Democrats need a new strategy for 2016

Progressive politicians should learn from their mistakes in 2014 to win back a majority.

by Ronald Dixon

Across the United States, the Republican Party celebrated its decisive victories over the Democratic Party two weeks ago. Indeed, the GOP regained control of the U.S. Senate, so the party now holds a majority in both houses of Congress. Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lost control of the House.

Looking forward, Democrats must drastically change their campaign strategies if they plan on taking back Congress and maintaining control of the presidency after President Barack Obama leaves office in two years.

The heart of problem in the recent elections appeared to be the low voter turnout, especially among progressives, a group that historically has done a horrible job of showing up at the polls for midterm elections. Thankfully, though, there are ways to motivate liberally minded voters to cast their ballots come 2016.

One strategy would be for Democrats to proudly embrace Obama and the Democratic candidate that will hope to claim the Oval Office after Obama ends his second term. I say this because Democrats across the country refused to stand with Obama during the midterm elections because of the president’s low approval ratings.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, who ran against then-Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., even refused to disclose whether she voted for Obama in 2012. If Democrats don’t stand behind their leader, then how can they expect progressive voters to cast their ballots?

Also, in many states where conservatives won seats, their constituents concurrently voted for progressive ballot initiatives, such as marijuana legalization and minimum wage hikes. Therefore, if Democrats — particularly those running in close elections — publicly advocate for supposedly “controversial” policy positions that a majority of voters actually support, then their odds of beating their Republican challengers would rise.

Finally, the Democrats who serve in legislatures across the country need to push to end the many voter identification laws that states have implemented in the past few years.

Statistically, these laws have suppressed voting rights for hundreds of thousands of Americans, disproportionately impacting the young, the poor and minorities, all of whom are key Democratic supporters.

In the future, if progressives are continually locked out of the ballot box because of conservative regulations, then no one will hear their voices. If this happens, Republicans will more than likely continue to represent districts that should go to Democratic leaders instead.

Regardless of whether Democrats take my advice, presidential election years typically see higher voter turnout among progressives than midterm elections. Nevertheless, Democrats need to use their defeat as a lesson for 2016.