Please Pass (On) The Popcorn: Democrats Need To Take 2016 General Election Seriously


An MSNBC UP show panel on Saturday gleefully recounted Mitt Romney’s tentative moves toward a third White House run.  “What is he thinking?” is one way to summarize the discussion.  “He is delusional” is another.  Not one panelist could imagine a scenario under which Romney could win, but each was highly entertained by the idea.

Beware the Popcorn Syndrome.  It seems to be spreading among left leaning social media and chattering classes.   Right now it is centered on the 2012 Republican nominee and his refusal to go away, but is being expressed as well on a more endemic level.

Pundits, bloggers and tweeters figuratively (literally in Rachel Maddow’s case) are rubbing their hands together and declaring how much fun this election is going to be.  They play and replay the 2012 debates with their clown car, $10,000 bets, 9-9-9 economic plans and oops moments.  Debates out of which, we seem to forget, a candidate did emerge who won 48 percent of the vote while running a perfectly imperfect campaign.

It is time that the left started taking this election seriously, along with Romney and Jeb Bush and the rest, even those we view as stupid, misogynist, and out of touch wing nuts.  It is also time to stop spreading those very words around like mustard on a bologna sandwich because these people have support, they have experience, and they have money.  Lots and lots of money.  In most cases, they also have the motivation and the means to win dishonestly if they can’t do it any other way.  And more than anything else they are no laughing matter; they are extremely dangerous.

The 15 to 20 anticipated Republican candidates are already sorting themselves into three camps; 1) the severely conservative and crazy (a word I use despite my own advice) including Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and a King (take your pick, Steve or Peter); the slightly less extreme with some credibility from previous elections (Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and perhaps Rick Perry), and the moderate field of Chris Christie, Bush, and Romney.  Another strong contender, Rand Paul, more or less evades categorization.

Unless party discipline fractures we already know the endless and open debates of the last cycle will shrink to 12, a third assigned to Fox.  With so few debates, some candidates will never qualify to be on the platform and stronger contenders will dominate the mic time. That will limit exposure of the real fruitcakes but could protect others (i.e. Rick Perry) from themselves.

The sheer size of the early field plays to Romney’s chance of survival but as usually happens, discounting the serial front-runner debacle of 2012, the truly out there candidates will annihilate each other rather quickly.  Christie will fade fast as his donors defect to Romney and Bush and his petulant demeanor wears thin.  By South Carolina, maybe even earlier, the field will consist of the one or two really far and sorta far right candidates who have most successfully fed the egos of their personal pet millionaires, perhaps both Romney and Bush, and certainly Rand Paul.  Were I to guess which moderate might be out by then it would be Bush; I wonder even now how much heart he has in the game.

Romney has the fire and is not a stupid man.  He has probably spent hours watching videos of every 2012 debate, speech, and press conference and though he may be unable to change his wooden delivery don’t count on any 47 percent or “I don’t care about poor people” screw-ups this time around.  Maybe the UP panel finds his candidacy amusing, but by then his chance for the nomination will be better than 50/50.

No matter who lands on the platform in Cleveland, if the Democrats haven’t long since put away the popcorn and gotten serious they are going to lose this election.  In a lot of ways the wind is at the backs of the Republicans despite the harmful policies they pursue where they govern and the vast constituencies they constantly manage to trivialize and offend.  We know Republicans own the free media and have the money to buy the rest but Democrats appear to think that counts a lot less in presidential election years.  They have bought the theory that the Obama Coalition belongs to the party when in fact it belongs to Obama and counting on the emerging minority populations to vote Democratic is futile if those minorities don’t vote.

There are other Republican advantages Democrats ignore at their peril.

  • They own the political machinery in much of the country, holding key offices in many swing states and those with the fastest growing young and minority populations. Voter suppression played a role in 2012 and those secretaries of state and Republican dominated legislatures who are so inclined, which is to say most of them, have two years to make it even worse.
  • Each party is only fighting over only about 10 percent of the votes. Pollsters tell us these independent/undecided voters tend to be uninformed and easily swayed by ads and emotion, both of which make them more vulnerable to the media and the money that buys it.
  • Republicans hate us more than we hate them. If a Republican doesn’t much want to vote for their own candidate they still love to vote against the Democratic one, a leap of which Democrats appear incapable.  Republicans repeatedly elect indicted and convicted criminals while Democrats grouse about the two parties being the same and don’t vote at all.
  • They have proved themselves willing, able, perhaps even obligated to cheat.

