Despite the occasional chirpy reports around here, it's obvious that the 2014 midterms are going to be a major challenge to Democrats, to put it mildly. For all the talk about how dumb and cartoonish the Tea Party element has looked in recent months, the truth is that (a) that perception hasn't registered much outside the liberal blogosphere, and (b) the economy, which is ultimately THE issue, remains sluggish -- and the party in power is usually held accountable.
The jobs picture remains lackluster largely because of Republican obstructionism, but this isn't something widely understood by low-information voters, and the Dems' messaging in this regard has been typically atrocious. It is also true that the economic slump is in no small part a consequence of many Democrats' love affair with Third Way neoliberalism, which is simply warmed-over supply-side economics, and works every bit as well. The occasional Sherrod Brown or Elizabeth Warren or Alan Grayson is sometimes allowed to poke his or her head out and defend traditional Democratic values, but their messages are never picked up by the national party and turned into an effective, sustained narrative.
But there is hope. There are only a few small things the Democratic Party has to do to right the ship before November. Let's go to the other side of the orange speed bump...
1. Work with Paul Ryan and Rand Paul on "bipartisan" cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and throw in some Medicaid cuts on top of that.
This is guaranteed to reverse the negative Democratic polling trends, especially when they're referred to as "entitlements". These kinds of cuts are wildly popular with the general public, especially the Democratic base, and will ensure that Dem turnout, always a problem in off-year elections, will be more robust then ever as voters seek to reward the politicians who embrace austerity. We will all eat cat food so that Pete Peterson doesn't have to lug his yachts around when he travels from resort to resort. Oh, and the public is all for "bipartisanship" -- that's why we have no political parties in America.
2. Run away as far from the ACA as possible. Never mention it, never acknowledge it, and let the Republicans define it all by themselves.
The Democrats are off to an excellent start here, as they collectively curled up into a ball while the Republicans defined the ACA in terms of the website failures and "costs", while the fact that real, actual American people were helped immensely by this legislation remained well-concealed from the beltway media. The Dems' flatfooted response to the CBO report is another effective datapoint. The ACA isn't perfect by a long shot, but, guys, if you completely buy into the Republican framing about it, you would have been better off never implementing this legislation at all.
3. Peace is for wimps. Indulge in more saber-rattling with Iran.
We've already spent a ton of lives and money on two Asian wars. What's a third? They're a bunch of backward Muslims anyway with primitive technology and should be complete pushovers. Plus, these foreign wars make America look much more macho, and that's very, very important, because the international community will cower in fear. And isn't that the ultimate goal of foreign policy?
4. Do. Not. Talk. About. Inequality.
For a few weeks there it looked like the Democrats were really going to blow it in this regard, but they seem to have come to their senses by shifting the discussion to "ladders of opportunity" and other such platitudes, which should shield the Dems from the baleful stares of the David Brookses of the world. Because nothing matters more than Village endorsement of a narrative, and for Democrats to focus on the needs of the 99% makes Cokie Roberts very uncomfortable. Plus, such talk sounds very Occupyish, and we all know how icky they were.
5. Work with Republicans on immigrant-bashing. The Dems can't afford to be seen as the "immigrant party".
Every time the Democrats come up with an immigration plan that doesn't involve lifetime slavery as laborers in Joe Arpaio's plantation or immediate deportation to Clipperton Island with no food supplies, they're risking the votes of these Middle Americans who will perceive them as soft and illegal-friendly. We must be tough, tough, tough on these criminal lawbreakers --who do they think they are, trying to feed their families -- and I guarantee you the teabagger votes from Kansas will immediately begin gushing in the Dems' direction.
6. Give up on extending unemployment insurance and on restoring food-stamp cuts. Being seen as the compassionate party is a sign of defective manhood.
All this feckless "help the poor" stuff is very, very bad for the Democratic image. We all know that the jobless get that way because they're lazy and shiftless, and handouts like unemployment compensation and food stamps only encourage more people to quit their jobs and go on the dole. Just drive through a low-income neighborhood sometime -- everyone's always partying and having a good time. We can't afford this kind of prosperity anymore. Get tough on These People -- they'll only thank us. And think about all the votes we'll get! As for children going hungry, well, Darwin. We believe in Darwin, don't we?
7. Meekly bow to fundamentalist preachers and treat their ideas as if they had significant merit.
We wouldn't want to be disrespectful to religion, wouldn't we? And even though fundamentalists are a small percentage of actual religious people, most of whom respect the Constitution and the separation of church and state, it would make us look very bad if we don't knuckle under to the Christian-sharia crowd and treat them like they're the only true voice of Christianity. The icy op-eds we would have to tolerate from conservative writers are just too, too big a price to pay.
8. Stay away from unions. They're a thing of the past anyway, and those ubiquitous Union Thugs make us all look really bad.
I must say the Democrats have performed superbly here, as they answered Bob Corker's avalanche of lies and threats to Tennessee autoworkers with a brief, oblique, last-minute closed-door encouragement from the President. Unsurprisingly, labor lost this particular battle. The evisceration of organized labor can only result in more positive press for Democrats, and more votes. Keep up the good work!
9. If we MUST have tax reform, make it all about consumption taxes. That's much more bipartisany.
Third Way people have so many great ideas, and this is but one more of them. If we encourage this, every editorial page in the Washington Post will be singing our praises, which inevitably results in a truckload of new votes in our direction. The fact that this will significantly diminish the standard of living of our voter base will be more than made up with the all the new corporate money we'd rake in.
10. Go all in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After all, NAFTA has worked so well, and Villagers will approve, which is very, very important.
But make sure it's fast-tracked, because that way working American people get to enjoy the bountiful cornucopia of Trans-Pacific benefits BEFORE the election!! Which will make this a win-win-win-win! But don't talk about it too much -- you'll spoil the surprise.
11. Break the ground on that damn Keystone pipeline already. Brown water is nothing compared to all that happy motoring that awaits us.
"Put a little West Virginia in YOUR water." I can't imagine how that could possibly cost us any votes this fall.
12. Keep cozying up to Wall Street.
Just a small reminder -- the Democrats have been doing wonderfully in this department. The Comcast/Time Warner merger is the latest test, but I'm sure they'll pass it with flying colors.
If the Democrats do all that, and more, they're guaranteed a stomping victory in November. That's what all the pundits say, and they're never wrong.