President Barack Obama at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, March 20, 2014.
Brian Blanco / EPA

Obama to Dems: ‘In midterms we get clobbered’

There’s an old cliche that in order to address a problem, someone first has to acknowledge there is a problem. With this in mind, President Obama spoke at a DCCC fundraiser last night in Miami, where he seemed well aware of the fact that when it comes to his party and midterm elections, Democrats have a problem.
“The problem is not that the American people disagree with us on the issues. The challenge is, is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith and finally they just say, ‘You know what, I’m not interested, I’m not going to bother, I’m not going to vote.’
“And that’s especially true during the midterms. During presidential elections, young people vote, women are more likely to vote, blacks, Hispanics more likely to vote. And suddenly a more representative cross-section of America gets out there and we do pretty well in presidential elections. But in midterms we get clobbered – either because we don’t think it’s important or we’ve become so discouraged about what’s happening in Washington that we think it’s not worth our while.
“And the reason today is so important and the reason that I’m so appreciative for all you being here is because we’re going to have to get over that. This is a top priority.”
OK, so the president – the de facto head of his party – realizes Democrats have a midterm turnout problem that needs attention. Republicans may be unpopular, may have an agenda rejected by the American mainstream, may have no accomplishments to run on, may be on the wrong side of the issues voters care about most, and may be responsible for congressional ineptitude on a historic scale, but Democrats are still likely to get “clobbered” because their supporters just don’t show up in midterm elections.
The question is what Obama and his allies intend to do about it.
Ed Kilgore doesn’t see a whole lot of options.
In reality, there’s only so much Democrats can do to eliminate the midterm falloff, short of some revolutionary GOTV techniques we haven’t heard about yet. But at the margins, at least, efforts to do something midterm falloff could have a big impact, and it’s good to see Obama himself mention it, if only to throw some sand into dumb arguments like the one that claims Obamacare will keep young voters at home.
It’s possible Republican candidates will be extreme enough to inspire Democratic voters to get off the couch this fall. It’s also possible the discussion about midterm turnout may itself serve as a reminder to the party’s voters.
For that matter, I still wonder if the party might unveil some kind of limited agenda/platform, effectively telling the electorate, “If you get rid of the Republican Congress, we guarantee you’ll get a minimum-wage increase, immigration reform, a jobs bill, ENDA….”
But for now, step one for Dems is realizing that their biggest hurdle isn’t the Affordable Care Act; it’s a listless voter base. Step two is getting those voters excited about something.

Obama to Dems: 'In midterms we get clobbered'