David Sosnik, who was Bill Clinton’s political director wrote a 12-page memo obtained by Politico (embedded below) warning that the party was in decline, Barack Obama is losing his power and the party may face more problems when Obama is out of the White House
“Since Obama was elected President, the Democrats have lost nine governorships, 56 members of the House and two Senate seats,”
While Republican branding problems get the lion’s share of attention, the Democratic Party’s favorability rating has declined by 15 points since Obama took power. A Pew Research Center survey this January showed that the Democratic Party was viewed favorably by 47 percent of Americans, down from 62 percent in Jan. 2009.
With the likelihood of gridlock and near-record-low confidence in public institutions, Sosnik expects 2014 to bring the fourth change election in the past eight years.
Accoring to Sosnik, Obama’s popularity is tied to him, not the party. And Obama is not building the Democratic
Party’s institutional apparatus in a way that it will thrive when he’s
gone–in fact the opposite may be true:
“Obama not only got elected by running against the party establishment, but he has governed as a President who does not emphasize his party label,” writes Sosnik. “It’s hard to be a change agent if you are lugging around a party label in an era where voters are so strongly disaffected from our institutions.”
Other problems Sosnik outlines include
- The losses in the 2010 midterms gave Republicans control of the redistricting process, which will be in effect until after the 2020 census. This gives the GOP a structural advantage in keeping the House.
- Millennials, born 1981 to 1994, and Generation X’ers, born 1965 to 1980, are voting Democratic, but a plurality identify themselves as independents — which makes them less reliable.
- Democrats cannot count on the same level of African-American turnout without Obama at the top of the ticket. Sosnik cites new analysis showing that in 2012 for the first time ever eligible black voters turned out a higher rate than whites.
- While Republicans have a serious Hispanic problem, Sosnik explains, “younger Hispanics feel less of an allegiance to the Democratic Party than their elders.” Only 50 percent of Hispanic voters aged 18-34 identify themselves as Democrats, according to Gallup, compared to 59 percent of Hispanic voters 55 or older.
Sosnik warns that if Hillary Clinton does not run (and with every new Benghazi revelation that becomes more likely) Democrats will be left with a thin bench of top-flight presidential contenders in 2016 (Cuomo or Biden?)
In terms of actual policy making, Sosnik believes that it will be “almost impossible” for Obama to effectively engage Congress.
“Obama’s victory last November was a great political achievement, but the fact that he didn’t set out a clear policy agenda for a second term left him without a clear mandate to govern over a politically divided Congress,” he writes.
Sosnik notes that many Republicans are more concerned about losing in a primary than a general election, which makes compromise harder.
“Furthermore,” he writes, “there’s not a single member of either party who fears paying a political price for not falling in line with the President, making it even more difficult to get members to cast difficult votes.”
Effectively reducing Obama’s power even further.
For the past six-months the GOP has been wringing its hands fighting over which policies to change to make the party appeal more to different communities. This memo tells a different story, the party still needs to reach out and find a way to appeal to different communities, but the “Democratic brand” is not as popular as the party elites believe.
Strong outreach combined with adherence to conservative Republican values will do the trick. For example charter schools is a great issue for the GOP especially in low-income urban communities where parents are desperately trying to get a better education for their children. That is the kind of thinking the GOP needs from its leaders, not a movement toward the opposing party—even the Democratic thinkers believe are worried that kind of thinking is in decline.
Read the entire memo embedded below.