THE BLOG

Course Correction Needed for Democrats in the 2014 Mid-Terms

04/14/2014 11:08 am ET | Updated Jun 14, 2014

The resignation of Kathleen Sibelius as secretary Health and Human Services and the announced enrollment of 7.5 million of applicants under the new Affordable Care Act provide the Democratic Party, and the White House, with the opportunity to rethink their strategic political strategy for the 2014 mid-term elections.

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reports that 70 percent of Republicans indicate they would most likely support candidates who oppose the Affordable Care Act; and, 77 percent of Democrats indicated they would most likely support candidates who pledged to defend the Act against efforts to repeal. This is not surprising. Our advice is: Don't let the Republican Party and its allied Super PACs define and limit the congressional districts' playing field to only the issue of supporting or opposing candidates who voted against or in support of "Obamacare."

We believe the Democratic Party political strategy for the mid-terms elections should be based on national issues, such as: minimum wage, equal pay for women, income inequality, immigration reform, and protection of the right to vote. Without the benefit of any on the ground polling data from the various congressional districts, our "30,000 feet" advice is that these issues should constitute the "game plan" for the Democratic Party's offense playbook for the House and Senatorial seats contested this November.

We just experienced a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This, indeed, was an important milestone for the Civil Rights Movement and our entire nation during the presidency of President Johnson. More relevant, however, to the forthcoming Congressional elections than the Affordable Care Act or the 1964 Civil Rights Act is this August's 50th Anniversary of the Voter Registration Drive of the summer of 1964 to register unregistered negro voters in the state of Mississippi.

During the summer of 1964 more than 1,000 students from the Midwest and Northeast, mostly white, assembled in a pilgrimage to Mississippi under the leadership of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee's campaign to register eligible black voters. The Ku Klux Klan in Philadelphia, Miss., murdered three of those summer student volunteers, two white and Jewish, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman and one black, James Chaney.

The summer 1964 voter registration campaign and the killing of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner ignited the nation's conscience and outrage. This created the moral and political groundswell in support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The enactment of the Voting Rights Act may be the most significant political piece of Civil Rights legislation since the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to our Constitution.

Last year's decision by the United States Supreme Court in Shelby County vs. Holder declared Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 4 included a formula that determined which states, based on past racial discrimination, must receive prior approval from the Justice Department, before changing their voting laws. The regrettable repeal of Section 4 opened the floodgates for the enactment by various state legislatures of efforts to limit or suppress the rights and opportunities to vote in their respective states.

The Democratic Party mid-term election response to Chief Justice Roberts' decision should not be to try to match dollar for dollar Republican Super PAC money, but instead to engage in a massive grassroots voter turnout. The best way to commemorate the legacy of the summer of 1964 and the memories of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner is to engage in such grassroots campaign to get out the vote for the mid-term elections.

At a minimum, the goal of the Democratic Party strategy in the mid-terms, especially in African-American communities (notwithstanding certain formidable Republican gerrymandered districts), should be to reach the same level or greater, in voter turnout, than that which occurred in the presidential election of 2012. When we have written in earlier blogs that sometimes the exercise of political power requires "taking names and kicking butts" this is what the Democratic Party must NOW do in the mid-terms.

To do less would dishonor the efforts and legacy of those extraordinary young people who, in August of 1964, put their lives on the line during their heroic efforts to register blacks to vote in the state of Mississippi. This is the most effective political answer to the Roberts Court's decision overturning section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and to commemorating the Voting Rights legacy of the summer of 1964.

Finally, we remain concerned that the "Hillary Clinton waiting in the wings campaign for President in 2016" may have and adverse effect on the energy, funds and efforts needed to successfully implement the Democratic party mid-term election strategy recommended in this blog.