Democrats lost on Tuesday, as widely predicted. But for months, pundits got wrong what Democrats would need to win.
There was rumor that youth turnout, Latino turnout, and cutting-edge Get Out The Vote practices would tip the balance in close races. But when "close" elections are decided by 7 to 12 points, something much bigger is happening.
Pundits say President Obama was unpopular. Score one for the pundits. But the critical question is: Why was the president so unpopular?
Did voters not show up because of Syria, Obamacare, or Ebola? No.
Was President Obama proposing some big liberal idea, sparking backlash? No. It's hard to remember the last time the President offered a big idea.
Jobs and economic security are consistently the top issues voters say they care about in red, purple, and blue states. But Democrats did not have a united economic agenda in this election.
Voters did not wake up on Election Day thinking that their ability to have a job, have affordable college education, or to retire with security was at stake. It was a Seinfeld-ian election about nothing. And nothing does not inspire potential voters to vote. In the absence of big ideas, Democrats lost.
(Of note, some Democrats campaigned as Republicans. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorBottom line Everybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas MORE (D-Ark.) campaigned as the "most conservative Senate Democrat" -- but voters chose a real Republican over a fake one.)
However, someone did spark energy this election cycle. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats face critical 72 hours The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Democrats inch closer to legislative deal This week: Democrats aim to unlock Biden economic, infrastructure package MORE (D-Mass.) attracted standing-room only crowds in red and purple states. Democrats who didn't want to be seen with the president were proud to be seen with Warren.
And Warren was the most popular Democrat on the campaign trail for a reason: Her message of taking on Wall Street, reducing student debt, and expanding Social Security benefits is popular everywhere.
While progressives such as Sens. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame MORE (D-Minn.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats ready to put a wrap on dragged-out talks Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Biden injects new momentum into filibuster fight MORE (D-Ore.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) won re-election -- and Representatives Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.) won their close races -- they won because they have consistently been economic populists and local voters knew that. But for other Democrats across the nation, nothing substitutes for a clear, authentic, united Democratic message focused on big ideas.
Moving forward, something needs to change for Democrats. We need a bigger politics. We won't win our own tidal wave elections unless we can build a movement around big ideas -- like free college education, full employment, Medicare for All, expanded Social Security, and real reform of Wall Street.
We need to make these issues so central to the national debate that candidates actively campaign on these ideas. And we need to start now.
Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE may be coming around to this strategy. In the final few weeks of the campaign, she tried to sound more and more like Sen. Warren. (While not hitting the language precisely, the intent seemed admirable.)
Progressives will be organizing in states like New Hampshire and Iowa to ensure that all Democrats running for president take a position on -- and campaign actively on -- Elizabeth Warren's bold populist agenda. This is the path to victory in the primary and general election.
A national progressive movement stands ready to work with those leaders in Congress who choose to recognize this imperative and step up to champion big ideas.
And if Obama makes Warren's agenda the centerpiece of his agenda in 2015, his popularity will rise and Americans will get the debate about big, bold ideas that we deserve.
Focusing on big ideas is the path forward for progressives and Democrats. The Warren wing of American politics is ready to lead.
Green and Taylor are co-founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, at BoldProgressives.org