After Republicans lost a winnable presidential race in 2012, the party conducted an “autopsy” to correct its mistakes and set them back on the path to competitiveness. The GOP admitted in its report, called the “Growth Opportunity Project,” that its national campaigns had lost touch with voters and relied too heavily on top-down national messaging and purely ideological argument. The unique circumstances of the 2016 election didn’t necessarily provide a test of their efforts to correct those problems, but the practical outcome of better networking with voters in swing states turned out to be critical for Republicans in November.
House Democrats will hold their annual retreat this weekend, and CBS News reports that they will also hear an “autopsy” after their stunning losses:
The gathering will include a post-election “autopsy” report, headed by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland gave a small preview of the report to reporters Tuesday.
“You’ve heard me talk about the 1964 election where there was an autopsy on the Republican Party, and four years later they won. And in 1972 there was an autopsy done on the Democratic Party and four years later they won the presidency,” Hoyer said. “He’s going to issue an analysis.”
The problem with presenting an “autopsy” to Democrats, as I explain in my column today at The Fiscal Times, is that Democrats are still in denial about the death — and the fact that it was self-inflicted:
Ever since the election, Democrats have attacked the legitimacy of the election, its outcome, and its consequences. Pick a bête noire, and Democrats have blamed it for their loss in the presidential contest. They have argued that Russian hacks into the DNC’s e-mail system and subsequent release via WikiLeaks (sourcing that WikiLeaks disputes) amounted to foreign interference that made Donald Trump’s victory illegitimate. After that came a social panic about “fake news,” despite no evidence whatsoever that Facebook clicks or any type of page views for nonsensical news stories had any impact at all on voting behavior.
Add to that the strange insistence on citing popular-vote totals to argue that the Electoral College itself is illegitimate. Democrats have tried to argue that Trump should be denied some or all of the powers of the office because of a lack of “mandate,” a condition not found in the Constitution. What can be found in the Constitution is the Electoral College, the only way the US has elected its presidents for more than two centuries, and which Hillary Clinton managed to lose in what should have been a winnable election. …
An honest autopsy by Democrats would tell them much the same about their descent into the political wilderness. Rather than connect with voters, Democrats adopted the kind of top-down messaging and reliance on academic models that sunk Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. Instead of orienting their agenda to the real concerns of voters in much of America, Democrats have instead adopted an increasingly progressive agenda that prioritizes identity politics and uses that philosophy to lecture and condescend to voters.
They continually woo celebrities to scold voters about latent bigotry (and take bizarre shots at the NFL and Mixed Martial Arts contests) rather than find messengers who can help Democrats craft an agenda that speaks to everyone equally. The map of Congressional districts in the US shows just how far that approach has marginalized them over the past eight years, now that the personal popularity of Barack Obama no longer masks the disconnect.
Just how much honesty are Democrats prepared to accept in this “autopsy”? National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis looks at the race for DNC chair and concludes … not much. Democrats will choose between a hard-Left progressive and an even harder-Left progressive, while continuing to ignore heartland voters:
Though the Democrats have nine candidates jockeying for the position, the race seems to have narrowed to two front-runners: Minnesota representative Keith Ellison and Barack Obama’s second secretary of labor, Tom Perez. Meanwhile, trailing underdog Pete Buttigieg has become a plausible third option, giving reason to believe that he could come from behind by playing up his role as successful mayor of South Bend, Ind. …
South Bend is now primarily known as the location of the University of Notre Dame, which contributes heavily to the town’s otherwise declining economy. But unlike previous mayors, Buttigieg has made an effort to propel his constituents to a more prosperous future, expanding partnerships with the university and encouraging the city’s older residents to stop mourning the loss of its former glory and rebuild its economy in new ways. Unlike Ellison and Perez — one a radically progressive representative, the other radically progressive former federal bureaucrat — Buttigieg has a demonstrated ability to appeal to the same white, working-class Midwesterners who responded so positively to Trump. …
The provincial attitude that is causing Democrats to overlook Buttigieg in favor of liberals such as Ellison and Perez is the same attitude that led to their massive losses in November. If they continue to search for a compelling answer to the Trump phenomenon further down the barren road paved by Clinton, it will prove that they still haven’t learned their lesson.
It’s probably worse than that; it would prove that they haven’t figured out that they need to learn a lesson at all. Buttigieg joined Morning Joe today to describe his own autopsy of the 2016 election, and it sounds remarkably similar to the GOP’s own autopsy from 2012 — and much like my book, Going Red, for that matter. “You gotta show up,” Buttigieg says repeatedly, and says that the Democratic Party has stopped serving the state and local organizations while expecting them to serve the DNC. In a sane world, House Democrats would be asking Buttigieg to analyze the results, but … House Democrats voted to keep the same leadership that led them into their worst position in a century, too. Clearly, that’s not a sane world.