The Top Liberal Excuses for the Results of the 2014 Midterm Elections

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Nobody likes a sore winner, but sore losers can be even worse. While growing up, you were probably told by your parents to learn from your failures and not make excuses for them. Evidently, however, based upon their reactions to the results of this year’s midterm elections, liberal journalists and Democratic lawmakers did not learn the same lesson.

On November 4th, Republican candidates scored stunning victories across the country. Although it was widely expected that Republicans would regain control of the Senate, few predicted that they would win nine seats. Republicans gained seats in North Carolina, Louisiana, Colorado, South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Iowa, Arkansas, and Alaska while fending off strong Democratic challenges in Kentucky and Georgia. Out of the 10 contests considered “tossups” prior to the election, Republicans prevailed in 9 of them. In addition, Republicans gained at least another 12 seats in the House of Representatives, adding to their already-sizeable majority.

In gubernatorial races, Republicans gained seats in traditionally blue states, such as Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts, while beating serious Democratic challengers in Florida, Maine, and Wisconsin, bringing the total number of Republican governors to 31. When combined with the fact that Republicans now control more state legislative chambers than they ever have before, this gives the party an unprecedented amount of influence at the state level. In at least 23 states, Republicans hold both the governorship and majorities in both state legislatures; Democrats only have that level of control in 7 states.

In past years Republicans have also faced some difficult election cycles. Most recently, in 2012, the Republican Party failed to unseat President Obama and lost two Senate seats. However, party leaders took these defeats seriously and worked hard to fix those problems for future elections. Immediately after the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee published a scathing report, called the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” that highlighted the party’s difficulty in reaching out to women, young voters, and minority groups. By admitting that there was a problem, the Republican Party was able to address it, move on, and win elections nationwide only two years later.

On the other hand, instead of reevaluating which policy positions contributed to their defeats in 2014 and discussing the need to improve upon their grassroots organizing or candidate recruitment efforts, Democrats and their friends in the media proceeded to conjure up numerous excuses for why they lost. Most of these excuses blamed Republicans or the nature of the electorate rather than taking responsibility and making any effort to heed the voters’ desires. To highlight Democrats’ denial, I have compiled a list of the worst liberal excuses for the outcome of this year’s midterm elections. Democrats, would you like some cheese with that whine?

1) “Revenge of the White Male Voter”
In a recent article for Slate, Amanda Marcotte claims “the Democrats got their asses handed to them by a white male electorate that turned out in an effort to fight their eroding cultural dominance.” In addition, Marcotte argues that the nature of the electorate was heavily skewed in favor of Republicans because younger voters, women, and minorities did not come out to the polls.

Nice try, Amanda! Midterm elections always experience lower turnout than Presidential elections because they tend to attract only higher-information voters, who often lean more conservative than the electorate as a whole. However, when compared to past midterm elections, the electorate in 2014 was actually fairly diverse.

First, women constituted a majority of the electorate (51%). This figure is only 2% lower than the 2012 Presidential election, when women made up 53% of the electorate. The author claims that white, male voters elected Republicans in order to wage a “war on women” and reassert patriarchal dominance. However, the Republican Party could not have performed as well as they did by alienating a majority of the electorate. In 2012, a sizeable gender gap propelled President Obama to reelection; a 2% decrease in female turnout would not have been significant enough to deliver Republicans such a sweeping victory unless the party improved its performance among women voters. Indeed, Democrats’ lead among women was only 5% in 2014, down from 11% during the 2012 elections. Republicans did not win because women stayed home; they won because women changed their minds, something that the author seems to believe female voters are incapable of doing.

The author also claims that minorities, in addition to women, were grossly underrepresented. However, this is also incorrect. The percentage of white voters decreased by 2% compared to the 2010 midterm elections and was only 3% higher than during the 2012 elections, in which President Obama won reelection. Non-white voters constituted 25% of the electorate, a higher proportion than in any previous midterm election. Considering this historic turnout among non-white voters, Republicans could not have matched (and, in some cases, exceeded) their gains from the 2010 elections by turning off minority groups. Instead, they significantly improved their standing among these demographics. African Americans voted 4% more Republican in 2014 than they did during the 2012 elections; Hispanics voted 8% more Republican.

