Why Republicans won the 2014 election and Democrats flopped – and why it will continue

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Why Republicans Won the Election and Dems Flopped

There is no one, soundbite-ready answer to why the Republicans did so well in the 2014 election. As a political scientist I can provide a few obvious answers, but as I see it the big answer is more complex. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, the obvious answers:

Simple math: Republicans had less turf to defend. Democrats had more turf to defend, creating more opportunities for Republicans to pick them off. In 2016, the tables turn and Democrats have fewer seats to defend, though for reasons I’ll get to later I wouldn’t count on it making a big difference.

Voter registration laws: The Republicans need conservative white voters to dominate elections. Remove as many brown, black, and urban voters as possible, and tight elections swing to Team Red. And that’s what happened in 2014. Voter ID laws and voter registration purges did exactly what they were intended to do. Fewer voters inclined to vote for Democrats were allowed to vote.

Republican Gerrymandering: In 2010, Republicans took over several state legislatures and redrew voting precinct maps to lump Democrat-dominated voting precincts together. In those districts Democrats win by landslides, but in other districts there are fewer Democrat voters, giving Republicans a better chance of winning tight races. Republicans know they don’t have to win by a landslide. They only have to get one more vote than the other side.

Dark money: The Republican-dominated Supreme Court decided that individuals can spend as much money as they want to influence elections. In 2014, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent by shadowy political groups funded by billionaires that tend to favor Republicans. Dark money buys elections, especially close ones. Dark money is the main factor that tipped the Senate to Republicans.

But beyond those reasons looms the biggest one of all, and it’s bound to come into play in the next election and beyond. Basically, Democrats are not giving their voters many reasons to vote for them. Democrats are no longer Democrats, they are moderate Republicans.

President Obama admitted this fact soon after he won reelection in 2012. Sitting next to Hillary Clinton – another Republicans in blue (Democrat) clothing – for a national news interview, he said that he didn’t understand why Republicans were so opposed to his policies, because 25 years ago his policies would be considered moderate Republican. Obama only mentioned his economic policies, but across the board he is an ’80s Republican. Even his signature healthcare plan, Obamacare, was largely created by the Heritage Institute in the ’90s as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s failed plan.

Ding ding ding. That’s the problem.

Democrats, at the national level where it counts most, are moderate Republicans. Republicans have been pushed further to the right in order to distinguish themselves. Their voters still have plenty of reasons to vote for them. Democrats voters don’t. Voters to the left ideologically of center-right have no one to vote for.

Simple as that.

As Jeb Lund so eloquently said in The Guardian soon after the carnage on the first Tuesday of November:

On Tuesday night, a lot of Republican-ish candidates got crushed by the official Republican candidates, confirming yet again that a gutless, wincing version of one kind of politics always loses to the robust one. Nobody first starts drinking Diet Coke because they think it tastes better, and the only people who keep drinking it are the ones who’ve drunk nothing else for so long that actual flavor seems weird. Why vote for someone hesitantly and semi-apologetically tacking toward the right when you can just vote for someone who goes balls-to-the-wall rightward and is damn proud of it? At least that person gives off the sense of actually enjoying his own beliefs.

Democrats think they are better at making policy, and assume people will vote for them based on that. They assume they will win elections because they have a better track record of success at governing, and because by most measures they are the better choice. If elections were decided by political scientists, Dems would ride to easy victory. They assume that voters know better and remember what a mess the country was in six years ago when George Bush slunk back to Texas and Obama saved the Republic.

Wrong.

Most people are not informed well enough to know who is better at governing or creating policy. They vote based on their gut feeling. Gut feelings are influenced by perceptions about which side – Team Red or Team Blue – has more gusto. If you are Joe or Jane Voter, your view of Democrats is shaped by two overarching observations:

One: Candidate Barack Obama is a different guy than President Barack Obama. Obama got elected in 2008 by promising to be a moderate-to-liberal Democrat, and he governed as a moderate Republican. On the issues that really count he failed. He came into office saying he would stop wars and instead created them. He said he would protect civil liberties and instead oversaw the further erosion of them. He promised to shift the focus to Democrat priorities, and instead allowed the agenda to be set by Republicans.

He also ended the war in Iraq (at least, temporarily), oversaw the creation of 10 million jobs, reduced the deficit by a trillion dollars, saved the auto industry, and provided healthcare to millions of Americans who couldn’t afford it. 2014 should have been his victory lap, but instead members of his own party treated him like an Ebola victim. And for reasons only God and the White House know, Obama did not trumpet his accomplishments.