As amusing as the growing Republican field of candidates, their frailties and missteps might be, and even with the election nearly two years out Democrats must stop giggling and start tending to business.  We appear willing to drift toward a non-competitive nomination but still must prepare for a very competitive election and, surprise, one with more than one office at stake.  There are down ballot candidates to recruit, campaigns to be built and honed, and those much touted new voters to register and motivate.   If we fail to do this it will be Democrats who bring about the “permanent Republican majority” Karl Rove predicted after the 2004 election.

The Republicans don’t care about the popcorn, they are preparing to steal our lunch.

31 Replies to “Please Pass (On) The Popcorn: Democrats Need To Take 2016 General Election Seriously”

  1. This is a very, very instructive and accurate article. I think I will cut and paste the URL into an e-mail to the DNC. Thanks very much!

  2. Spot on article… bet is on mittens! The church of Latter Day Saints ( Mormons ) is all over social media condemning bullying at school with short videos, home values, etc…they’re courting the evangelicals who behind closed doors say mormonism is a cult! Dems may need to do some swift boat style attacks early on…

  3. This is a great article because it is so true. Look what happened in Nov 4, 2014? I was so pissed that Democrats didn’t vote, what’s to say that they won’t again in 2016? Everyone is so fixated on Obama they’re not thinking about who they will vote for beyond his time in office. (I will be mourning for a long, long time, but I will still vote for a Democrat. Republican ideas have been proved to be unable to work and Democratic ones have).

    We ignore what is happening at the local level regarding voting rights at our own peril.

    Pay attention Democrats, get out the vote, go on the offensive and proclaim all that you have done for this country through President Obama!

  4. They are right; Emotions and Stupidity are easier on the human nature thing than being an intelligent person ; in other words its easier to be stupid and let others do your thinking; until its way way too late.

  5. The Dem party needs to get their messages together. We can’t leave it all up to President Obama. The GOP is going strong these days on income inequality and trying to lay the blame on PBO. Let’s not let them get away with this.

    Senator Warren has them shaking in their boots so let’s back her and her ideas up. Even if she doesn’t run her ideas need to lead this party.

  6. Should have taken 2010 and 2014 seriously. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE PRESIDENCY! What’s happening in state elections and now Congress drives the dynamic as much if not more than who’s President. Look at how this constrained the Obama Years. So what if Hillary wins if the other party controls both houses of Congress. What’s going to happen? Triangulation and “Republican Lite” at best.

  7. Rant, Part 1:

    Democrats are not being complacent about the 2016 election! The democrats are taking the 2016 race seriously, republicans aren’t. These are the very same reasons pundits, and concern trolls said Mitt Romney had a better than “50-50” chance of winning the presidency in 2012!
    One of the biggest criticisms in 2012, was that he had “no fire.” And, Mitt Romney IS stupid. Only a stupid person would hire the same stinking campaign team, that failed him the last time he ran for president! Mitt Romney thinks’ he’s a shoe-in for the presidency this time, just because ONE poll from over a year ago, when President Obama was at the lowest point of his presidency, and dealing with multiple crisis, said Americans had buyers remorse, and would vote for Mitt Romney, over President Obama. Never mind, that the same poll had him losing to Hillary Clinton by a large margin.

  8. Rant, Part 2:

    I’m not sure why some think Mitt Romney would have a better shot at winning the presidency in 2016, than he did in 2012. In 2012, the conventional wisdom was that President Obama vulnerable incumbent president running for re-election with a so-so economy, and that had Mitt Romney run a better campaign, he may have won the presidency. (I personally disagree with this conventional wisdom.) Mitt Romney’s best shot was in 2012. As of now, the economy is starting to rebound, President Obama’s job-approval ratings are rebounding, and voters are starting to give him credit for the economic recovery. If the economy continues to rebound, and is in even better in 2016, and President Obama’s fully recover by 2016, it’s going to harder for Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, or any republican to win the presidency in 2016.

  9. Rant, Part 3:

    Mitt Romney is so arrogant, that he will play from the same exact 2012 playbook, except this time, he’ll pretend to care about poor people. If you believe otherwise, you are incredibly naive. Mitt Romney didn’t take the 2012 election seriously, and he’s not taking the 2016 election seriously. He thought it was impossible for him to lose to President Obama. Now, he is ready jump into the 2016 presidential race with the same arrogant attitude that he had about the 2012 race: that he can’t lose to Hillary Clinton.

    Mitt Romney’s money didn’t help him become president. Mitt Romney had crap-loads of money, and still lost to President Obama. Mitt Romney had more money to spend on ads, but the ads were INEFFECTIVE! The Obama campaign had less money to spend on campaign ads, but their ads were EFFECTIVE! And, this is according to focus groups of 2012 swing-voters!

