The New York Times believes that the Democrats need a new minority leader in the House:
Ms. Pelosi announced on Friday that she would seek the post of House minority leader. That job is not a good match for her abilities in maneuvering legislation and trading votes, since Democrats will no longer be passing bills in the House. What they need is what Ms. Pelosi has been unable to provide: a clear and convincing voice to help Americans understand that Democratic policies are not bankrupting the country, advancing socialism or destroying freedom.
All true, but not only of Nancy Pelosi. The Democratic Party as a whole has been suffering from an inability to articulate its views and give voters reason to stick with them once the limited memories of the voters have forgotten George Bush. When Democrats fail to explain their views, they allow the Republicans to define them, and Republicans have become very good at presenting distorted views of what Democrats believe. Hell, if Democrats really believed half the things which is claimed by Fox and right wing talk radio I certainly wouldn’t vote for them.
The Democrats saved the country from a depression but failed to get the credit. Democrats saved the auto industry and saw Michigan turn into a red state. Democrats gave the country a major tax cut, but tea party supporters march in the street believing that Obama raised their taxes. Democrats passed a health care plan which takes many ideas from the Republican Party of the 1990′s, freeing individuals from the whims of the insurance industry, and Republicans managed to fool voters into believing this was a government take over of health care. Meanwhile seniors voted Republican, supporting a party with policies which would seriously harm Medicare, believing distorted claims that the Democrats were cutting Medicare (as opposed to cutting George Bush’s subsidies to insurance companies handling Medicare Part D plans).
Democrats must find a way to counter the Republican misinformation. That’s all Democrats–not only Nancy Pelosi.
Of course correcting the problem is not only a matter of explaining how Democrats support freedom and a market economy (as opposed to Republican policies of concentrating wealth in the hands of a small minority). Democrats must do a better job of debunking the false Republican frames, such as showing that the “small government” supported by conservatives intrudes far more upon the lives of individuals than the government supported by Democrats. Democrats must also be consistent in their policies. Obama should have stuck to his campaign position and opposed the individual mandate. Dealing with the free-rider problem would be more complex without a mandate, but it could be done. Backing down and accepting an individual mandate only helps fuel conservative memes about Democrats. Democrats further complicated this with their naive belief that voters who opposed health care reform when it passed would change their minds by this fall.
Little legislation is likely to be passed this year. Democratic leaders (regardless of whether this includes Nancy Pelosi) should devote this time to figuring out exactly what they stand for and explaining this to voters. Obama has often said the right thing, but his actual explanations of policy get lost among all the shouting. Democrats need to work harder to amplify his actual positions in order for them to be heard above the right wing noise machine.
Some of the pundits analyzing the midterm elections described how the Republicans had a successful two-year strategy to return to power. Actually the strategy has been in play for far longer. The right wing noise machine has developed a false narrative about what Republicans and Democrats believe which enabled them to regain much of their lost support. Fortunately long term demographics continue to work against a party which rejects science and reason, and which acts contrary to the long term trend for greater individual liberty in this country. Democrats can speed up the process by better explaining how they really differ from Republicans.