. He’s escalated a war that’s unpopularity is steadily rising, continued the more unpopular war, passed a watered down, unpopular “healthcare” bill, failed to close Guantanamo Bay, instituted Bush-like attacks on privacy, and has actually put a halt on LGBT rights by fighting to keep DADT on the books. How further centrist can Obama go? If you want to win in 2012, listen to your progressives and pick one or more of the following:

    A. Pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq
    B. Cut the military budget and reallocate it to creating jobs
    C. Increase taxes on the rich
    D. Fix your healthcare bill
    E. Allow DADT to be repealed and move for legal same-sex marriage
    F. Fight the Arizona Immigration Law
    G. Reduce relations with Israel

    Any combination of the above would re-win voters’ hearts. People wanted a change from Bush, a symbol of the destruction of the right. Moving centrist and supporting the ruling class during an economic crisis makes little sense.

  6. Glans,

    A. Pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq
    B. Cut the military budget and reallocate it to creating jobs
    C. Increase taxes on the rich
    D. Fix your healthcare bill
    E. Allow DADT to be repealed and move for legal same-sex marriage
    F. Fight the Arizona Immigration Law
    G. Reduce relations with Israel

    Aside from “A”, do you honestly believe that any of those plans has large popular support in this country?

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