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Blue The Nation | August 2, 2014

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The Party of One Man vs. The Party of One Mission

The Party of One Man vs. The Party of One Mission
Jonathan Nathan

Democrats have become very uncompetitive in off-year elections like the ones upcoming this year in New Jersey and Virginia, not to mention midterms. I believe it’s a byproduct of the different styles of messaging. Republicans sell their voters on a message of ALL THE GAY BLACK JEWISH MUSLIMS ARE COMING TO KILL YOUR GRANDMOTHER WITH SOCIALISM. As a result, the GOP faithful are really much more about a party–a mission–than a particular candidate.

Think about it. For them, it’s a movement, a way of life. This is how they believe they’re saving their families and their nation. They’ll come out for any election. They didn’t care about George W. Bush. Most of them didn’t actually even like him. They didn’t really like McCain or Romney either. They liked Bob Dole well enough, I guess, but he wasn’t some messianic figure. Other than Reagan, they’ve really never had anybody like that, and even their affection for him was as much about the movement he spawned as it was about the man himself.

Democrats, on the other hand, sell their voters on a message of transcendence and hope, and those messages are centered around one person. It’s not just the Obama thing. It’s how the Democrats packaged Kerry, too. It wasn’t how they packaged Gore, but on the other hand, they didn’t really package Gore as anything, which is why he almost lost. It’s very much how Clinton sold himself, although in those days you couldn’t be quite so touchy-feely-new-agey. It’s how Carter was sold. It’s how the Democrats tried to sell McGovern. It’s how they sold all of the Kennedys. It’s how they sold Roosevelt. This is what Democrats do.

But when they do that, they’re selling one candidate. When you get a huge movement centered around a candidate, it’s pretty hard to get that same level of excitement out there for, “Oh, by the way, what about Barack Obama’s super-good buddies? Can you come vote for them too?” It shouldn’t be harder, but it just is. And if it’s tough to get Democratic voters out for a midterm, with the media entertainment complex in full swing, you can imagine that it’s even harder to get them to care about some random November Tuesday in the middle of a year that, for once in their Goddamn lives, wasn’t supposed to have any elections.

Most of us only have to wade through a major election every two years. In Virginia, there’s a major election every single year. Presidential in 2012. House of Delegates and Gubernatorial in 2013. Midterm in 2014. General Assembly in 2015. Presidential in 2016. It never ends. If we want these folks to come out, if we want them to care, we have to make them come out and care. We can’t sell them the apocalypse culture. That’s not what we have to sell, and when we do, wouldn’t you know it, it always surrounds one particular human being. One enemy. Just as we sell our voters on one Presidential candidate, if we’re going to rally them against an apocalyptic threat, it’s going to be one oppositional figure, like George W. Bush.

Our troops go to war for a person or against a person. They don’t do ideological battle over a way of life. Most of them like to think they don’t believe in any one particular way of doing things, at least not enough to go out and fight for it. And if we’re going to expect them to come out in midterms, let alone random off-year elections, we’re going to have to deliver compelling candidates. We’re going to have to have Barack Obamas in every House district, with Obama-level ground games spending a lot of money turning out the voters on election day. We have the numbers in Virginia, just like we have the numbers all over the nation. We have to find a way to bring them out. Barack Obama found a way in 2008, and he found it again in 2012. It’s our job in Virginia in 2013, and all over the country for the next few years.