Newspaper article Roll Call

Why Democrats Can't Count on Voters Blaming a 'Republican Congress'

Newspaper article Roll Call

Why Democrats Can't Count on Voters Blaming a 'Republican Congress'

Article excerpt

Most emails I receive are fundraising propaganda easily ignored, since they aren't strong on accuracy or thoughtfulness. Instead, they merely seek to incite and anger -- and to get people to open their checkbooks to stop the forces of evil.

But the Monday email I received from the Progressive Majority Action Fund, which defines itself as a "nonprofit advocacy group that helps turn grassroots activists into progressive champions," wasn't like that. It was a "messaging" memo to ask friends, and apparently journalists, to use the words "Republican Congress" each and every time they refer to Congress.

Messaging, of course, is the life blood of politics, so it's understandable activists on the left and the right battle over words and terms. I certainly don't have a problem with that, or with the group's particular effort.

But the group argued in its memo that Democrats lost in 2014 because even though voters "loathed" the House and Senate, they "had no idea which party was responsible for congressional dysfunction."

"Swing voters had no idea which candidates to hold responsible for congressional failure," continued the memo, which seeks to change that.

There is more messaging in the memo -- including assertions this will be the worst Congress in memory and Republicans always side with the rich "against the rest of us" -- and you can take it or leave that messaging if you want. But you should not accept the premise of the memo, which is that President Barack Obama was not a factor in the midterm balloting.

In fact, although the memo mentions the president once, and only then in the context of Republicans obstructing action on Capitol Hill, he was by far the single biggest factor in the elections' outcome. Voters held Obama responsible because that's how voters see midterm elections.

Yes, it's true some voters were simply unhappy with where the country was (and is) headed, and yes, many had (and have) a low opinion of Congress. But when voters are unhappy, they are much more likely to take out their anger on the sitting president than on Congress. …

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