When I left the US in 2009 to teach overseas, the Obama grassroots movement was basking in the pride of 2008 success, even winning my home state of North Carolina. It was shocking that this “movement” fell apart, didn’t turn out for the midterms in 2010, or in 2014. I didn’t know who or what is to blame for that, or if the Republicans were simply great at fomenting “blacklash” and anti-Obamacare votes in low-turnout elections.
The collapse of Obama’s powerful grassroots network of 13 million email supporters, four million online donors, and 2.5 million activists after the 2008 election is one of his greatest failures. Why couldn’t it be mobilized to combat the emergence of the Tea Party in 2010, and to generate record progressive turnout that year and in 2014??
The failure of that movement directly inspires the anger of Bernie Sanders’ supporters. They are seeking to rebuild the movement and re-create the momentum for what activists thought they had achieved in 2008, a “political revolution.”
Larry Sabato, political scientist, says Barack Obama holds the modern record among presidents for overall Democratic Party congressional and gubernatorial losses, at least through 2014. “President Obama has presided over two devastating midterms for his party. From 2008 to the present, Democrats in the Obama era have racked up net forfeitures of 11 governorships, 13 Senate seats, 69 House seats, 913 state legislative seats, and 30 state legislative chambers. In the latter three categories, Obama has doubled (or more) the average two-term presidential loss from Truman through Bush.”
I realize this declaration of failure on Obama’s part in 2010 and 2014 to turn out his voters may give too much responsibility to tactics that cannot necessarily defy a political tide.
Indeed, I will easily concede that no matter what great tactics the Republicans adopted in 2008, they were not going to win that presidential election. The tide was against them. It’s possible that even with the best tacticians and best tactics, Obama and the Democrats were still going to lose the Congress in 2010, and not turn around those losses in 2014.
But critically examining “what went wrong” in 2010 and 2014, besides throwing up one’s hands in helplessness over low turnout of their voters, is fundamental to stemming another tide in 2018 if Democrats happen to win the Senate and the presidency this year.
Related: “No We Can’t: Obama had millions of followers eager to fight for his agenda. But the president muzzled them — and he’s paying the price”