New Hais/Winograd Op-Ed, "Will Democrats Repeat Their 2012 Success in 2014?"

NDN Fellows Mike Hais and Morley Winograd, millennial experts, recently wrote this op-ed that was published on Politix. The original can be found here

"As we document in our newest book, Millennial Majority: How a New Coalition Is Remaking American Politics, whether by stratagem or sheer luck, the Democratic Party has become the beneficiary - at least at the presidential level - of a new, dominant coalition comprised primarily of Millennials, minorities and women. Less clear is if and when this coalition will return congressional majorities to the party that became accustomed to ruling Capitol Hill for much of the twentieth century.

Just as Democrats were able to hold onto their majority status in both houses of the Congress until 1994, even as Republicans became the dominant party at the presidential level after 1968, the GOP is in position to retain its current majority in the House and take back the Senate in 2014, two years after Barack Obama's sweeping re-election victory. But that future is less predestined than many pundits are currently predicting.

What ultimately happens is likely to depend on which party does a better job of turning out its vote in 2014. If the electorate next year looks like it did in the 2010 midterm election, with a far higher percentage of older and white voters than in 2012, the Republicans will likely be celebrating on Election Night. Certainly, that is what happened to the Democrats in 2010. For example, the contribution of Millennials dropped from 18 percent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2010, while that of seniors rose from 16 percent in 2008 to 21 percent two years later.

On the other hand if the Democrats are able to maintain their ground game advantage and build enthusiasm among their larger base of supporters to generate an electorate that represents the country's 21st century demographics, they should be able to hold their own in the Senate and at least cut into the Republicans' gerrymandered advantage in the House. For both parties, media and message will have more to do with their prospects in 2014 than most of the current debates in Washington.

Even Republicans admitted in their 2012 election post-mortem "Growth and Opportunity" report that they had failed miserably to maintain competitiveness with Democrats on the technology front. Advantages in campaign technology are notoriously short-lived, however. In 1960, it was the cool and crisp performance by the telegenic John Kennedy against the pale, sweaty, and haggard Richard Nixon in the first televised president debate in U.S. history that put Kennedy narrowly ahead for the first time in a closely-contested election. But by 1968, Nixon and the Republicans had become the masters of campaigning on television, an advantage that Ronald Reagan solidified.

Up until the disastrous performance of the Romney campaign, it appeared that the GOP had also closed the gap with Democrats in the use of internet-based social media campaigning that had first opened up in 2004. The determination of the RNC to spend tens of millions of dollars to catch up again, makes it unlikely that this advantage alone will be enough to given the Democrats a victory in 2014. Instead, to generate sufficient enthusiasm to ensure that demographic groups that favor Democrats turn out in sufficient numbers next year, the Democratic Party will have to hone its message to reflect the needs of the party's new Millennial majority.

However, outside of immigration reform, the issues that might generate real voter interest are not currently being debated in Washington. Although it is possible that GOP ideological rigidity on social issues like gay marriage and gun control will work to the advantage of Democrats in some senatorial contests and a few House seats, these issues are unlikely to be the key to many Democratic victories in 2014. Instead, Democrats will need to emphasize what Vice President Joe Biden likes to call "kitchen table" issues to inspire the components of their majority coalition and achieve major election victories next year.

One such issue, Obamacare will be a reality, not a plan, in 2014. Democrats will need to hit hard on its advantages for young people, and women and minorities, all of which favor the Affordable Care Act, rather than cower in fear of potential implementation hiccups.

For Millennials, specifically, no concern is greater than the enormous debt the nation is asking them to incur in order to finance the higher education that remains their best ticket to a good job. Never before in this country's history has a generation been asked to pay for the education the nation's changing economy needed. Democrats should embrace the cause of eliminating cost as a barrier to higher education in every congressional campaign in the country. One way to do that would be to follow the lead of one of the Democratic gubernatorial primary candidates in Arkansas, Lt. Governor Bill Halter, who is promising to provide every young person in the state enough money to pay for the cost of their instate college tuition.

By focusing on messages that speak to the new Millennial majority's economic needs, Democrats could alter the traditional fall off in turnout in midterm elections by the presidents' party and, in so doing, reshape American politics, not just at the presidential level but in congressional campaigns as well. However, if instead Democrats decide to play defense and duck the issues critical to their new Millennial majority, the natural tendencies of Democratic voters to pay less attention to midterm elections will likely result in Republican gains next year.

The Democratic Party has the choice of running toward or away from its new Millennial majority coalition. Which path it chooses to follow, more than anything that is going on now in Washington, will determine the outcome of the 2014 elections."