THE BLOG
11/05/2014 11:36 am ET Updated Jan 05, 2015

Wait 'til Next Year: Why the Democrats Are Poised to Recover in 2016

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The results were brutal, but expected and not out of line with other second-term midterm elections. That being said, there are a few silver linings that bode well for Dems and progressives.

Republicans Won't Like Being The Majority: There's enormous political advantage in being able to stand on the sidelines and heave bombs. With majorities in both houses, Republicans will have to show their hands on the budget, Obamacare, government shutdown, abortion rights, the environment. Dems can now throw the bombs. A lot depends on Obama's standing tall, when he can, vetoing and executive-ordering. But voters in 2016 will know what the Reps are for, not just what they're against.

Austerity and Supply-side Economics Are Not Popular: Voters who decidedly threw out those Dem rascals were strongly in favor of progressive, demand-side economics, namely minimum wage increases. Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, all Republican electorates, easily passed minimum wage increases. Voters understand that tax cuts for the wealthy and cutbacks in essential services are not the way to good jobs and prosperity. Dems need to double down and move living wage, paid family leave, infrastructure investment etc.

The Big Issues Are Moving in the Dems' Direction: The economy is recovering, jobs are more plentiful, wages are beginning to move, we're out of two wars, Obamacare is working. The extraordinary political ineptitude of Dem campaigns and candidates is not inevitable, and a cushion of objective success is likely to provide a foundation for a better political season.

The Republican Presidential Candidates Will Be Captured By the Extreme Right: Individually, there are some bright and capable people in the race. But all of them are constrained by a Republican electorate with its face firmly planted in the past, and eager for red meat. The Rep big boys were able to weed out the worst of the tea party Senate candidates in 2014. Not so easy in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, or the primaries especially in the South. They will refight the Civil War, howl about gay marriage and abortion, and insist on the kind of economic policies that are dragging down Europe and slowing America. That's not where voters are.

Hillary: She will benefit from votes cast by folks who see a woman president as an historic moment, much like Obama did as an African-American. She's tough and experienced and knows how to make things happen. No Republican can match her.

However... She tends toward low-risk, careful-to-the-point-of-passive, which is what happened in 2008. She's learned those lessons, maybe. In 2016 the electorate will again focus on the economy. She seems to be reluctant to embrace the income inequality/investment wing of the Democratic Party. If she's too cautious, she will provoke a fight with the left. She'll win it but it will sour parts of the electorate she needs. Take a good look at what happened to Andrew Cuomo in New York. On the way to a coronation he veered right on economic issues and the party's progressive wing abandoned him. Hillary needs to avoid that same mistake.

Nothing's inevitable but the 2014 results are actually a roadmap to victory in 2016. Are you listening, Hillary?