I suppose most of the postmortems on the 2014 general election are done by now and the pundits have all proclaimed the reasons why Democrats got their asses handed to them. Democrats ran away from Obama. Democrats didn’t embrace the successes of the ACA, as well as other successes of the current administration. Democrats didn’t define the issues – the GOP defined the issues. The Democrats were always responding on the defensive – never on the offense. While I agree with all of those observations I have my own theory on the root cause of the Horrible Democratic Ass Whipping of 2014. Democrats didn’t work hard enough to generate outrage. Not that there was no material to work with – we just flat out didn’t do anything with the material we had.
The GOP won on a campaign of outrage aimed at all the horrible things that Democrats (read: “Obama”) implemented over the last 2 years. Think about any FOX news report – just before they cut away to a commercial, the perfectly coiffed blonde woman in the red sleeveless dress, sitting on a couch, flanked by the lacquered red-tie-wearing guys, tells us: “Next up is a story about zucchini, and you’ll be completely outraged when you learn just what zucchini has been up to with your tax dollars.”
Democrats love facts and we don’t want to simply appeal to people’s emotions to win an argument. We want to win on the merits of the facts presented. (Deep down I think we want to be Vulcans.) Democrats want people to not only agree that something is right and just, we also want people to understand WHY we think something is right and just. So we break out the facts and statistics that support our view and typically succeed only in boring people to death. Never mind that the person we’re trying to convince tunes out within fifteen seconds of the commencement of our well formulated argument. We Democrats desperately want to believe that the only thing that matters is that WE HAVE FACTS AND THE GOP MAKES SHIT UP.
I believe that the ingredient we Democrats have totally missed is outrage. Forget facts – because nobody will remember statistics and percentages in the voting booth. They will, however, remember how the circumstances illustrated by statistics or facts made them feel. So Democrats need to let go of being professorial. We need to master the catch phrase and the bullet point – and then we need to wrap them in outrage with a hashtag on top.
Is there any woman that does not believe that she deserves a paycheck equivalent to that of her male counterpart? Paycheck inequity is not a new issue, in fact even fifty years after the passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act women continue to earn an average of 77.5 cents per dollar that a male with an equal skill set and qualifications earns. Sadly, the gap is even wider for African American and Hispanic women, at 62 cents and 54 cents, respectively. Earlier this month the Senate Republicans blocked a vote to advance the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 2199) to the Senate floor. The current White House administration has asserted they will continue to support and work for paycheck equity; nonetheless today’s make-up of the Senate doesn’t bode well for further action in the near future. The current make-up of the Senate is comprised of only 20 women: 16 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Since women tend to lean Democrat, it is a viable argument that if more women ran for office, they would likely be Democrats and would work to advance women’s issues, including paycheck fairness.
But how do we get more women into Congress so that they can vote for women’s issues? How do we inspire women to run for local and state offices so that they can eventually seek higher, national offices? We must ensure that potential women candidates are identified, educated, motivated, and most importantly, supported when they run for political office at all levels of government. The Emerge America (www.emergeamerica.org) and Emerge Kentucky (www.emergeky.org) programs are the premier training ground to prepare women to run for and to seek higher political office, and I am honored to be a member of the 2014 Emerge Kentucky class.
During our most recent all-day training session in Northern Kentucky, Courtney Foley, Deputy National Director of the Sierra Club, focused on developing a ground operation for a campaign. Each class participant calculated the true time commitment to effectively run a race at any level – local, county and state. What an eye-opening experience to realize that to reach an undecided voter and hopefully “swing” them to our side, we need to complete seven “touches” through direct, personal contact! As a career mom who travels frequently for work, it was quite a reality check to sit down and schedule time for door to door walking, fundraising calls, and attending various summer events like parades, festivals and fairs. Running for office is a huge commitment for anyone, particularly for working moms. However with the training I have received from the Emerge program since January, I feel more confident in preparing an engaging campaign message; I have an understanding of how to reach voters in my area efficiently and effectively; and most importantly, I have a network of amazing and inspiring Emerge women who are with me every step of the way.
 National Women’s Law Center, “Women of Color Fact Sheet”, April 2012.