  10. Rant, Part 4:

    Mitt Romney, the media, and the republicans believed that hatred for President Obama was enough to get Mitt Romney to the White House, but it wasn’t! Pundits said that republican voters would crawl on broken glass to vote against President Obama in 2012, and that the 2008 “Obama Coalition” was a fluke, and wouldn’t turnout again in 2012. But, they were wrong. There was more enthusiasm among democrats for President Obama, and barely any enthusiasm for Mitt Romney among republicans. Republicans hate us more, but that still wasn’t enough to get them to stand in line, and vote for Mitt Romney. And, it’s only easy for republicans to cheat, if they election is really close. The republicans were ready to cheat in 2008, and 2012, but President Obama’s lead both times, were too big to overcome. If the economy is even stronger in 2016, and the democrats nominate a strong candidate, the election probably won’t be close enough for republicans to steal.

  11. Rant, Part 5:

    It will be harder for Mitt Romney to win the republican nomination in 2016, because this time, he will be running against other candidates who have money, and who want to win. The only reason Mitt Romney won the nomination the last time, is because he had no serious competition, and all his opponents were basically broke. If you think Mitt Romney is going to be able to sit back and watch, while far-right candidates destroy each other like he did the last time, you are mistaken.

    Bush, Romney, and Christie, will tear each other apart. And, Mitt Romney won’t be able to blow them away with his money, like the last time. And, with Jeb Bush in the race, it is less likely that Mitt Romney will win Florida, this time. Plus, this time, not only does the republican base still hate Mitt Romney, but he is currently bleeding support from the republican establishment. Romney, Bush, and Christie running, could open the door for one of the crazier candidates.

  12. Rant, Part 6:

    According to reports, Mitt Romney plans to move to the Right of Jeb Bush, in the republican primary, which means “Mitt 3.0” may go full-on tea-bagger. Mitt Romney will have to make serious inroads with voters he alienated in 2012, if he wants to win the presidency. By moving to the Right of Jeb Bush, that’s going to make it even harder for him to win the general election. If Hillary Clinton wins the democratic nomination, there will be a lot of excited democrats. The candidate with the most excited voters wins the election. The republican base will not be excited about getting stuck with another establishment “moderate” republican like Mitt Romney, or Jeb Bush.

    As for Jeb Bush, he might move further to the Right, too. His book ‘Immigration Wars’ is pretty anti-immigrant, and that is evidence that Jeb Bush is willing to move to the Right, like Mitt Romney, which will give democrats lots of ammunition. Jeb Bush also has the same problems Mitt Romney has…

  13. Rant, Part 7:

    And, Rand Paul is not a “strong contender.” What’s the matter with you? And, fewer debates won’t hide the crazy in a republican primary, and the “wind is not at the backs” of the republicans.” According to polls, republicans have lost the “momentum” they had after the midterms, and lost support, while President Obama has re-gained support. And, republican infighting has already begun. If that continues in 2016, it will be harder for republicans to win in the general election, no matter who they nominate.

  14. Rant, Part 8:

    The “Obama Coalition” is an offensive, and racist myth, that far too many people, including some so-called mainly white “progressives” believe. Young voters, and minorities sat out the 1994 midterm election, too! President Obama has nothing to do with minorities, and young people not voting in the midterms! Nate Cohn completely took apart this “Obama Coalition” lie, and explained why these voters are here to stay!

    ‘Why the Voters of 2016 Are Likely to Be Younger and More Diverse’

  15. Rant, Part 9:

    In 2012, many pundits, and pollsters thought the 2008 “Obama Coalition” was a fluke, and that they wouldn’t turnout again, in 2012. They were wrong.

    The voting demographic that is now wrongly called the “Obama Coalition” turned out in large numbers 2004, but more of them voted for Bush, than for John Kerry. Young voters, and minorities only turned out in slightly higher numbers in 2008, than they did in 2004. But, in 2008, most of them voted for President Obama. After a black man got elected president of the U.S., the pundits started falsely claiming that young voters, and minorities turned out in “unusually” high numbers in 2008 to vote for a black man, when in fact, it wasn’t “unusual” at all. This was their own racist rationalization of how it was possible for a black man to have gotten elected president in the U.S.

  16. End of Rant, Part 10:

    Voter turnout amongst young voters, and minorities has been increasing over the last couple of decades, or so. Also, both Nate Silver, and Nate Cohn have already explained why the effectiveness of voter suppression tactics are been overblown!

  17. Keith:

    It won’t matter.The DNC top brass is bran dead.Debbie Wassermann-Shulz is a nice person, but is in over her head.

  18. Me:
    I have only scanned your rant (I am just hacing my first cup of the day); but it seems clear that you gave this forum a giftt of great labor and thought, and for this I thank you.

  19. IMHO, this could very well be another TP-GOP right-wing ploy to distract the electorate into “taking out the popcorn” and to enjoy their “foolishness” instead of focusing on who they REALLY are and real issues.

