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Charlie Cook: Republicans Could Lose 2014 on “Empathy Gap”

Republicans could lose 2014 just like they lost Virginia, on the "empathy gap."

Republicans could lose 2014 just like they lost Virginia, on the “empathy gap.”

“…among the one in five voters for whom “cares about people like me” was most important, Obama won 81 percent to 18 percent. That is a jaw-dropping finding as Republicans search for the answer to the question, “Why did we lose?” Republicans need to think about these results as they decide how to position their party for 2014 and 2016, lest they watch this empathy gap cost them another winnable election.Charlie Cook

THE PROBLEM for Democrats in 2014 is real, but the prospect of campaigning on income inequality has the prospect of turning a traditional midterm loss for the party who holds the White House into a squeaker win that positions them perfectly for 2016.

Republicans are wrong to think everyone is obsessed with Obamacare. They’d have learned that lesson if they paid any attention to the Republican shutdown and the ripple effect it caused in Virginia. But looking at their last batch of video ads that are all Obamacare centric, I’d say they’ve got nothing else right now. It makes Republicans look very out of touch.

Getting beyond Obamacare is hard for Republicans and it has the potential of sinking them. Charlie Cook explains.

One doesn’t have to be a liberal or a populist or, for that matter, a social-justice advocate to fear the social, political, and economic consequences of such a wide swath of voters who fear what the future holds for them. It’s often noted that this is the first time in our nation’s history that most Americans do not expect their children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities they did. As a country built on optimism, the United States has often attracted immigrants seeking the promise of a better life. Over the last 30 years, but particularly the past 15 years, that optimism has been fundamentally undermined. – Charlie Cook

Empathy without action, however, is just emotion, which is what motivates voters. Tapping into that emotion is a politician’s job and he or she does it by offering an action plan that addresses what’s on the voter’s mind.

Republicans standing in the way of an extension of unemployment benefits, their opposition to a living wage, their blindness to the uninsured, these are actions that imply lack of empathy, understanding, and interest in solving people’s problems.

One reason the Great Society push was successful for so long is that it put us all in it together.

America now is a land of haves and have nots, with young adults facing an economic prospect that promises less than their parents and grandparents.

This year’s campaign is not just about midterms. It’s about making the case that feeling people’s pain through enacting policies that solve people’s problems is always a winner.

When you consider gerrymandering and that people don’t vote in the same numbers they do in presidential cycles, tapping into how the voter feels becomes critical in getting the vote out. Widening the prospects of voters you can get to the polls becomes even more important, which is why a campaign on solving income inequality, which begins with raising the minimum wage, could easily outdistance an anti Obamacare campaign.

Everyone has to talk to their base, but there are a lot of unaffiliated voters and independents, including millennials, who can be brought to the voting booth on economic issues that are keeping them down, which exist well outside the conversation of Obamacare. It begins with not only feeling their pain, but communicating that you’ve got a plan to begin to fix it.

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14 Responses to Charlie Cook: Republicans Could Lose 2014 on “Empathy Gap”

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter January 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    ted Cruz and the repugnantklan,teabaggers…and wingnut radio…the gifts that keep on giving!

    • Taylor Marsh January 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      The Democrats have to step up and capitalize with an economic campaign on raising the minimum wage.

      • Lake Lady January 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

        That is how Claire McCaskill won her first race against JimTalent. We had a minimum wage proposal on the ballot.

        We need some creative thinking in the Dem Party, where are the idea people we used to always have?

  2. mjsmith January 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    I think the main strategy for Democrats this year should be damage control. They are going to get beat bad. They can throw out a gimmick here and there but that really won’t do much. We will raise the wage to what business can not afford or we will let you keep taking tax payers money for your retirement that the tax payers can not afford. I think they need to bring more than that to the table.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter January 10, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      ” I think the main strategy for Democrats this year should be damage control.”

      I’m torn between laughing uproariously and weeping.
      The laughter is pretty obvious…..your posts are so predictably…..predictable as to be almost beneath comment. No sane, reasonable, thinking person could possibly express such delusional, out of touch with reality blather and parroting of wingnut talking points and expect to be taken seriously.
      The weeping comes in when I think maybe you DO.

      • mjsmith January 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

        There will be many more people crying with you in November

        • secularhumanizinevoluter January 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

          How deep…how thoughtful, what a considered contribution to this politicol discussion. You make your point with such eligence and style. I feel truly fortunate to be able to drink in the genuis of your opinion and your supporting logic.

    • Ga6thDem January 11, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      How? By the GOP likely nominating more tea party candidates? They seem to be the ones that get nominated. The GOP is very likely to nominate a legitimate rape crackpot here in GA possibly losing a senate seat. The last time I heard the GOP bragging that they were going to win like this was back in 1998 and we all know what happened. You have to give people something to TO VOTE FOR. The GOP apparenlty is unable to do that. The majority of Americans don’t agree with them on their antiquated social stances and then on the economy what are they offering? They are offering the same trickle down failure that they have been offerning for quite a while.

  3. Ramsgate January 10, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    I have said time and time again that all politics is moral and this is a major failure in Democratic messaging.

    It is a fact and we all know it: When poor people are hurting, Republicans will do everything in their power to make them suffer more.

    The opening is there; has been there, but neither Obama nor the Democratic Party have ever called out the Republicans or the Republican party as a whole for the evil, heartless, SOB’s that they are regarding poor people. Empathy should have been the Democrat mantra. But alas, the Democrats don’t have the guts. They were ridiculed when they used the word empathy to describe Sonia Sotomayor a few years ago and they’ve eschewed it since.

