The Party’s Over: Why The Democrats Won’t Win Back The House In 2014




As covered multiple times in the past week or so on this site, the Republicans are divided among themselves. The era of Frank Meyer/William F. Buckley style fusionism maybe over. However, the Democrats should not be jumping for joy yet. The Democratic National Committee (DNC)’s leadership over the past few years has become so incompetent that the Democratic Party will not win back the House of Representatives in 2014.

Now, while this prediction may not be startling given the trend of the president’s party historically losing big in the midterm of the President’s second term, it should be for the Democrats. The Republican brand has been destroyed in recent years. The GOP is now defined by people who tend not to be the epitome of marketability. Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and Todd Akin are now on the pedestal where Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan used to stand.

Why can’t the Democrats capitalize in 2014 in the House of Representatives? First, the death of the swing seat. In 2010, Republicans gained control of the majority of the state legislatures across the country. 2010 was a census year, which meant the GOP was in charge of redistricting in those states. The elected Republicans drew districts inherently favorable to Republican candidates.

This means there are fewer swing districts where purple candidates can win, far fewer districts where both parties have to fight for dominance. Instead according to political analyst Charlie Cook, “The House simply doesn’t have much elasticity right now.” In addition, according to the political scientist Alan Abramowitz, the Democrats would need to be able to win a pre-election generic ballot by 12 to 14 percent in order to pick up the 17 House seats needed to regain the majority.

Next, the DNC itself has been extremely incompetent in recent years. According to Politico, the DNC is $15 million in debt. In addition, the DNC has an $8 million loan that is due in June. However, the DNC does not even have $8 million on hand currently. Now, one must compare that to the GOP. According to The Hill, the Republican National Committee (RNC) raised $7.8 million in January alone. The RNC has $9.8 million in the bank without a penny of debt. The RNC so far has been able to capitalize on this spending by investing heavily in the latest technology and building a stronger ground game.

By investing in its technology, the Republican National Committee is on track to catch up to and surpass the Democrats. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Republicans have not yet launched Para Bellum Labs. Para bellum is Latin for “prepare for war.” Para Bellum Labs combines the Republicans’ data-analytics division with the digital marketing division. The Chief Data Officer at the RNC, Azarias Reda, has been making rounds at the nation’s top engineering schools to recruit new talent. Recently, Reda has stated that rather than see the Democrats as a competitor in the search for top talent, the RNC sees companies like Google as more of a threat.

The RNC is already seeing success with this new investment in technology. In January, the RNC collected over 169,000 new email addresses. It has also made significant strides in enabling individual campaigns to be able easily access data from the national party about donors while making significant gains in the collection of the voter information.

What is the DNC doing now for 2014? The DNC is working on and investing their meager funding into a “Voter Expansion Project,” according to NPR. This project will have two sides to it. The first focusing on expanding the number of voters and the second challenging voter identification laws. The program as received support from the Clintons and other prominent Democrats. However, it is fatally flawed.

The Democrats must be aware that challenging voter identification laws is a long-term process. There are two option for getting voter I.D. off the books. The first is to challenge the law in court. If a challenge was to make it to the Supreme Court, the precedent was set in favor of voter identification, as seen in Crawford v. Marion County. Even if the Democrats were able to get the Court to overturn voter I.D. laws, it would take too long to impact the midterm elections.

The other has potential to make an impact in the short term. However, it probably will not. While it is a noble goal to increase participation in democracy, voters who are newly registered are not the most likely to be engaged in a non-presidential election. The Democrats will not have a revolutionary candidate on the ballot – like President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 – to recruit inactive and first-time voters.

Midterms also make it impossible for the Democrats to utilize the coattail effect. The president created political engagement in places where it never existed before. In addition, the president has been a key factor in fundraising, candidate recruitment, and creating name recognition for Democratic candidates. However, since he is not on the ballot, many of his supporters do not see the significance of the midterms election.

The GOP’s lack of leadership is actually probably benefiting them when it comes to voter turnout. According to a Pew Research survey in January, the Republicans have a 10 percent lead on the Democrats when it comes to enthusiasm. It is also key to remember midterm elections tend to reward populism over pragmatism. The Tea Party should bring out a decent number of voters for the GOP. Although the perception of the Tea Party has diminished among the general public, the Tea Party itself is filled with loyalists who are firm in their faith in the movement. Tea Partiers are more likely to be inspired by people like Ted Cruz than radical progressives are by the centrism of President Obama.

The Democrats themselves have a serious divide that they have failed to address. According to the Washington Post, there is a growing divide between liberals and centrists in the Democratic Party. Both groups are disappointed by the leadership of the current Democratic Party. One can expect that the liberals and centrists will go to war over the Democratic Party, much like different factions of the fusionism in the GOP are going at it now.

If the Democrats have a bad year, it really does not necessarily impact their political futures. It will cause them further struggles when it comes to passing left-wing policies. However, they should look at the bright side: If the House re-elects John Boehner, he will be the first Oompa Loompa to serve three terms as Speaker of the House!