In his new essay for The New Republic, Stan Greenberg examines how the current political environment may feel eerily similar to the days when he was in the White House advising President Bill Clinton going into the 1994 midterm elections, which turned disastrous for Democrats. Though things seem grim again today for Democrats, Greenberg outlines the differences and what lessons can be learned to produce a very different outcome.
From the essay: “When I studied the results of my national surveys of public opinion one week before the Massachusetts special election, I felt a wave of panic–a strangely familiar feeling. The results showed that the public’s hope had given way to disillusionment; that Democrats had come to embody political gridlock and big spending; that conservatives were energized and Democrats demoralized; that the country was in revolt against elites. It was beginning to look like, gulp, 1994 all over again. During that last electoral debacle, I was conducting surveys for President Bill Clinton, asking some of the same questions and getting the same answers. After one survey in May 1994, I wrote President Clinton, “The administration, the Democrats in Congress and the party face a disaster in November unless we move urgently to change the mood of the country.” Even then, I couldn’t imagine that Democrats would exacerbate the disaster, ending their decades of hegemony in the House. President Obama and the Democratic Party need to urgently revisit 1994. By paying close attention to the lessons of that year–lessons about presidential leadership, the consequences of congressional melodrama, the need for an economic narrative and for a defining choice in the election–the worst can be avoided…”