    The single most depressing characteristic of our time is that there is no real left. So called progressives are useless. People are hurting. Here we are riddled with economic insecurity in part because of constant and total Republican treason and obstruction, with rampant unemployment, a rapacious class of financial predators and wealthy Republican plutocrats who not only try to buy & subvert the electoral process but have taken every penny of economic growth for themselves, unremitting inequality, and a political class that is totally unresponsive and lacking in empathy towards the needs of working people, and devoted instead to serving the gluttonous pigs whose money put them in office.

    One can hardly think of better conditions for the rise of some real empathetic group or “new left”. Where is “the left”? Occupy? That was useless. The Democrats? They too are feeding at the trough. Democrats thought it was to their advantage to blur the distinction with the Republicans and now to their peril more and more Americans have come to the realization that the choice between the two parties is like choosing between Goldman Sachs and Citibank. This may be why so many people now call themselves Independents..

    Again , this is a massive failure in Democratic messaging.
    Another opportunity lost, but one that could easily be regained with proper messaging and discipline.

  4. fangio January 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    All this piece has done is to show that in the end it is the voter. Adults should not have to be led around by the nose in order to do the right thing. The political parties no what they are dealing with and act accordingly, It was said that George W. treated his voters like children ; he did , and they are, and they got what they deserved. All it takes is common sense for a voter to know that Al Gore was better than George W. ; just as all it took was common sense for a voter to know that a second Bush term would be a disaster ; just as pulling the rug out from Obama after only after two years would throw this country into a historical nightmare from which it may never emerge. When I was a kid adults had common sense and a sense of the common good ; they no longer do. But that is just what the conservatives wanted. Congratulations!

  5. casualobserver January 11, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    It must just be my lack of critical thinking ability, but it strikes me as rather thin logic to take statistics from one head to head match up and project that result onto 200 or so other match ups to come.

    Clearly, there is no logic in thinking the result had nothing to do with campaign trail speaking gaffes by Romney that were the source of 4 months’ worth of headlines leading up to election day, when the Republican candidate beat the Democratic candidate in every other attribute polled in the study, yet was ignored for the purpose of getting to the desired headline.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter January 11, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

      You’re correct…it is your “lack of critical thinking ability”.

  6. ladywalker68 January 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Before I post, I just want to say, Ramsgate, don’t hold back-tell us how you really feel! (just kidding…and I agree with you.

    The Democrats, pretty much undeservingly so, often get the labeled as the more “empathetic” party, but the last 20 years or so there has been a rightward lurch starting with Clinton. As Ramsgate pointed out, too many Democrats are drinking at the millionaire’s club trough and “claim” to be working for the people, while at the same time, they are holding their hands behind their backs with their fingers crossed and lining their pockets one way or the other through deals with the corporations, people be damned….but I digress.

    That said, at least they aren’t stupid enough to be flinging shee-ite in the faces of women, gays, and the poor and once in a while, they actually do something for the rest of us, as with ACA, with all its warts, and Holder’s presser upholding the Utah gay marriages…Bravo!

    To me, the soul of most Modern Day Republicans, at least those who are commanding center stage and the talking heads, is best exemplified by today’s appearance of well-known Republican consultant, Mary Matalin, on NPRs “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” program.

    For those you who haven’t discovered this gem of show: It’s an hour-long weekly radio news panel game show produced by Chicago Public Radio and National Public Radio. Hosted by Peter Sagal. You can read more about “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” here:

    I love the show because it usually has 3 very witty panelists who compete in a standard set of news games. It is a great way to catch up on what’s in the news or for me to see how well-informed I am about what’s going on the world, but in a very FUN way. Believe me, thing are so bleak for folks like me out here, laughter of any sort is a terrific medicine.

    In addition, they always have a special guest who is first interviewed and then who participates in the round called “Bluff the Listener”. The key here is to remember that the guest is playing on behalf of a member in the audience, and if the special guest get’s 2 out of 3 answers correct, the audience member wins a very small award-the show’s announcer, Carl Kasell, will record the message on audience member’s home answering machine. No big deal but to fans of the show a nice to have.

    So this morning, I was listening to Mary Matalin. She was actually pretty funny in the interview. Now, in “Bluff the Listener”, they tell the guest 3 far out news stories and the guest has to figure out which one is true. They do this 3 times with choices A, B, and C for each round. The host of course, always wants a win for the listener, so I noticed that if the guest is choosing the wrong answer, Peter will usually ask something like “Are you sure you really want to pick that one?” so it is pretty obvious if the guest is on the wrong track.

    So Mary missed the first one, got the second one right, and on the third one, it’s obvious that the 3rd response was wrong and second one was the most viable. So Mary picks the first one, the host says, “Are you sure you want to stick with that answer” which is the clue she is wrong. But without hesitation, her response was something like (paraphrasing here), “I don’t care if it’s right. It’s the answer I like and the answer I want it to be…..”

    And I will editorialize here and add, “Screw that fact that I am playing this game on behalf of a member in the audience. I don’t give a crap, as long as I get to stick with the answer I like, even if it’s wrong.”

    And to her I say: “Way to go, Mary! You suck!”

    Now on the surface, this might seem trivial, but not to me because it is exactly what stinks to high heavens about the Republicans.

    As a group, they don’t care if something is true or right as long as they get to have the world as they want it, and regardless of the consequences to others. So with God as my witness, I will never vote Republican again, unless there is tangible proof that they really don’t hold this philosophy as a core value.

    • Ramsgate January 11, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      LOL. Great post. Will definitely check out Wait! Wait!.

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