This will be a much shorter and more focused article about the Midterm. For a much longer and more detailed analysis please see my article
The New York Times ran the numbers and that is what they found for turnout this midterm.
In 43 states, less than half the eligible population bothered to vote, and no state broke 60 percent. In the three largest states — California, Texas and New York — less than a third of the eligible population voted. Over all, the national turnout was 36.3 percent; only the 1942 federal election had a lower participation rate at 33.9 percent. The reasons are apathy, anger and frustration at the relentlessly negative tone of the campaigns.
Republicans ran a single-theme campaign of pure opposition to President Obama, and Democrats were too afraid of the backlash to put forward plans to revive the economy or to point out significant achievements of the last six years. Neither party gave voters an affirmative reason to show up at the polls.
A few other important lessons from the article. Colorado switched to a mail ballot system this year, and it had the fourth-highest turnout in the nation, substantially larger than in 2010 which suggests that making voting easier works. Young people only made up 13% compared with 19% two years ago. Midterms generally suck when it comes to voter turnout but being the lowest in 72 years is a new low.
The national average this election was 36.3% and Georgia was in that range with 38.2%. I wonder how much higher Georgia could achieve if we had a system like Colorado, Oregon, and other states which switched to mail in balloting. Their turnout increased dramatically from the 2010 midterms which did not have mail ballots.
Lessons for Georgia Democrats
Maybe now that John Barrow, the last remaining “blue dog” white Democrat in the south has been defeated other Democrats will finally learn the lesson that Republicans won’t vote for you. It doesn’t matter how many guns you own, how much you attack your own president or policies of your party you will not win their vote. Stop playing the Republican-lite card and stand up for your beliefs. And if most of your beliefs align with the Republican party then that is where you belong.
Many Georgia pundits and politicians loudly proclaimed “Yes, Georgia is still very much a red State” They certainly had a great night and picked up seats all over the country but with the lowest voter turnout in 72 years that is hardly a mandate for their party or policies. It says more about their ground game and GOTV efforts than anything.
I didn’t want to criticize Jason Carter or Michelle Nunn too harshly during the campaign but now that it is over, I have to ask if they now regret their Republican-lite platform. In the debates when Jason Carter was asked about marriage equality instead of simply saying “YES” he supports it in no uncertain terms he gave this long and complex answer filled with lawyerly qualifiers and contingencies. That certainly did not excite the base or anyone that supports same sex marriage and it made him look indecisive.
Michelle Nunn gave a slightly better answer on same sex marriage, but also refused to say she would advocate that position strongly in the senate. Instead she said that is an issue left for the states. Most agree with that but this does not mean she cannot voice her opinion for what is right and just in the Senate either.
Those sort of hemming and hawing answers do more damage to candidates than any good. People respect clear and coherent positions. Non-committal answers that are vague and ambiguous do not inspire confidence. Michelle Nunn is a Democrat so of course she voted for Obama. She should have said that much earlier in the campaign and also not allowed Perdue to relentlessly attack Obama with no counter-points. The election became about Obama and once she let the attacks go unchallenged there was no hope.
Georgia voters are not confused about where Jody Hice R-Athens stands on issues. He loudly and proudly exclaims his viewpoints and opinions no matter how extreme they may be. It is time for this myth that in order to win in the south Democrats must become republican-lite candidates and avoid taking any strong progressive stances on issues.
Don’t get me wrong, being willing to compromise and negotiate are good things and we need to end gridlock. Those positions should continue and be encouraged. But that is not enough. You also have to stand for actual policies and not embarrassed to say you voted for a Democrat as president. No need to defend your support for minimum wage, medical marijuana, marriage equality, equal pay for women and many other progressive policies with qualifiers and apologies. That is a sign of weakness not strength and voters always can see through that.
The Atlanta magazine Creative Loafing also agrees with my position and wrote an article on this subject. Georgia Democrats aren’t winning
Democratic candidates in Georgia have an identity crisis. Republican domination has largely occurred because Democrats have failed to rally voters around a meaningful alternative to the status quo. Look no further than Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Jason Carter’s perplexing support for the “guns everywhere” bill or Nunn’s hesitance to stand behind the Affordable Care Act. They tout moderate beliefs because they’re fearful of alienating voters, and, in the process, many voters end up uninspired. Historically, Democrats don’t come out nearly as strong during midterm elections as Republicans. But this year’s turnout by black voters and young people 18-29, two groups that tend to favor Democrats, was lower than in 2010, according to exit polls. Even Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, one of the state’s most prominent Democrats, held a fundraiser for Carter but did not officially endorse him. A united Democratic party could have challenged the ambitious mayor’s indecision and convinced him to put aside personal politics to help Carter win.
I couldn’t agree more. If Democrats want to continue to be reactive in Georgia as opposed to proactive they will continue to lose for a long time. Stop trying to win over Republicans who will not vote for you no matter how many guns you own. Instead, excite your own base and convince Democrats to go to the polls and vote by explaining why your policies are the better option for voters.
In my more detailed Midterm analysis here I also explained other areas where they need to focus. This includes connecting and reaching out to more white voters in Georgia. Many white voters feel like they are not welcome and this has to change. Democrats also need to build out their ground game better. Republicans are very good at staying active in the community with various clubs, lodges, churches and other organizations throughout the year.
I am not naive and no matter what Nunn or Carter had changed in their platforms they were doomed to lose this election. Voter apathy is the biggest enemy to any Democrat candidate in midterms. Showing up at the polls is the best way to counter the oversized influence of wealthy special interests, who dominate politics as never before. But at least then you could have lost in a blaze of glory with your heads held high instead of fizzling out with barely a whimper.
The Democrats in the Georgia Senate and House need to advocate for easier voting like mail ballots. Stop being so damn conciliatory about everything and stand for some issues for a change. That doesn’t mean you can’t be polite about it but show us the cut of your jib for a change.
Push for a higher minimum wage, Fight for voter ballot initiatives, Stop allowing Republicans to control the debate and agenda on Medical Marijuana in Georgia when they are the ones that have not allowed it to happen and now want to swoop in and pretend they are saving the day. Fight to curtail the horrible abuse by police in civil asset forfeiture. Fight for mail ballots that are used in other states that dramatically increased voter turnout. Demand a revamped Ethics agency that is independent and has the funds to investigate corruption. Insist on stronger whistleblower protection laws. Urge an end to cronyism especially when it comes to powerful boards which control billions and are appointed simply because they are rich and donate to the Governor. Push for reforms, accountability, and transparency at the Board of Regents.
I applaud Stacey Abrams for her registration efforts, but I have no idea where she stands on any of those important issues I mentioned above. I certainly have not heard anything from Abrams, Porter, Reed or any other Democrat mention them either.
Show some fire in your belly. Start being Ass Kickers again and maybe you will not get your ass kicked so badly next time.