I've spent a couple of days soaking in the various theories of our massive loss this week, and I've arrived at only one conclusion: It's not the voters' fault.
Yes, the voters showed their indifference by staying away in droves. (We're on track for the lowest turnout since World War II.)
But think of it this way: We simply made a crappy movie and no one wanted to stand in line to see it.
For years, I've been saying that Republicans are the Party of Sales and Marketing ("Hey, I've got this really great plan, you're going to love it!") and Democrats are the Party of Customer Service ("I'm sorry you're upset, please don't yell at me and I'll try to help you!"). I was in sales for a decade, I had a lot of sales training. I kept bringing it up at progressive conferences that we could learn a lot from how Republicans sold their ideas, and I'd always get the same response: A wrinkled nose, as if they'd stepped in doggy doo, and some variation on "we're not used car salespeople, we're better than those sleazeballs!" Oh well.
The first thing they teach you in sales is how to evaluate the person you're trying to sell. What type of personality they are? If they're the kind of people who feel safer with statistics, that's how you frame your pitch. If they're a warm and fuzzy type, you talk about feelings. Etc.
The most important task of a sale pitch is uncovering the pain point. This is crucial, because if you go into a sales meeting where you assume what the customer wants, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. The whole point is to solve the customer's problem! You're not the person who gets to decide what that problem is.
With Republicans, the pain point is fear. Fear of illegal immigrants, Ebola, Islamic terrorists, a bankrupt government, government interference, angry black hordes and the government taking away their guns. Freedom!
What's the pain point with Democrats? Security. Good job, good schools, health care, clean air and water, a bright economic future. A sense that if you work hard and do the right thing, you'll get ahead. Fairness!
How do you think we're doing with that?
Our lackluster performance in the mid-terms can be blamed on a lot of things (and in the coming months, I'm sure we'll hear about all of them), but here's the one that sticks out like a sore thumb: We're still really, really bad at selling.
Part of it is, we had no unified, consistent message of what we offer. Because we're customer service, and it keeps changing according to whatever complaint (polls) you have! So we don't create a coherent, wonderful vision of how life could be if Dems were in charge again, because we're largely re-active, not pro-active.
(Note: Some Dems did do this. Some of them even won.)
How do you inspire enough people to turn out in the midterms? I'll tell you what we shouldn't do: Piss on their legs and tell them it's raining. I remember when George W. Bush got whomped in the midterms, and I knew it was coming. Why? Because the economy was in the shitter: growing numbers of layoffs, unemployment benefits cut off, and families really worried about the future.
What did the Republicans and their media enablers keep touting? That the Dow was booming and the GDP was growing! I remember the talking heads frowning and saying, "Voters say they're still worried about the economy, but obviously this is just an unfounded perception problem, because the stock market is booming!"
The stock market and the GDP do not reflect the real economy. It's not a selling point. Just stop it.
You heard the exact same nonsense with this election. Dems kept talking about how great the economy is after six years of Obama -- but it just isn't, not for ordinary people. Yes, people are starting to get jobs again -- but they're shitty, lower-paying jobs that haven't kept up with inflation. You're going to push this as a sales point?
The voters who bothered to show up reacted the same way. Far too many of them went into the voting booth and committed acts of vandalism: "Throw them all out." Should we blame them? Hell, no. Give them a movie that makes it worth standing in line and even buying popcorn!
Here's the movie we could have sold: "We got Obamacare for many of you. It's not enough -- here are some of the problems you've told us about. But we're listening. Here are the ideas we have to fix things when we're in charge. But we're also going to hold public hearings on a plan to transition to Medicare for all.
"We also want to lower the Social Security retirement age to 60, because that will open up jobs for young people and allow those who have already worked hard to retire.
"One of the biggest obstacles to employment in many parts of our country is illiteracy. We will start a massive 10-year program to make sure every single American knows hows how to read, not just for employment, but to make us all better citizens.
"And finally, we hear the stories of those of you who are struggling with impossible debt. We are going to go back to the same common-sense bankruptcy laws we used to have, where it was affordable and included the ability to discharge student debt."
Very different from what we actually heard, right?
What else would you have included?