Most savvy political analysts believe Republicans are poised to make significant gains in Congress during the impending midterm elections. The most persuasive arguments for a GOP landslide are based upon Obama’s declining polls; a recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal has Obama’s approval rating at 40% (about the same as George W. Bush). Additionally, Obama’s foreign policies have been lambasted, and scandals at the IRS and the Veteran’s Administration are taking a toll on his popularity along with the continuing sluggish economy.
But, there may be hope in some pockets across the country, especially in races where Democratic incumbents are trying to fight off a change in the Senate majority. A New York Times article, titled “Democrats Seize on Social Issues as Attitudes Shift” does an excellent job of highlighting the strategies of some high profile Democratic campaigns.
In recent weeks and months, Democrats have tried to distance themselves from the Obama administration while their GOP opponents continue to use the president’s performance as the reason why voters should pull their levers on Election Day. America, the Republicans says, is standing on the sidelines as “chaos and violence in Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq and Syria” continue to escalate. Obama has provided no defense of his policies to make peace in these regions. Simultaneously, the president has been unable to convince Americans that the economy is doing better. And, he even told corporate executives to stop complaining about economic conditions, hardly a strong political statement.
Democratic candidates must go it alone without Obama, especially in places where the electorate is evenly split. The president’s presence in a campaign could literally mean defeat for some Democrats. The response of some candidates is to resort to social issues, a ploy commonly used by Republicans.
In the 70s, Richard Nixon “rallied Americans disturbed by noisy protests over civil rights, the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War.” “Acid, amnesty and abortion” was the label attached to George McGovern in the 1972 election. George W.H. Bush used a released black convict to hammer Mike Dukakis in 1988 playing upon the public’s concern the Democrats would perpetrate a wholesale release of felons.
The Times article states that demographic changes are shrinking Nixon’s “Silent Majority.” American households have morphed over the years. “Nearly half of adults are unmarried. Fully 10 percent of opposite-sex married couples are interracial or interethnic. Acceptance of same-sex marriage has expanded with astonishing speed.” And of course, there is the legalization of marijuana and the continued perceived threat against pro-abortion females.
Democrats are supported politically by “[Millennials], college graduates, single women, blacks and Latinos,” as these groups generally are in favor of cultural shifts. Ironically, Millennials and African Americans have suffered the most during the Great Recession.
The tactics being used in high profile campaigns vividly expose the Democrat’s political strategy. The most important element is that Democrats, in some case, are labeling their GOP opponents even if the accusations are not entirely true. For instance, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is in a tough race for his seat with Ed Gillespie. Warner accused his opponent of seeking to “overturn abortion rights and ban some forms of contraception.” Mr. Gillespie, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a recent debate “he wants contraceptives available (behind the counter) at pharmacies without a prescription.”
Senator Mark Udall’s (D-CO) whole campaign is about social issues including “birth control, ‘parenthood,’ abortion.” By diverting voters away from the economy and foreign policy issues, incumbent Democrats hope to retain their current seats.
The strategy is a sign of desperation on the part of some incumbent Democratic officeholders. But, what choices do they have? Keep in mind, Obama successfully employed an accusation tactic in 2012 against Mitt Romney. Label you opponent as a radical, right-winger, stay away from the president, and maybe you can win your election. Then again, maybe you won’t.