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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Obama on Democrats' Structural Disadvantages

At a Chicago fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Friday night, President Obama said:
So I need a new Congress. But at a minimum, I’ve got to have a Democratic Senate. And that’s why you’re here. Which leads me to my last point: If, in fact, people agree with us, why is it so hard for us to get a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House? Well, part of it is demographics. I was in Brooklyn with de Blasio -- this is right before he was about to be elected -- and we were coming from this wonderful school that’s training kids in math and science. And we’re driving down Brooklyn and crowds are cheering, and we go into this place to buy some cheesecake and people are hugging me -- and, oh, my uncle just got on Obamacare and it’s terrific. And a woman yells out, what can I do to help? And I said, move to Nebraska! (Laughter.) I don’t need 80 percent of the vote in New York City -- (laughter) -- or Chicago. But Democrats tend to congregate a little more densely, which puts us at a disadvantage in the House. Obviously, the nature of the Senate means that California has the same number of Senate seats as Wyoming. That puts us at a disadvantage. Gerrymandering in many of these states puts us at a disadvantage.

So there are some structural reasons why, despite the fact that Republican ideas are largely rejected by the public, it’s still hard for us to break through. But the second reason is we have a congenital disease, which is we don’t like voting in midterms. Our voters are younger, more minorities, more single women, more working-class folks who are busy and trying to get to work, trying to find work. And oftentimes we opt out during midterms. If we had the same turnout in 2012 that we had had in 2010, I might have lost. Instead, of course, we had a very significant and solid victory.