Between 1968, when Lyndon Johnson left the White House, and the end of the century, the nation elected only two Democratic presidents. Both were Southern populists who had been careful to differentiate themselves from Great Society and their liberal predecessors. That all changed in 2008, when Barack Obama defeated the party-establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, and then Republican John McCain with a campaign that pledged to end political and ideological polarization with pragmatic problem-solving—from a liberal point of departure.
Before 2008, Obama looked like a liberal of moderate temperament. He had the bad luck to take office at a time of financial and economic crises overshadowing everything else. He has said since that he underestimated at the time the depth of the crises. That no doubt led him, before growth and stability had been restored, to undertake in 2009 a remake of the entire health sector. Both his stimulus package and healthcare proposal were mainly designed by House Democratic leaders and the interest groups that supported his 2008 campaign. There was no serious attempt, in formulating either program, to draw Republicans into participation, as LBJ had done in 1965. Provisions allowing the sale of health-insurance products across state lines, and providing for meaningful tort reform, could have done that without forfeiting Democratic support. Trial lawyers would have objected but not jeopardized the bill’s passage.
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President Obama’s current travails have diverted attention from his and the Democratic Party’s substantive agendas and longer-term outlook. Democrats currently believe that demographics will doom the Republicans for years to come, and they rate their own chances high in the 2016 presidential elections and beyond. But beneath the surface, Democrats’ problems are at least as serious as Republicans’.
Presidential second terms are historically unproductive, but the botched rollout of Obamacare threatens to overshadow all else in the months ahead. And that’s only the latest stumble for the White House, after alleged NSA, IRS, and Justice Department abuses of power; the aftermath of Benghazi; and disputes over drone strikes. It’s hard to see anything else on the horizon but continuation until 2016 of the partisan polarization and gridlock that have reigned since Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Worse, the party could be facing setbacks comparable to that in next year’s midterm elections.
Long-delayed immigration-reform legislation may be enacted. But, otherwise, the period ahead is likely to be marked mainly by a rolling series of fractious federal-budget battles and transparently inadequate budget compromises.
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The Democratic Party is hoping 2014 will be a Year of the Woman—again.
As party operatives prepare for the midterm elections, Democratic women are being cast in starring roles, on the ballot and at the ballot box, as the party tries to take back politically important governor’s mansions and keep its fragile majority in the Senate.
"The importance of women to the Democratic Party in 2014 cannot be overstated," said Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for EMILY’s List, which recruits and supports Democratic women candidates. "They are running in our biggest, most important races in the country."
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New polling from ABC News-Fusion reveals a startling partisan divide on whether there should be more women in the House and Senate.
Just 23 percent of Republicans surveyed in the poll agreed that “it would be a good thing if more women were elected to Congress.” Meanwhile, 60 percent of Democrats agreed with the statement.
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Harry Reid has been Democrats’ steel spine throughout the shutdown fight, steadfastly refusing to budge an inch from his demand for a budget resolution that doesn’t touch Obamacare and even insisting President Obama not negotiate with Republicans. And it looks like the shutdown has only made him more eager to fight.
Democrats were, and are, incensed at a Republican proposal late Monday to pass a resolution funding the government while eliminating subsidies for congressional staffers to pay for insurance. While canceling the subsidies doesn’t make much sense on a practical level, it seemed like good politics: Speaker John Boehner and his caucus argued they didn’t want Congress to get any kind of special treatment under the health-care law.
But it turns out Boehner knew just how impractical such a proposal would be.
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Don’t say Democrats aren’t compromising. Their bill last night (rejected by House Republicnas) would have funded government at Paul Ryan-levels.
Veteran Democrat Patty Murray is missing the Clinton White House, but not for the reasons you might think. The looming threat of government shut down is making her long for an era of strong Republican leaders.
“Everybody here knows that the way you get to a budget agreement is that the House Republicans and the Senate Democrats and the White House sit down and hammer it out, just like we did in the Clinton years,” she said during an Atlantic interview with MSNBC’s Karen Finney on Wednesday.
Who would have thought a top Democrat would miss Newt Gingrich? Especially considering the 28-day government shutdown forced by the standoff over the 1996 budget, her nostalgia is particularly surprising. But according to Murray, her party’s leaders are feeling unusually empathetic toward moderate Republicans these days, mostly because they have a common enemy.
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To hear some Democrats tell it, the bold, progressive future is on the horizon. It’s a matter of simple demographics: The segments of the electorate that are growing — young people and minorities — all overwhelmingly favor Democrats, while those that favor Republicans — older voters and whites — are declining. The “rising” electorate doesn’t just like President Obama, either; its members evince broadly progressive attitudes, from a weariness with divisive social issues to an earnest belief in government’s ability to do good. Add it up, and you have an unstoppable recipe for victory for populist pols in the mold of Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio. After all, if the 1980 electorate (88 percent white) had had the same makeup as that of 2012 (72 percent white), with all the racial and ethnic groups voting in the same proportions, Ronald Reagan would have never been elected president.
A new study released by the center-left think tank Third Way on Friday aims to pour some needed cold water on liberals’ excited claims. Not so fast, says researcher Michelle Diggles, a Ph.D. political scientist.
"Faith that demographics will deliver Democrats to power over the next several decades rests on … illusions about voters and their beliefs and behaviors, for which there is conflicting evidence," Diggles writes. Rather than assume a mandate for untrammeled liberalism, "Democrats must resist complacency and develop an accurate understanding of the new electorate."
After crunching data from more than 40 public surveys and exit polls, Diggles concluded that the “demography-is-destiny” Democrats are engaged in wishful thinking. The Millennial generation, she writes, is not overwhelmingly liberal or overwhelmingly pro-big-government; its ideology and Democratic loyalty are subject to change over time. Similarly, Asian and Hispanic voters aren’t necessarily party-loyal, and their views fluctuate widely between immigrant generations. Views on gay marriage appear to have shifted for good, but that can’t be said of other social issues — particularly abortion, an issue on which views have remained stable over time across demographic cohorts. And the broad, national demographic trends don’t apply evenly across all the swing states.
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