2) Republicans won because they ran “to the left” of Democrats.
MSNBC was probably not the best place to be on election night this year. After Republican Cory Gardner opened up a huge lead over Democrat Mark Udall in Colorado’s Senatorial race, Rachel Maddow struggled to find the proverbial “silver lining” behind these results, saying, “if Cory Gardner beats Mark Udall in Colorado today, it will be because he ran to the left of Mark Udall.”

As evidence (if you can really call it that), Rachel Maddow cited Gardner’s opposition to personhood on the campaign trail and support for immigration reform. However, even if Cory Gardner opposed personhood legislation for fetuses, it would have been impossible for him to be more liberal on the issue of abortion than “Senator Uterus,” the nickname Mark Udall earned during the campaign because access to abortion was the ONLY topic he wanted to discuss.

In addition, Gardner takes a pretty hard stance against illegal immigration on his website: “The solution to the problem isn’t for the Justice Department to file a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the Governor of Arizona for responding to a law enforcement crisis. It isn’t giving amnesty to the 12-20 million illegal immigrants in this country, or giving those people benefits that will only encourage more illegal immigration. The time has come to enforce the rule of law and end illegal immigration.” Supporting Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, opposing all forms of amnesty, and calling for stricter border security hardly sound like liberal policy proposals.

Moreover, despite Maddow’s claims that the voters supported a liberal agenda, even if they voted for Republicans, exit polling shows that the electorate actually gave Republicans a mandate to enact conservative reforms. Of the voters in Colorado who said immigration was their most important issue, Gardner won a sizeable majority (61%-33%). More voters in Colorado said that the Affordable Care Act went too far (48%) than said it was not enough (22%) or just right (22%). Most importantly, 55% of Colorado voters said that government is doing too much, compared to only 31% who wanted the government to do more.

Admittedly, a sizeable majority of voters nationwide were pro-choice (54%-42%). Maddow might argue that this bodes well for Democrats in the long term by proving that their position on abortion is still politically popular. However, the fact that many pro-life Republican candidates still won in this political environment shows that they were able to attract voters who did not agree with them on every issue. This fact demonstrates how the Republican Party has learned from past mistakes and could still be competitive among these voters in future elections.

3) Democrats lost “due to the race of our President.”
Any list about excuses made by Democrats would not be complete without a reference to the race card. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said after the election, “We lost because our party has, to some extent, lost white southerners due in part to the race of our President.”

First, Republicans won numerous races outside of the South in states such as Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. In fact, southern states made up a small proportion of battleground states in the election overall. In addition, the Democratic Party has been losing its foothold in the South since long before President Obama took office. According to the Institute for Southern Studies, in 2008, “Obama performed virtually the same among white voters in six Southern states as 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, and in three Southern states Obama did better among whites.” The fact that President Obama exceeded John Kerry’s performance in the South is hardly evidence of rampant racism.

Marcia Fudge also fails to mention that, thanks to the Republican Party, she will be welcoming another African American congresswoman into the House of Representatives: Mia Love. Considering the fact that there are only 17 African American women currently serving in Congress, Congresswoman Fudge should be applauding any candidate who helps increase that number rather than suggesting that her supporters are racists.

In addition, Senator Tim Scott, an African American Republican, was reelected in South Carolina, a quintessentially Southern state. According to Congresswoman Fudge, people in South Carolina probably only voted against President Obama’s party because he is black. Electing an African American Senator to demonstrate racist attitudes towards an African American President certainly strikes me as a strange strategy.

Excuses such as the ones listed above only hurt Democrats. If Democrats stay in denial about the true causes of their electoral defeat last November, then they are bound to repeat the same mistakes and lose future elections. If they do not engage in some internal soul-searching after these results—as Republicans did following past electoral defeats—then they have no one to blame but themselves when voters deliver similar results in 2016.

Evan Draim is a junior from Alexandria, Virginia, majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School. He can be reached at edraim@princeton.edu.

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