Why Democrats got rocked in the 2014 Midterms

By YeOldeScribe ~ November 6th, 2014 @ 10:28 pm

Liberals can be cute about it and say that they won some elections they thought they might lose. They can rationalize it and say that the losses weren’t as bad as they could have been, or that they did better than they thought they were going to. If they’re really desperate, you might hear them say that it wasn’t as bad as 2010.

But make no mistake about it, the Democrats got whipped two days ago. There’s no justifiable way to sugarcoat it. Not only did the Democrats lose the Senate, they lost gubernatorial races they were expected to win (or at least put up a good fight in). Take Wisconsin, for example. Mary Burke lost to Gov. Scott Walker 46.6% to 52.3%. In a contested election like that race was, a six-point victory is a blowout. Think soccer scoring, not football.

In Missouri, the results were surprisingly Republican as well. While it didn’t shock anyone that Vicky Hartzler won her election against a Democrat with no funding or real party backing, other elections certainly provided a jolt. Chuck Basye will take over the 47th State Congressional District from Democrat John Wright, who in our opinion did nothing to lose the seat except for being in the same party as the sitting president during a midterm election. Even in the elections Democrats won, they didn’t win by much. Nora Dietzel becomes the new recorder of deeds by a 1.2 percent margin. Brian McCollum is the new county collector after a three point victory and Kim Shaw will serve on the division 5 bench with a margin of victory of just 3.8 percent.

Now, when Boone County (and Columbia in particular) elect or almost elect a Republican candidate when a viable Democratic one is available, you know something’s up. So what happened this election cycle?

If we’re being honest, we can put a lot of the blame on the type of election: midterms. During a midterm election, the party in power almost always loses. This seems to be especially true when it comes to Democrats. A lot of that is just because of where the party chooses to spend their resources. Democrats open up their wallets when the stakes are highest during a presidential election, but can pull the purse strings taut when it comes to midterms.

Part of the reason is because Democrats didn’t run on a platform. Anytime you’re not giving voters a unified reason to vote for your candidates, it’s not a good sign. To be fair, the only platform Republicans ran on was “Obama is a bad leader” (to put it mildly), but that was enough a platform to get their base out.

A good reason why Democrats didn’t run on a platform? They didn’t have much to show for their last two years of leadership. A lot of that comes from a deeply divided Congress, so it might be unfair to place the blame on the shoulders of Senate Democrats. But who said politics were fair? Obama’s even getting the blame for the inefficiencies of Congress, which he has no control over.

But perhaps the biggest reason the Democrats got shellacked is because of turnout. When voter turnout is high, Democrats typically do better. And turnout for the midterms has been going down in recent years. Most importantly, turnout for younger voters is going down while the elderly population is voting at a higher rate than in previous years:

NBC Screen Cap

Graphic via NBC news

This chart tells you a lot. In the last three midterm elections, voters under 30 have cast their ballots at the same abysmal 12 percent rate. Now, to give millennials credit, they do vote at a somewhat higher rate in presidential elections. Ironically, the exact opposite is true for older voters. They are more likely to vote in midterms than in presidential elections. Their 37 percent turnout rate this year is 12 percentage points higher than their turnout in 2012.

You can blame the loss on a lot of things, but this is a troubling trend that Democrats will have to deal with if they want to contend in future midterm elections. Of course, if they can keep winning the presidential elections, maybe they don’t have to worry about it.


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