The American economy is doing better than ever and every day we learn that a new record has been set: it is doing better than all other developed countries; October was the 49th month in a row with job gains, making it the best run since WWII; unemployment fell to 5.8% and labor participation rose. The number of bankruptcies dropped to its lowest since 2007; the deficit shrank, inflation is very low and GDP is growing at a 3, 5% rate. Gasoline prices have declined a dollar per gallon, which puts more money in the hands of the consumer. That is why consumer confidence has risen to its highest level since July 2007 and retail sales are climbing. The S&P 500 almost triplicated since 2009. Despite all that, the Democrats lost the midterm elections. How do we make sense of that?
There was a lot of talk about how the electorate was older and more white, how the democratic constituency didn’t turn out to vote in the midterm elections, how the democratic party was not able to galvanize the electorate, how the Republicans outspent the Democrats. I will leave that analysis for the political scientists and strategists. The way I see it, the Democrats lost because they distanced themselves from Obama rather than embracing his record. Instead of defending the government’s policies, which are working despite the sabotage of the Republicans, they decided to separate themselves from the President. The Democratic candidate running for the Senate in Kentucky refused to divulge whether she voted for Obama. That is plain stupidity: nobody would hold that vote against her as he is the leader of her party. However, not admitting it didn’t looked right. At one point she looked like a contender but she ended up losing big.
It is true that the recovery hasn’t reached everybody and wages are lagging. It is true that inequality has increased but it is also true that those against the increase on minimum wage are the Republicans. When asked directly, the electorate in Republican states voted for an increase in the minimum wage: in Nebraska, it won by 30%, in Alaska by 37%, in Arkansas by 32%, in South Dakota by 18%.
Another interesting point is that at least 5 Senators who have strong views against abortion were elected. At the same time, in two states where the voters were given the chance to answer directly if they were in favor of personhood, which is a radical anti-abortion legislation, they vote against it.
The governors of Connecticut and Colorado- where there were massacres (Newtown and Aurora) in recent past- had to fight against the NRA lobby and won. Both governors, who are in favor of gun restriction and back ground checks, were reelected. There were other good victories also in Florida, Nebraska, and Arizona where radicals with policies against woman and gays and the government lost.
So although the Republicans won, there were also small victories, my favorite being that Scott Brown lost in New Hampshire. He now has the record of having lost twice to different women. Let’s celebrate.
I defend a subtle distinction in the midterm elections: the Republicans didn’t win, but rather the Democrats lost. President Obama, talking to press right after the debacle, summarized the message that should have been the mantra of the democrats campaign: “our country has made real progress, more Americans are working, unemployment had come down, manufacturing has grown, our deficit had shrunk, our dependency on foreign oil is down, as our gas prices, our graduation rates are up, our economy is outpacing most of the world, but we just got to keep adding until every American feel the gains of the economy”. I wonder why the Democrats didn’t want to put these facts on their ads.
The Republicans on the other hand, used the most penetrating message for Americans: their fear. Republicans won by exploiting Americans’ fear of Ebola and ISIS. The 1/3 of the electorate who went to the polls voted to keep terrorists out of the US homeland making judgments based on Republican messages and advertising that ISIS was on the verge of invading the US. They won exploiting Ebola; they won with the message that the USA would be the next West Africa- with hundreds of people dying from Ebola. These messages resembled the days when Republicans used to say- in regards to the deficit- that the USA would be the next Greece. It doesn’t matter that less than 10 people so far were diagnosed with Ebola and are in good health, back to their normal life, except one that was misdiagnosed. Republicans spent months terrorizing the country and it worked. Americans are so, so gullible…. it doesn’t cease to amaze me.
Democrats should have seen the recent election in Brazil and learned something: although in Brazil a lot of people think that the country is going in the wrong direction- a feeling shared by Americans in regards to the USA- Dilma was reelected just by repeating that unemployment was the lowest in history and the minimum wage was the highest. It didn’t matter that there were no economic growth and inflation was high; she just focused on that one message and kept repeating it. The democrats could have done the same, just picking unemployment and economic growth for instance, and ran on it. Instead they let the Republicans run on Ebola and ISIS.