The Noise Machine: How Democrats can buck historical trends and win in 2016

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

Last week, the Republican circus moved from Cleveland, to Atlanta, with no signs of slowing down. Early poll numbers suggest Donald Trump wasn’t permanently damaged by his erratic–and predictable–behavior at the debate, while Jeb! Bush and Scott Walker’s poll numbers sank. Of course, all of this is subject to change, just like a weather forecast. Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of the Democrats and the Republicans grew wider. As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to draw record crowds, demonstrating the frustration among Americans on the left, Hillary Clinton unveiled plans for “debt-free college,” among other major policy changes for the millions suffering under the burden of student loans.

Whether Clinton’s plans for student loans are a silver bullet remains to be seen–not including full out debt relief may stoke the ire of many progressives–but it is refreshing to see the adults in the room actually discuss policies that matter. While Republicans debated how best to repeal the Obama years, what their faith means to them, and how best to outflank one another from the right, few provided details into the issues that are truly defining the United States today. In fact, by the time the RedState Gathering started in Atlanta, many Republicans and pundits were focused on Donald Trump’s crass comments toward FOX News host Megyn Kelly, not policy, nor what it takes to govern.

While policy and governing may come off as boring, it may be Democrats’ ticket to a third consecutive term.

Many wonder if Democrats can hold the White House for a third consecutive term and today, we can present to you the exact reason why Democrats may very well find themselves retaining control of the executive branch. While doling out red meat makes for a fun primary season, after an entire presidency filled with divisiveness, a polarized political elite running the country, and millions of Americans duped by social media, cable news, and the deepest, darkest corners of the internet, it’s not unreasonable to assume a Republican has the upper hand come 2016, despite a map favoring Democrats.

It’s naive to think political silly season will dissipate or our politics will somehow change. American politics is almost defined by the ridiculousness of campaign mudslinging and media portrayals of candidates and their campaigns. The media doesn’t want fact-based policy discussions by candidates like Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, they want Donald Trump spouting inane nonsense, while other Republicans fight back–or better yet–attempt to out Donald, the Donald. Putting it simply, if you think FOX News wanted the GOP candidates to have a serious discussion about the future of our nation in last week’s debate, your naïveté is cute and politics probably isn’t for you.

Putting aside the national conversation, Democrats have another reason to fear their ability to buck trends and win a third consecutive term and it has nothing to do with whom the Democrats nor the Republican nominate. It has everything to do with down ballot races.

Republicans control 27 state legislatures, and Democratic ability to compete down ballot is in serious doubt. While the juggernaut of a presidential campaign can certainly help an otherwise meager Democratic presence in a state, the lack of quality down ballot candidates or preexisting infrastructure could make it a tall task for Democrats to win. However, all is not lost on Democrats and they should look at the current level of political noise as an opportunity, not a tall task.

Credit: University of Virginia's Center for Politics

Credit: University of Virginia’s Center for Politics

What you see on television is entertainment, not politics, nor governing. It’s a silly sideshow to keep Americans entertained, allow FOX to charge a premium for advertising, and causes us to ignore the pressing issues of our time. Watching last week’s GOP debate didn’t inform the American people, it kept them entertained for two hours. It’s doubtful many or most watching take any of the candidates seriously, and that’s where Democrats can win votes over the next 15 months.

While speaking to his unbelievably large crowds, Bernie Sanders is discussing many of the very issues plaguing millions of Americans. This is pulling Democratic rival Hillary Clinton further to the left and will force her into the retail politics so necessary in early primary states. Despite my doom and gloom prediction for Democrats, the Clinton/Sanders primary creates the opportunity for the policy discussion and retail politics typically unseen outside of Iowa and New Hampshire. Talk to the voters, listen to the voters, craft policy positions demanded by the voters and sell them one-by-one to the American electorate. While FOX, MSNBC, and CNN obsess over Trump’s latest insult, or the progressive blogs lose their collective minds over today’s latest offensive comment from a GOP candidate not named Trump, Democrats up and down the ballot can converse with rational Americans, and work like hell to earn their votes.

 

Barack Obama tried to be the adult in the room, and Republicans have attempted to stop him at every turn. It seems likely that would continue under a President Clinton or President Sanders, but as Americans grow more frustrated by the actions–or inactions–from their elected officials, the childish games of the Republicans may grow thin and Americans may finally embrace the adult in the room. Democrats have a chance to be the adults and for the sake of the country, they can’t screw it up.

 

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