The Voters Have Spoken:
What We Have Is Failure To Communicate
by Michael A. Maynard
November 5, 2014

The debacle of the 2014 midterm elections for the Democratic Party was simply a failure to communicate, which the Democratic Party is notoriously poor at doing.

Dictionary.com defines communication as:

1. the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated.
2. the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
3. something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted.
4. a document or message imparting news, views, information, etc.
5. passage, or an opportunity or means of passage, between places.

As this definition states, communication is a two way process, the imparting and interchange of thoughts, opinions and information. Somehow, the idea that communications is a two way process and is the ability to impart “what this means to you is” is completely lost on the Democratic Party and the politicians who are members of it. As the 2014 midterm election campaign progressed, the failure of the Democrats to understand what effective communications really is became all too apparent.

So why didn’t the national Democratic Party get it? And why did it take comedian Bill Maher to explain that the election was not about them being elected, but what they have done the past 6 years and what they will do if elected?

“The midterms are here in four days, and Democrats are in big trouble. Despite the fact that the only idea the Republicans have this election is, “Don’t let anybody get you started on rape”. But it didn’t have to be this way, if Democratic candidates would just stop throwing their own people and achievements under the bus, and distancing themselves from their own president! That is never a winning strategy. …

Well, sorry, but the one I feel bad for is Obama.

– 63 straight months of economic expansion.
– A depression averted.
– A deficit reduced by two thirds.
– A healthcare law that’s working and lowering costs.
– Two women on the Supreme Court.
– bin Laden’s dead.
– Stock market at record heights.
– An unemployment rate that dropped from 10.2 to 5.9%.
– Gas prices are down.

Is it really that hard a record to get behind? And yet, the way these Democrats have been distancing themselves from the President, you would think he’d just flown in from Liberia with his lunch in a barf bag. (audience laughter) There are beheading videos with more likes. (audience oohs)

Instead of chasing polls, move them…..”

Let me add to this list of accomplishments:

– Backed gay marriage (Kentucky became the latest yesterday, making 33 states).
– Led the U.S. to be a net exporter, not importer, of oil and gas. The U.S. now leads the world in oil and gas production.
– Ended two needless wars.
– Spearheaded the effort in managing the Ebola virus worldwide.
– Implemented rules reigning in speculative trading by banks and financial institutions.
– Implemented rules to reign in usury credit card practices by large financial institutions saving consumers millions.
– Increased green energy usage over 200%.
– Reduced hydrocarbons in the atmosphere by 40%.

As New York Times columnist and Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman, a frequent critic of the Obama Administration,stated in Rolling Stone:

But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn’t deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy. ….

Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don’t care about the fact that Obama hasn’t lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn’t quite say, a big deal.

But the Democratic Party couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t communicate all those accomplishments and what they meant to me and other Americans. The Democratic Party couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t communicate all the things that needed to be accomplished that were blocked by the Republicans. The Democratic Party did not state what those initiatives  would mean to me and other Americans, if they were enacted.

– Reducing the interest rates on federal student loans
– Increasing the minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for equal work
– Rebuilding the national infrastructure of roads, bridges and Internet highway
– Keeping net neutrality and the maintaining the openness and affordability of Internet access
– Protecting the reproductive and health choices of women
– Expanding health insurance coverage and improving healthcare delivery

And most importantly, providing a reasonable path to citizenship for those who have immigrated to the U.S., legally and illegally, thereby stopping the record levels of deportations.

Voter turnout rates ranged from a high of 59.3% in Maine, where there was a spirited three-way governor’s race to 28% in Indiana, where neither the governor’s office nor the U.S. Senate seats were being contested. It is likely that the low turnout directly affected the Florida Governor’s and North Carolina’s Senate race, both won by Republicans. However, in both of those elections and in elections throughout the country, there was a precipitous drop in the percentages that voted for President Barack Obama vs. former Massachusetts Governor Willard Romney in 2012.

(For more detailed information of the voting by state in spreadsheet form, go to: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1s2KkvXl4kY6UvC47bksgsJ5kZPoFtdL4L5Roqb0bTJI/edit#gid=2072563414)

Yes, all of the bullet points Bill Maker stated are true, but they didn’t resonate to the voters. 63.4% of the potential voters were not motivated enough to take the time and trouble to either get, fill-out and send in a mail-in ballot or go to their voting site. No doubt the GOP efforts at voter suppression in Texas, Wisconsin and other states hurt the Democratic candidates, but they were not the primary factor in deciding the election. Voter apathy was.

