Structural Factors

A constant refrain from the pundit elite this midterm has been how different things could be if only the President had been able to "connect." If only the President -- like Reagan, or Clinton -- had more charismatically or effectively communicated his economic plan... If only the President had struck a nerve with the electorate...

Salon's Steve Kornacki explains how the "failed to connect" myth fails to really explain:

It's tempting -- really, really tempting -- to watch Bill Clinton on television these days and to say, "Gee, the Democrats would be much better off right now if he were in the White House instead of Barack Obama"...

Clinton, pundits are now telling us, embodies the magic formula that Obama is missing...

This is true, but only to a point. Yes, Clinton was -- and is -- one of the most effective communicators the Democratic Party has ever produced. But his gift for persuasion had sharp and clear limits while he was president, and when he was faced with a political climate like the one Obama now confronts, it was utterly useless... In short, Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton in the 1994 midterms -- and his party still got massacred...

And when the dust settled, the political world -- Republicans, Democrats and the media -- was united in one conclusion: Clinton was a goner in 1996. The country had tuned him out. He had lost his ability to "connect."

His experience is well worth keeping in mind now. We like to think that personality, message and campaign tactics are what define elections -- that the good politicians are the ones who put all of this together in a way that trumps structural factors like the economy. But that's just not how it works. Clinton's words -- no matter how masterfully crafted and articulated -- fell on deaf ears in 1994, just as Obama's are mostly falling on deaf ears today. It was only when favorable structural factors were again present that Clinton began "connecting" again.

No matter how masterfully crafted or articulated. Voters aren't responding to a lack of polished message or even a rejection of the ideas that do reach them. They aren't embracing the GOP or their economic "plan."  There is even some evidence that they don't think Democrats have gone far enough with reform.  So how is Obama losing them?

The "structural factors" influencing the feelings of voters this election are as much about the perception that Washington is broken, and that Democrats can't get it done in the face of Republican obstruction (another way in which the GOP was succeeding in 1994) as they are about high unemployment.

2010 won't be 1994 again for the Democrats, but to change the political climate, the President and House Democrats need to get in and fight for legislation, bold legislation. Ironically, a small GOP majority in the House might make that happen faster.

Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Structural Factors, 2010 midterms (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

I totally agree.

This is an election year in which the voters will reward bravery.  There is still time to get this done.

A majority in the house will not make that happen faster.   There's nothing wrong with the house of representatives, they voted for the public option.

The people who really get things done in the world - need control of the Senate. Hint: its not the Republican "house divided" party.

 

 

by Trey Rentz 2010-09-27 04:32PM | 0 recs
Dem voters weren't stupid in 1994

They knew their jobs had been shipped offshore by NAFTA, and also weren't pleased with other faux Republican moves from the Democrats.

They stayed home.

Funny how history repeats itself, same Rahm this year.

by judybrowni 2010-09-27 07:51PM | 0 recs
RE: Dem voters weren't stupid in 1994

Rahm Emmanuel left the White House today.  This is a good move. Although he'd like us to believe its so he can run for Mayor of Chicago,  I would offer that in the old-boy network of Chicago politics, the fact that our President is a former State Senator and hails from the windy city - might just add up to a badly needed infusion of new blood into the office of chief of staff.

Obama's appointments can be pretty damned good - Elizabeth Warren is a good example. There may be an 'october surprise' in this next appt.

 

by Trey Rentz 2010-09-28 09:11AM | 0 recs
How do you figure...

... that more bold legislation will result from a small GOP majority in the house?

by jlars 2010-09-27 09:41PM | 0 recs
Salon is suspect

They seem to have a crazy anti-Obama bent and they can't get over it.

1994 is not 2000, it is not 2004, it is not 2008, and it is not 2010.  Every election is different.

Clinton was in the middle of a tough economy, a deficit he inherited, and he just failed in passing a major reform.

Obama is in the middle of a far more challenging economy, a much larger deficit he inherited, and he succeeded in passing one of his major reforms and many others.

Obama didn't fall on deaf ears last night in front of 26,000 at his rally.

If you are deaf get a hearing aid.   I hear just fine.

by RichardFlatts 2010-09-29 06:38PM | 0 recs

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