The Democratic Party should pay attention to the message sent by voters in Tuesday’s mid-term elections, or they might face even more losses in 2012, according to Gregory Dixon, a political scientist at the University of West Georgia.
Voters, and especially those in Georgia, signaled their displeasure with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress at the ballot box, giving the Republican Party a majority in the House of Representatives and slicing the Democrats’ majority in the Senate.
Dixon said the Democrats’ top leadership is to blame for the party’s losses.
“The election this time saw a negative reaction to the politics of [Senate majority leader] Harry Reid, [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi and President Obama,” he said.
Many voters see the policies of those leaders as being too liberal, Dixon said, especially rural voters in the South and Midwest.
“This election is a wakeup call to Democrats. They’ve got to do a better job of connecting with more mainstream voters. This is kind of a cycle in American politics, this is temporary, but it does reflect a shift by Democrats toward the elite liberalism that’s found in the coastal regions of the country but does not connect with more conservative voters in the South and Midwest,” he said.
“The Democrats have had a real problem with this. Their Northeastern and West Coast voters and the Blue Dogs [conservative Democrats] are really different from each other, and it’s getting harder and harder for them to come together under the big tent. You’ll definitely see a big fight within the Democratic Party about whose fault this is.”
Republicans, though, are not exempt from such intraparty battles, but they were better able to unite in this election, Dixon said.
“The Republicans have unified around the economic agenda. This election season has been much more about jobs and the economy,” he said.
The more divisive social issues, such as gay marriage, were on the sidelines because of the overwhelming concern about how to get the economy moving again. That made it easier for the GOP to speak with one voice.
“The Republicans were more unified than they’ve ever been,” Dixon said.
On Tuesday, Republicans swept the statewide offices in Georgia and gained a U.S. House seat that had been held by Democrat Jim Marshall.
Dixon predicts continued difficulty for Democrats in the South.
“The person who is the symbol of the party right now is President Obama, and that’s going to make it difficult to attract more conservative voters,” he said.
But going forward, Democrats need to court more independent voters, who propelled them to victory in 2008 but swung heavily toward Republicans this year.
They also need to get to work on fixing the economy.
“They can talk about the outsourcing of jobs, producing green jobs and we’ll see a real shift away from big government programs and more talk about how to create more jobs,” he said.