No, it wasn't a repudiation of President Obama. And, no, it was not a GOP triumph of its message. And it certainly was not a win for all the millions of dollars the Koch Brothers and their ilk lavished on the campaign. In fact, those GOP donors - with the exception of telling unanswered lies - wasted their money. (More about that in the P.S below.)
It was simply the lowest turnout in a national election virtually ever.
Only 38% of those eligible went to the polls. 38%!
That's a drop on average nationally of between 10 and 16% as compared to 2010. And 2010 was a stinker as to Democratic stay at-homes and election outcome.
Since Republicans are about 30% of the electorate and vote far more reliably than do Democrats, it's clear that the Democrats weren't there at all on Tuesday. In fact, it's amazing any Democratic candidates won anything.
Why did all those Democrats stay home? The media pundits believe it's because they don't like Obama any more. The more compelling reason seems to me to be that they like him just fine but he wasn't on the ballot. He wasn't there in 2010 and they stayed home and we lost the House. But they came roaring back in 2012 in terrific numbers when he was on the ballot.
It could be, therefore, that they simply didn't like the Democrats who were running for both houses of Congress this year. In fact, one of the reasons they may have turned up their noses was they do like Obama and resent that the Congressional candidates were running away from the president. If rats are perceived fleeing a sinking ship - and the media have certainly portrayed Obama as the Titanic - does anybody love the fleeing rats? They may think them shrewd but most people just want to hit the rats with a broom, the disloyal little scum.
No, folks, I put it to you that the Congressional Democrats lost this election all on their own without any help from Obama. With the exception of a few members of the black caucus in the House, the Democratic members of Congress have been disloyal to him all along. They have failed to defend him or his policies. They have failed to explain that the GOP in Congress is blocking everything and won't play ball and won't compromise or work across the aisle. For six years the GOP and its moneybags friends and Fox News have drummed all kinds of lies into the public's ears. And the Democratic Congress members have sat quiet.
Why? Chicken-hearted? Racist? Lazy? Dumb?
Let's look at dumb. It's dumb not to know what Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebels taught the world. Tell a big lie and tell it often enough and people will believe it. The GOP followers of the "Little Joe" Goebels doctrine told the lies over and over. And the Democrats did not repeatedly repudiate these lies as they needed to do. It's not rocket science. In fact it's simplistic and boring but it must be done: Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. CALL OUT THE LIARS!
As a former political p.r. person I have died a thousand deaths of frustration watching the GOP ravish the political landscape with their lies, never being adequately challenged by the Democrats.
And, heaven help him, President Obama and his staff have been guilty of the same negligence. Poor trusting soul that he is, he thought it was enough to say the truth once and that people would understand and hold onto it. That may work teaching law school - though I taught law school longer than he did and I found a nice bit of repetition was not amiss - but it doesn't work in governing nor in campaigning. Tell them over and over. I felt I had failed at my political p.r. job if I could not get at least three news cycles out of the same story. And that was for local or state campaigns.
Plus the American public has a memory that extends only two weeks.
So where in heaven's name were the Democratic candidates to remind people of what the Democratic party has done for them in recent years? We can't remember stuff on our own. Quick! Without pause, name me six big things Obama and the Democrats have done. Come on! Quick! Quick!
And more important, what did the Democrats running for Congress propose doing for people in the future? And don't say that awful word "infrastructure." You wanna get run out of town? Voters hate that inside lingo. And skip the banal platitudes about improving education for our children. Nobody knows how to do that except good teachers, and nobody has ever run for office promising to make education worse. People want something they can get their teeth into.
Can you think of something sexy to garner votes? Something teeth-worthy?
Well, neither could the Democrat candidates apparently.
We lost our Colorado Senate seat in part because Udall ran a one-note campaign about women's bodily functions. That fight is over on the national level. We women won. And everybody is tired of hearing about it. It continues at the state level in places like Texas where they never get tired of old battles, to wit the Alamo.
So here's a summary for the Democratic Congressional candidates: Dance with the guy that brung ya. Plus remember Ben Franklin's snake: We hang together or we hang separately. Plus always answer the lie RIGHT NOW and tomorrow and every day thereafter. And for God's sake, get yourselves something to run on that's interesting, relevant and specific.
And stop blaming Obama. After all, he won re-election and you Congressional candidates just failed to do that little thing.
As for the rest of us, here's our cold comfort as we snarl at the stay-at-home Democrats: Churchill said that people get the government they deserve so let's hope the non-voters get what they deserve. As for the rest of us: As in baseball, there's always next year.
P.S. The money the Koch's, etc. spent did not increase the vote for the Republicans. Republicans won because the Democrats let them. The Democratic voters stayed home. It wasn't a win. It was a forfeit. This is good news. Because next time, by definition, it will be different. There will be a Democratic candidate running for president who will have a coherent message and a quickness to respond to lies. Someone to fire up the folks. Well, anyway, we damn well hope so. And remember then to vote early and often!