Of great concern to Democrats should be the lack of turnout by the three groups they depended upon to vote: women, non-whites, and youth.

– 21% of single women voted versus 23% in 2012.
– 12% of blacks voted vs. 13% in 2012.
– 8% of Latinos voted vs. 10% in 2012
Only 21.3% of the millennials voted. They represented only 13% of the total vote compered to 25% for seniors.

The Democrats did not connect emotionally to their base to motivate them to vote like the Republicans did. The Democrats had the facts on their side, but the Democratic/ liberal mind always wants the facts. The Independent and Republican minds are driven by emotion. While the national economy is doing better, it did not feel that way to those who did vote. They were fearful about their jobs and the future of the country.

“Obama has tried to convince the public of his administration’s progress, especially on the economy. The exit surveys found 40 percent of voters rated the economy as the most important issues, but despite signs of modest improvements – unemployment below 6 percent, the stock market surging and gas prices dropping – the electorate expressed a generally pessimistic view.

One-quarter of voters said health care was the top issue in their vote, while about one in seven said foreign policy or illegal immigration was most important.

“People want to feel the ground they’re standing on is a little bit more firm, and the reason they don’t is Republican obstruction,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said on MSNBC. “That is the contrast, the choice people are making all across the country.”“

Here is an example of what not to do from an e-mail (again) from Ms. Wasserman Schultz and the DNC:

Although make no mistake: last night’s results were no accident. It was the result of Republicans’ cynical political strategy that put hurting President Obama before helping the American people. The President put it best just a few months ago:

There has been a certain cynical genius to what some of these folks have done in Washington. What they’ve realized is, if we don’t get anything done, then people are going to get cynical about government and its possibilities of doing good for everybody. And since they don’t believe in government, that’s a pretty good thing.

And the more cynical people get, the less they vote. And if turnout is low and people don’t vote, that pretty much benefits those who benefit from the status quo.

— President Barack Obama (August 29, 2014)

In other words, the Republicans broke Washington. Then, they spent millions of dollars of secret money running against a broken Washington.

So yeah, last night was rough. It’s infuriating that Republicans’ cynical strategy worked. But we refuse to give in to them. We refuse to give in to the cynicism. As President Obama always says, “hope is a better choice.”

No offense, Ms. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,  hope may be a better choice, but you can’t eat hope. Blaming the Republicans means that you don’t intend to make any changes because it wasn’t your fault. You have to earn trust and hope and playing the blame game is all too symbolic of the gridlock that the voters hate. They responded by staying home.

This video is a classic example of how to politically communicate by a masterful politician and communicator, who just happens to be a Democrat, President William Jefferson Clinton, the man from Hope. After the stock abstract answer by then President George H.W. Bush, Clinton validates the audience member’s question. He then provides empathy for her situation. Clinton then personalizes his response before getting into the point by point specific details. In summing up, he then challenges the audience and provides motivation for their participation in the Presidential election process. Clinton is a master at “I feel your pain”, the empathy that the Democratic Party candidates did not show to the voters throughout the midterm elections.

The Democratic Party did not listen, did not hear the pain of the people who once believed in hope and voted in kind. What is needed and necessary is a vision and a plan on how to go forward together once again, without more of the same gridlock. Successful politics is the combination of good policy, good governance and good two-way communications. You still have to give people a reason to vote.

Millennials are having trouble finding good jobs, even those with college degrees from good schools. Blacks are still facing discrimination daily, as evinced in the events of Fegurson, Ohio and St. Louis. Latinos are upset at how the “border crisis” was handled; the lack of progress on immigration and citizenship; and how families were split up through ham-handed deportations. Many women are still getting paid $.78 on the dollar to what their male counterparts are getting paid for doing the same jobs. Middle class families have seen their earning power gradually erode while the very rich get richer. Some of those problems can be solved quickly through legislative action and government enforcement. Some of those problems are long-standing and will take a long time to improve. Most Democratic candidates failed to give their ideas on how to improve these situations or even acknowledge they still exist. Why should they vote for the party that said they had the solutions and failed to deliver them?

What we have here is failure to communicate. The voters have spoken.

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.

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