No, Bernie, the DNC Didn’t Lose the Midterms

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US-VOTE-DEMOCRATS
No, 2014 wasn't her fault. Photo: Gaston De Cardenas/AFP/Getty Images

Nestled in a Wall Street Journal article on Bernie Sanders’s post-election plans was this nugget from the Vermont senator: >

Mr. Sanders cast the DNC as an inept operation that has failed to inspire people to vote, resulting in large Democratic losses in years when the president is not on the ballot.

He said the DNC needs new “leadership and a new chair that would lead the process of transforming the Democratic Party.”

 

Nestled in a Wall Street Journal article on Bernie Sanders’s post-election plans was this nugget from the Vermont senator: >

Now, Bernie Sanders has every reason in the world to think bad thoughts and say negative things about the DNC. And it’s entirely possible, even likely, that the party committee has not covered itself in glory during the Obama years.

But to blame the DNC for poor Democratic turnout in recent non-presidential elections is really unfair.

Truth is (or so I see it, as the author of a book on the 2014 elections) Bernie’s got it a bit backwards. What’s happened since 2008 is that the young and minority voters who almost never vote proportionately in non-presidential elections have become disproportionately Democratic, even as the older and whiter voters most likely to show up in midterm and off-year elections have become disproportionately Republican. This had made non-presidential years a struggle for Democrats independently of other factors. Then you can add in 1) the “exposure” of Democrats to big 2010 losses, thanks to their own 2006 and 2008 landslides, 2) the almost invariable losses the party controlling the White House usually suffers, a pattern that intensifies in second-term midterms like 2014; and 3) the additional 2014 gains the 2010 victories gave the GOP via control of redistricting.

Perhaps “inspiration” was what was lacking for Democrats in 2010 and 2014, or maybe it was something more prosaic like economic and psychological fundamentals. In any event, a new crew at the DNC is not going to solve it overnight. That’s worth thinking about, because if Hillary Clinton does win in November, the next non-presidential election, in 2018, will probably be another bad one for Democrats (a third-term midterm being worse than a second for the White House party, along with an extremely pro-Republican Senate landscape). That’s barring a “revolution,” of course.

No, Bernie, the DNC Didn’t Lose the Midterms