    People are frustrated, angry with lies, disgusted. In their desperation they might give up and not vote!

    There is change in our country since 2010 and the tea party. There are those who would not only take down the government but would destroy our secular nation.

    Yellow Dog Yankee’s article is on the mark. We need to heed his words or we will lose our secular nation as our Founders, Framers and their wives struggled to found and form. And those who died will have shed their blood in vain to maintain liberty.

    I don’t recognize the country I have loved since I was a child.

    Remember, ”The cornerstone of democracy rests on an informed electorate.” Thomas Jefferson

    BTW, where are the Democrats? Hiding, again?

  20. Mitt shook his etch a sketch and will run on poverty, I wonder if that will be after he outsources your job. Perhaps he will run
    on a chicken in every pot and a car elevator in every garage.
    Mitt sees the very poor as you and I see an
    ant – almost invisible and if you tread on them so be it.

  21. Democrats face another problem in 2016. Barack Obama’s candidacy resulted in record turnout of African-Americans. This time around it’s going to take some serious work to turn out the African-American vote in numbers anywhere close to 2008 and 2012.

    This demographic can not be taken for granted. Yes, we can expect African-Americans to vote 90% our way, but we need to come up with a serious strategy to make sure it’s 90% of a big number. Bill will be helpful, but an African-American VP nominee could be an attractive option. Cory Booker might make be a good choice. He’s young, dynamic and a strong campaigner with an inspiring back story.

    Putting Booker on the ticket would help spur African-American turn-out, but it would also leave Democrats with another potential problem: turning out the Hispanic vote. Keeping together the coalition that propelled Obama to victory won’t be easy, but’s it’s absolutely vital if we want to win.

  22. You really cannot make this republican garbage up!

    Huckabee takes shots at the Obama’s parenting skills while his dog torturer obese pile of lard kills and tortures a dog.
    But to cap it off Huckabee pals around with that stinking pile of excrement Ted Nugent and his history is too long to go into here!
    I am going to take a shot at Huckabee when he comes to my Costco next week to sell his revolting book, not sure what form it will take but I will do something!

  23. Perhaps a video loop on your laptop of Huckabee and “that stinking pile of excrement” performing a duet of Cat Scratch Fever. You could pass out hard copies of the lyrics as well.

  24. Sorry, this should have been in response to @djchefron…

    The complacency implicit in your assumption is precisely the problem that worries me. Do not count on African-Americans turning out at the same rates as the last few cycles without a serious strategy to engage these voters.

  25. What strategy did the Dems present to the voters in 2014 and yet we showed up. This is not about blacks showing up but why whites chose to stay home

  26. Elizabeth Warren is wonderful. She really is. Smart, compassionate, observant, and we need, need, NEED her in the Senate so much more than the Presidency. She is doing great work there, and we need her there. Especially now with the makeup of the whole Congress. Maybe later there might be time for her to run, but for now, she is a GREAT Dem doing great work.

  27. Stealing the part 1,2 thing. I run out of characters.

    Opposition to the GOP will come from the Web, not conventional TV/radio ads. Which are silly and useless. And irrationally expensive. Really. If catheter floggers can buy tons of airtime, why do candidates need constant donations? What are they spending that money on? For real?

    They are spending it into scaring people from runnin

    TV and radio have historically depended on polls and pundits for feedback. They then report on the responses to their reporting. Because they are locked into programming ‘schedules’, their arguments must be repetitive, simple and short.

    This was acceptable because newspapers were always the primary information source. Now, the web is. but on the web, everyone talks back.

    And you can’t tell their ‘skin tone,’ how blond, gender, wardrobe choices or age. Damn the luck. What’s a bigot to do?

    Because the web is a 2-way street, the feedback cycle is way faster than TV or other one way med…

  28. Coda, the second…

    I ran out of characters while editing….

    The ‘Powers That Be’ – PTB for short – profit from making running for office appear to be life-threateningly expensive.

    See very many politicians living in their cars?

    The cost of ‘being elected’ is zero. The cost of running a campaign in the manner suggested by the people you pay to suggest stuff is unspeakable.

    The cost of a Facebook page, web site, blog and live chat is minimal.

    Take all the rage and wisdom and connectivity and think together about where you all want the world to be in 10 years.
    That is your political platform.
    Find a volunteer to be the public face of your ideas. That is your candidate.

    Then, go viral. Debate on line. Blog. Where there’s time enough to go into detail.
    Campaign face to face. Perform. Do art at them. Dance with them. Selfies! Connect with each others’ Humanities.

    Rinse and repeat. For every elected office there is. Then you will have a government that h…

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