Two: Democrat play lapdog to Republican alpha dog. Republicans know that most voters are tuned out and turned off by what’s happening in Washington, DC, and only a few big impressions are made on the general public each election cycle. One thing you can say about Republicans is they fight for what they believe in (or at least create that impression), while Democrats compromise too much and too readily give ground.

You know what would have made the sort of impression that would get more Democrats out to vote in 2014 and sway some independents to their side? Make a fuckin’ stand on issues that are important to Democrat and progressive voters.

When Republicans went after the Postal Service with the intention of destroying another union-dominated organization, Democrats should have raised holy hell. They should have filibustered and shouted from the rooftops and ground all business in DC to a stop. They should have fallen on their swords and let the blood gush all over the Capital steps. Instead, Republicans passed a law that virtually ensured that the Postal Service will eventually be privatized, and Democrats sucked their thumb and let the moment pass with hardly a whimper.

When Republicans went after teachers, another pro-union, liberal-leaning group, Democrats had a prime opportunity to stand up and defend a vital constituency. Teachers unions are reliably Democrat. Everyone in Washington knows that basing teacher salaries on student performance – “No Child Left Behind” – has nothing to do with improving education and everything to do eroding the power of teachers unions. Everyone except, apparently, Democrat leaders.

Now teachers are running scared and fighting for their jobs. Teachers unions have been smacked down. The American public education system is shamefully falling behind the competition because memorization is emphasized over critical thinking. And Republicans have one less solidly Democrat group to worry about.

These are two examples of how Democrats have lost their backbone and allowed their base of support to be systematically undercut. Two examples of how Democrats allow the groups that support them to be targeted and destroyed and don’t do a damn thing to help them. I could give a dozen more examples from the last 20 years off the top of my head. One particularly egregious example showed itself in the Rhode Island race for governor in 2014, which pitted a pro-Wall Street Democrat against a pro-Wall Street Republican.

Democrats followed the Pied Pipers, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, away from what they stood for and turned into moderate Republicans. Republicans happily watched Democrats cannibalize themselves and shifted to the right to define themselves, knowing that their voters would follow along and still vote for them. Liberals and left-leaning citizens have no one to champion them, no one to stand up for them, no one to count on when the going gets tough.

Republicans are not as good at governing as Democrats, but they have three things going for them. They know who their voters are, how to reach them, and how to make impressions. That makes all the difference come election time.

And for Democrats? They have feckless, thumb-sucking compromisers leading them. If I was the Democrat Party I would make Alan Grayson the Minority Leader, raise their swords and make a stand. Fight for what they believe in. Might makes right in politics. Grayson gets it. He’s a tough-talking, sarcastic-as-hell Democrat from Florida, exactly what’s needed to make a big impression.

Instead, Democrats are going to line up behind Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and continue doing what doesn’t work. They will count on the electoral winds to change in their favor in 2016. They will limp along for another two years under Obama and look to Hillary to recharge their batteries and change their fortunes.

And they will lose in 2016. Mark my words. They might keep the White House because of how the Electoral College favors them, but in races for the House and Senate they are locked into a dynamic that ensures they have little chance of regaining any real power. Apologists for the Democrats have pointed out that the President’s party usually loses midterm elections. I don’t buy it. After Republicans did nothing for two years except obstruct and complain and make fools of themselves, the midterm was a gimme for Democrats.

Democrats, Republicans didn’t win. You lost.

Oh snap! US arms ISIS Terrorists Again

US arms ISIS terrorists and we’re supposed to believe it’s a mistake

Under the category of “not again,” ISIS terrorists have gotten their grubby little hands on another stash of heavy weapons, this time courtesy of supposedly “moderate” militants (as if there is such a thing) in Syria.

The Syrian Liberation Front, confronted by real bullets and bombs, decided that rather than fight as they were trained and funded to do, they would rather just give their US-supplied heavy weapons to ISIS terrorists.

The weapons include rockets and anti-tank missiles.

This habit of supposed allies accepting bunches of US-supplied weapons then handing them over to so-called terrorists is all-too common in the region.

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ISIS would like to thank the American people for the lovely weapons

In late October, an airdrop of supplies to Western-backed troops in Kobani, Iraq went off course and ended up in the hands of ISIS militants who were desperately in need of being rearmed. The Pentagon blamed the wind. The Iraqi government blamed inexperienced air crews.

I blame the people who want ISIS to have the weapons to overthrow the Syrian government and destabilize the region.

Don’t worry though, supposedly the air drops were destroyed. Riiiiight.

Here is a quote from the article linked above:

A steady stream of US-supplied weapons are being lost to Isis forces, mainly from the dysfunctional Iraqi army. Isis is reported to have stolen seven American M1 Abrams tanks from three Iraqi army bases in Anbar province last week.

