Quick answer: pretty much everything.
When I was phonebanking in 2010 for OFA (Obama For America) in Wisconsin, the unified campaign effort was tasked with electing a Democratic governor, re-electing Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), and electing Democrats to the House of Representatives. The phone script included this: “Please vote to send people to Washington DC who will help President Obama advance his agenda”.
On the list of people we were calling were those who had voted for President Obama in 2008, people who should have been interested in advancing his agenda because, in theory, they voted to do just that only two years before.
But mid-terms are funny things. Many of the people I called said they only voted in presidential elections. Some of them were unhappy because
they didn’t get their pony so much of the president’s agenda had to be set aside to deal with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression … a parting “gift” from Worst President in History George W. Bush.
Well, Democrats were not enthused but Republicans were because they had two things firing up their base: a black man (who was not even born in ‘Murica!!) had stolen the election (ACORNNNN!!) … and the Affordable Care Act had been passed, ushering in death panels and government-run health care and frightening all your doctors into fleeing to the libertarian paradise of Somalia.
So turnout was low and we ended up with Scott Walker and a solid Republican legislature here in Wisconsin. And we sent Ron Johnson to the Senate and Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble to the House of Representatives. Elsewhere, Michigan got Rick Snyder, Ohio got John Kasich, Pennsylvania got Tom Corbett, Florida got Rick Scott, Iowa got Terry Branstad, Maine got Paul LePage … and America got Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
The good news is that we can undo most of the damage that was done in the low turnout 2010 mid-term election by responding with a high turnout 2014 mid-term election. Because when we vote, we win. Really.
We can’t undo the gerrymandering that was done by Republican legislatures until the legislative session following the next census in 2020 (unless you are Texas). But with each election cycle, the gerrymanders will lose more of their grip as young people, natural Democratic constituencies … people who accept and celebrate diversity and who turn away from the hatred and bigotry of the past … start attaining voting age. In some states, where minorities are trending towards majority status, the tightly gerrymandered districts are already leaking. In Wisconsin, two of the congressional districts created are now toss-ups because there simply aren’t enough people who are willing to ignore the craziness that comes along with the purity positions of the modern Republican Party.
In 2014, we have a half-dozen gettable governorships and one hail mary (or hail Wendy?). We can make progress towards taking back a few state legislatures (or at least one chamber to create a firewalls). We only need to pick up 17 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives while holding onto our U.S. Senate seats. And we can run on the tangible benefits of the Affordable Care Act instead of running away from the myths that were promoted in the right-wing media.
Now, back to the question “What’s at Stake in 2014?” and my answer “just about everything”.
It starts with voting rights. A functioning democracy needs fair and honest elections. Right now we have a chance at achieving them with Attorney General Eric Holder whose Justice Department is aggressively pursuing Voting Rights Act violations despite the attempts of the Supreme Court to cripple it.
The only way, really, THE ONLY WAY that Republicans retain their majority going forward is by suppressing Democratic votes. Or if we suppress our own votes by sitting home instead of voting and getting out the vote. If we allow them to suppress our votes, or our enthusiasm, we give them the power to legislate … and choose federal judges who will rule against democratic elections … and we simply cannot and must not let that happen.
So get the word out: Elections Matter … every election. And there is no election more important than the next one because if we can deliver a congressional majority to President Obama so that he can advance his agenda (which is our agenda) we demonstrate what Good Government and Good Governing means … QED – quod erat demonstrandum – “what was required to be proved” will be proven. And it becomes that much easier to set the stage for 2016 when America will say “More, please, Democratic Party.”
Elections really do matter. When we vote, we win. And when we win, America wins.
Next Up: What we learned from the 2010 “shellacking”