I turn 40 tomorrow.
In my lifetime, Barack Obama is the only Democrat to secure more than 50 percent of the popular vote.
Sure, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton got the plurality of the vote while losing the Electoral College. Bill Clinton won in 1992 (43%) and 1996 (49%) without ever breaking 50%.
Third-parties played a role in all of these elections. But that primarily points to how uninspiring the Democrats have generally been.
Our strategy is a failing strategy, especially when it comes to building legislative majorities. We can occasionally eek out presidential victories. We have controlled both houses of Congress at times, but we appear to be moving toward permanent minority status. This is especially the case if we continue to run national campaigns which are unable to garner broader support.
The Democratic Leadership Council, a conservative Democrat group, tried to alter the fortunes of the Democratic Party in the late 1980s and the 1990s. They were part of the Clinton/Gore inner-circle. President Obama marked the death of the DLC, though his ideology was not particularly different from the Clinton-wing of the Party. Yet, we returned to that old dead way of politics in 2016,
The primary difference between Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 was style and personality. Obama had personality. Gore, Kerry, and Clinton…didn’t. Clinton often pointed to her activism in the 1970s and it appeared that her campaign also stuck in the 20th century.
Either way, even Obama was unable to maintain legislative majorities. In the house, this is partially because of gerrymandering. But gerrymandering has been part of our political model going back to the founding. Like the Electoral College, gerrymandering is part of outdated political system. Sadly, that system is not likely to change (especially since many of the needed systemic changes would require amending the Constitution).
We need to try something new.