Democrats released an official autopsy of their defeat in the 2014 midterm elections over the weekend. It's a document that reveals a party largely unshaken by its stinging defeat in the midterm elections. Just nine pages long, if you include the front and back covers, the report from the Democratic National Committee is not a particularly detailed dissection of the November drubbing. Its conclusions boil down to a familiar refrain from losing parties: The problem is the packaging, not what's inside the box.
"It is clear that Americans overwhelmingly support the people and issues that the Democratic Party fights for every day," the report asserts. In other words, Democratic ideas are better, but somehow more people voted for Republicans. At the same time, the members of the Democratic Victory Task Force—a collection of state and federal party leaders, consultants, and patrons like Google's Eric Schmidt—suggest that while Americans back Democrats on individual policies, they don't actually recognize the party's core principles. The report proposes launching a "National Narrative Project" to "create a strong values-based national narrative that will engage, inspire and motivate voters to identify with and support Democrats." The authors wrote:
It is strongly believed that the Democratic Party is loosely understood as a long list of policy statements and not as people with a common set of core values (fairness, equality, opportunity). This lack of cohesive narrative
impedes the party’s ability to develop and maintain a lifelong dialogue and partnership with voters.
What this means, exactly, isn't clear. But its mere inclusion is a remarkable acknowledgment of the intra-party tensions that likely will continue to fester even if Democrats anoint Hillary Clinton as their next presidential nominee without a contested primary. Those are not just the highly scrutinized debates between the populist wing of Elizabeth Warren and the more Wall Street-friendly Clinton crowd; there is also a subtler, but still significant, divide among Democratic champions of issues like climate change, immigration reform, and campaign-finance reform on one end and those who believe the party would be better off focusing on pocketbook issues that more directly affect voters' economic well-being.