Pollsters were off in Florida and elsewhere.
According to a July CBS poll in battleground states, supporters of President Donald Trump in Florida were more likely to be very enthusiastic about their candidate by a margin of 5 percent.
Further, Trump voters in other swing states were also more enthusiastic about supporting Trump than the Biden voters were about Joe Biden.
Therefore, due to the enthusiasm of Trump vs. Biden voters in key swing states, I was not surprised that Trump won Florida or that it was a closer horse race nationally than was predicted. In Florida, the GOP actually won two seats from incumbent Democrats Rep. Donna Shalala and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powel.
But the Democrats brought the House and Senate defeats on themselves. Biden and the Democrats did not come up with an exciting, persuasive and targeted strategy. The pitch was simply, “get rid of Trump,” emphasizing his objectionable personality and obvious personal flaws like his dishonesty. But that strategy did not help in House or Senate races, many of which went for the GOP candidates, against all predictions.
So, what now for the Democrats? Can the continuing COVID-19 mess still be used to motivate voters over 65 to vote Democratic in 2022? Can the Democrats find a way to motivate progressive younger voters, often Sanders and Warren supporters, to vote in higher proportions for moderate Democratic candidates they don’t really like? Here’s my take.
The Democratic leadership needs to coalesce around specific goals that are important to the majority of voters. For example, the GOP has sought to privatize and cut benefits for decades. Democrats should continue to drive these points home in places like Florida if they expect to drain away GOP support from the boomers (born 1946-1964) and older seniors (the silent generation).
The Democrats need a master “wordsmith” to run focus groups to determine the most politically acceptable wording to address clearly needed police systemic reform without turning off moderates. Democrats must clearly condemn riots and violence while staying away from contentious terms, like the ridiculous notion of “defunding the police.”
The Democratic leadership must strongly condemn out-of-the-mainstream ideas like cutting military aid to Israel and backing the divestment movement. A recent AP survey in Florida showed only 56 percent of Jews voted for Biden, significantly lower than the national percentage of 68 percent, which was also the lowest percentage for any Democrat in decades.
The failure of the House leaders like Rep. James Clyburn to pass a specific resolution condemning anti-Semitism after clearly anti-Semitic remarks (“It’s all about the Benjamins) by Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar had a lasting effect, especially on older Jews like those in Florida. Even younger Jews are turned off when Democrats turn a blind eye to campus incidents of anti-Semitism.
For Democrats to have the best chance o defeating Trump, they must also have a good turnout of younger voters (and minorities). Democratic candidates seem to be doing only a fair job of solidifying their support among the young, who must be more motivated to vote than in previous elections.
Issues like forgiving college loans (which Biden adopted from Sen. Bernie Sanders) play well with financially strapped younger voters. However, other progressive social items that might increase Gen Z turnout, like marijuana legalization, surprisingly have not been pushed by Biden or the Democrats nationally.
Further, Democrats have not structured a clear campaign message for Gen Xers and millennials. They’re in their peak earning years, but also paying more taxes than those older and younger. What benefits will they get as a group if Democrats are elected to the Senate and House?
In order to actually get their agenda passed in Congress, the Democrats must have more senators and representatives elected in 2022. And that means drastically improving their strategic planning, targeting and messaging.
Jack Bernard lives in Peachtree City, Ga.