Tanks. ISIS militants stole tanks. But wait, they have fighter jets, too.

Are we supposed to believe these “mistakes” are because of the fog of war? That ISIS militants aren’t being deliberately aided by a hidden hand that wants them to succeed?

Are you seeing a pattern here?

US forces decimated the Iraqi army in three weeks back in 2003. In three months in 2014 a rag-tag militant force a fraction of the size of the former Iraqi military has only gotten stronger and more dangerous. Bombs are dropped, missiles are fired, bullets are shot, but all that seems to result is Syria’s infrastructure is destroyed.

In June of 2014 ISIS reportedly stole around 500 billion Iraqi dinars, the equivalent of more than $400 million dollars, from an Iraqi central bank. Tell me where any bank in the world other than Iraq (outside of highly secure cities) keeps that much cash on hand. A bunch of gold bullion was stolen too.

Maybe Germany should be looking in Iraq for its gold, because it ain’t in New York where it’s supposed to be. (After the Germans demanded back their gold stored in NYC and London and were rebuffed, suddenly it reappeared…after Ukraine was taken over in a US-backed coup and all of its sovereign gold was flown out of the country in the middle of the night. Hmmm…).

Has anyone asked what will happen in Syria if Assad’s regime is defeated? That is the stated aim of arming the “moderate” militants who in turn are arming the ISIS terrorists. Assad’s regime falls and the next most powerful group in Syria is … ISIS.

For some reason I’m starting to think that’s the real goal.

Football Teams of Today Are Like the Gods of Yesteryear

Imagine for a moment that a cataclysm happens tomorrow and most records of our civilization are wiped out. Five-thousand years later the archaeologists of the next civilization study our stadiums, monuments, and statues for clues to what our civilization was like, specifically, what we worshiped.

They might conclude that we worshiped lions, bears, eagles, ravens, jaguars, rams, tigers…

And cowboys?

I got the idea for this post after watching Monday Night Football. Redskins vs. Cowboys. The game took place in a stadium with 100,000 people in it. The largest churches are a fraction of that size. The stadium has screens that are 60 yards wide. It is littered monuments dedicated to their most notable “warriors.” It’s fair to say that archaeologists of the future would assume that a society that put such incredible resources into their Cowboys actually worshiped them as gods.

It’s not such a stretch of imagination.

Now consider how we view civilizations from 5,000 years ago. We say that they worshiped this god or that god or many gods. We consider them primitive, misled. We assume they actually fell on their knees enthralled and enraptured by their gods.

But what if their “gods” are akin to our football teams?

Again, use your imagination to picture walking into a city in ancient Mesopotamia. At the city gates are grand and massive statues dedicated to their “gods.” You see bears, eagles, jaguars — or live animals leashed like mascots. Some are half-human depictions. Some wear uniforms and carry weapons. The scene could be confused for a football rally.

You walk through the city and hear the excited conversations of citizens. You see related paraphernalia in shop windows, colorful clothing, posters on house doors, flags waving along avenues. Groups of citizens shout chants and sing songs. City leaders make speeches praising their lions and tigers and bears.

Oh my!

Point is, I think we have made some wrong assumptions. We dig up statues dedicated to gods of old and assume that the people viewed them the same way we view God. We find tablets with a few words inscribed on them and draw conclusions about entire populations. We say the people of old worshiped these so-called gods, and some certainly did. But my hunch is those assumptions are mostly wrong.

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Some people worship Ray Lewis as a football god. This statue of him might outlast our civilization

What we fail to realize is that the gods of old are similar to our football teams of today. They were cultural markers. They were rallying cries for a civilization. They were focal points for bringing people together and creating a sense of cohesion, same as our sports teams bring us together today. Some citizens might have believed that the gods of their culture actually existed, but I think what the majority of people believed is similar to what we mean today when we say “Joe Montana is a god,” or, “Ray Lewis is a god.”

When tribute was given to the gods of a particular city or country, the tribute was really to the people and their culture. The same idea carries over to today. If you move to Wisconsin, for example, you will be a Packers fan, to some extent, whether you want to or not. At least, you will not dare to speak against them in a public setting or you risk getting beat down. Because if you speak out against the Packers, you actually speak against Wisconsinites. The Packers are very closely associated Wisconsin itself.

View today’s sports teams and the frenzy that surround them from a distance and it would be easy to assume they are gods, the players their earthly emissaries, and the fans their worshipers.

In many ways sports have replaced religion. They shape values. They create myths and legends. They focus attention and resources.

So the next time you hear the claim that ancient peoples worshiped gods that were obviously figments of their imagination, realize that “gods” to them might be more like what football teams are to us.