I’m going to express what may be an unpopular opinion around these parts: Harry Reid’s victory was crucially important. First of all, it wouldn’t speak well to the durability of the Democratic Party to see their Majority Leaders go down to the defeat twice in six years. Second, we all may have problems with Harry Reid. He’s a slave to rules that cannot work in a 21st-century political system, he isn’t a good communicator or face of the party, etc., etc. But I’m looking at the race he ran. In a state with 14% unemployment, foreclosures everywhere, Reid put together a coalition that was unusually potent and a model for Democratic victory.
“CNN’s exit polls show that men and white voters broke for Angle by significant margins. Angle carried white voters by a 53 percent to 41 percent margin and men by a 48 percent to 46 percent margin. Reid made that up among women (53 percent), African Americans (78 percent), Latinos (68 percent) and Asians (79 percent). Even though white voters made up 72 percent of the vote and Reid only carried 41 percent of that block, those large margins among other ethnic groups carried him to victory.”
Harry Reid, unassuming Harry Reid, ran the Obama campaign from 2008 better than the Obama campaign. Having Sharron Angle as a foil didn’t hurt, and Reid benefited from attack ads that defined her almost immediately after she was nominated by the GOP. But Reid had a hand in that, of course, amplifying the “chickens for checkups” from Sue Lowden and basically helping to get Angle that nomination. And then the ground work was remarkable.
What really stands out is how Harry Reid turned out the Latino vote. I noted way back in August the beauty of his strategy. Anjeanette Damon of the Las Vegas Sun has a great analysis of the race I think nuts-and-bolts politics lovers will enjoy.
Reid’s frontal assault on GOP racism isn’t textbook DLC “be like a Republican” stuff or even textbook Obama “let’s all get along” stuff. It is old school, hardball, walkin-around money, ward boss “whose side are you on?” kill-the-enemy Democratic politics. I love it. God help me, I love it.
Reid went in with his union base, Latinos, and just enough of the white vote to pull out a win that everybody said was impossible:
“At the same time, Reid’s get-out-the-vote operation capitalized on Angle’s tough stand on illegal immigration to mobilize Hispanics, who turned out at a greater rate than in the 2008 presidential election and voted for Reid, 66-31. And Reid got help from organized labor, as union households voted for him 69-29.”
Got that? Reid turned out the Latino vote better than Obama!
Everyone talks about a multicultural, working families coalition that Obama ushered in. Well, he didn’t. Only one campaign in the country effectively found that electorate again in the midterms. And it was Harry Reid.
This is the coalition that Democrats have to ride to victory: Latinos, African-Americans, Asians, youth and union white voters. That Reid was able to find all these voters in transient Nevada, with all the foreclosures and disruption to the economy, is incredible. Reid attacked Angle relentlessly, but all of it was predicated on the idea that she was not on the side of this larger, disaffected, less powerful community of working families. He fought like hell, but more important he got his coalition motivated.
If Democrats are going to win races in these areas, this is the coalition you have to build. Not by demonizing immigrants and trying to look as tough as Republicans, but by telling immigrant communities what the opposition wants to do to you. Not by appealing to a rich aspirational class with visions of tax cuts, but by telling the middle class that you stand with them.
And believe me, I know this is Harry Reid we’re talking about. (And Michael Bennet, who won with a similar coalition in Colorado.) But this is a blueprint for Democrats to win with the people naturally associated with their party. If they have to dance with these groups, sooner or later they’re going to have to create policies that they appreciate, too.