Republicans cleaned house in the elections, increasing their dominance of the House of Representatives and gaining control of the Senate. Republican leaders claim their victory represents a repudiation of President Barack Obama and his failed policies. That's probably true, but the question remains as to whether that dissatisfaction was based on a factual foundation. I say no.
Democratic contestants made a big mistake when they tried to distance themselves from the president. One of the best examples was when Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, refused to say whom she'd voted for in the last presidential election. Like so many others, she apparently didn't want to associate herself with the president, whose reputation in Kentucky was at a low ebb. She lost anyway, to incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell.
She would have been better off proclaiming her support of the president and defending his accomplishments over the past six years, such as the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans were successful in making look like an abject failure. Too many voters accepted the overwhelming deluge of unsubstantiated charges without bothering to fact-check.
And Democrats failed to accentuate the positives, including no more denials for pre-existing conditions, no ceiling on coverage, insurance coverage for millions of Americans who previously couldn't afford or qualify, and free preventive medical services and extended coverage for children on their parents' policies.
Republicans also claimed that the president was primarily responsible for a failed economy and bloated federal deficit. Gullible voters forgot—and Democrats failed to remind them—that the president inherited the massive downturn in the economy caused in large part by the foolish negligence and gross mismanagement of the previous Republican administration.
The unemployment rate has dropped from 10 percent when he inherited the Republican debacle, to its current 5.8 percent. Ten million new private sector jobs have been created since Obama took over. The national deficit has been cut in half. The housing market has rebounded, and the American automobile industry was saved from going into bankruptcy. Yes, the rebound could have been better, but that's not bad for a leader who got zero cooperation from the opposition.
But the die has been cast. Utah's representatives are now 100 percent right wing, and the only weapons to preclude Republicans from passing any laws they want are the presidential veto and the use of the filibuster in the Senate. Predictions are that a primary priority for the GOP will be to continue the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade and limit women from making choices about birth control and abortion, turning the clock back 40 years for women's rights.
Hopefully, Democrats have now learned a valuable lesson. Next time, be proud of your progressive agenda. Don't shy away from it. Clear up the misconceptions of the radical right. Explain to the 99 percent why it makes no sense to continue to blindly vote for those who fail to represent their best interest.
Grimes obviously didn't vote for Romney in 2012. She should have proudly proclaimed it, and taken the opportunity to explain why she voted Obama. Democrats will lose again unless they quit trying to distance themselves from their own party—the party supporting the needs of the majority of Americans.
Ray Hult is a committed progressive Democrat and the author of several books on the topic of agnosticism. He worked for the FBI for 27 years as a special agent stationed in California, Texas and Utah and currently lives in Salt Lake City.