Democratic Party at Weakest Point Since 1938 and New Leaders are Required

Democratic Party at Weakest Point Since 1938 and New Leaders are Required


In Desperate Need of a New Playbook. Voters have delivered plenty of clues and hints to the Democratic Party that they weren’t happy. In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats in the U.S. House — the worst loss for a party since 1938.  In 2014, voters sent another message with the lowest turnout in 72 years. Now voters have sent another message: Donald Trump.

On wonders: How many clues do voters have to send before Democrats change their leadership in a major way? Democrats have lost to the Tea Party. They’ve lost to those they poll consistently better against yet Democrats are losing. Democrats in the House have had the same leaders for over ten years. More importantly than age is lack of results: Who singularly choses the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)? Nancy Pelosi. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), 76, after leading a anti-Koch Brothers strategy that didn’t work, strategized the Democrats out of the Senate majority. He’s retiring.

Three points to remember:

  1. Barack Obama is a singular generational phenomenon but he is not the Democratic Party. A singular person should never take more importance over the party as a whole. Obama could care less about the party which was demonstrated by Obama for America draining Democratic National Committee. His plea to voters was “vote for Hillary to protect my legacy — once again it was all about him.
  2. Progressive candidate Bernie Sanders raised over $200 million by May 2016 and
    an average of $17 million per month. That should tell the old guard and “new Dem” members of the party that there’s something to the Keith Ellison wing of the Democratic party. The “new Dem” strategy has been a failure at the ballot box.
  3. At some point you have to understand the mood the country. Donald Trump beat Democrats with their core constituencies: union households in Michigan and white working class voters in Western PA. Come on Democrats, that should be impossible.

Some say certain leaders should be held on to because they can raise money.  But the numbers are clear: The party has raised hundreds of millions of dollars over this losing period of eight years with almost nothing to show for it.  Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC raised a record amount of money: $175 million. And more than $18 million was raised during the first 19 days of October. 

DCCC also raised record amounts — over $400 million — over the last two cycles. What do the same losing consultants, staff and strategists have to show for it other than a pile of loses?

The Democratic Party also has to figure out what policy it stands for. Does it stand for TPP or not? Does the party stand with banks or students on loan rates? Does it stand with consumers or business on consumer issues? Does it stand with big labor or the chamber of commerce?  Who is going to tell people we’re moved from an industrial age into a technology age and certain jobs are gone forever?  And yes, some of these questions are zero sum and either/or. The party needs to make up it’s mind whether it will reach for populism or be confused with moderate Republicans.

The next generation of Democrats on the federal level is behind the 70-something baby boomers who have presided over the worst dip in party numbers across the board in seven decades. If this was a company or NFL team or a bakery all the managers would have been dismissed in 2010.  Whether it’s Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO) or anyone else one has to ask: what group of Democrats in the current caucus could preside over a worse outcome over ten years?


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Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is a writer, comms strategist and political analyst. She created Crewof42, a blog focused on African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke also writes for NBC BLK, The Root, NNPA and is the Managing Editor of Politic365. As part of a diverse career in politics and media, she has served as a congressional staffer for the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee, Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) and Director of Communications for Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor of Virginia. From 2014 to 2017, Ms. Burke appeared each Monday on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin on TVOne. Ms. Burke holds a B.A. in History from The American University. She was born and raised in New York. Email: Twitter: @LVBurke. IG: @laurenvburke. Periscope: @LVBurke


  1. We’re looking at 2017 and focusing on the local.

    We created Progressive House VA after the National Convention to focus exclusively on Virginia’s House of Delegates, a legislative body of 100 individuals, 71 of whom ran unopposed last cycle. A legislative body whose elections might optimistically achieve 25% turnout. A legislative body, therefore, that is a prime target for an organization that encourages everyday citizens to run for office, engages a pre-existing statewide grassroots network, and supports progressive candidates. We’re doing just that. The goal is to field 100 candidates in all 100 races, and we’re already building an impressive slate.

    We’re confident that we’ll achieve several upsets in 2017. Our first endorsed candidate, Mike Mullin, won in the special election in VA-93 last week. We also teamed up with organized labor to defeat Amendment 1 (“Right to Work”) on November’s ballot. And we have a candidate running in an upcoming special election in Virginia Beach.

    To be sure, there’ll be plenty of action in Virginia over the next year. But we’re wondering – what’s going on in other states? What organizations have emerged out of the 2016 political revolution? Let us know. Keep in touch. Don’t back down.