There's a certain type of pedant who gets mad if you use the word "decimated" inaccurately, the accurate usage being that it refers to the culling of a tenth of something, hence the prefix deci- which, as we all know, is a Latin-born numeric reference blah blah blah pedants am i right
When I use the term "decimate" in reference to what's happened to the Democratic Party in the era of Barack Obama, I admit that I am using the word in a way that would annoy those same pedants. After all, the number of Democrats in Congress and in state leadership positions has dropped far more than 10 percent since 2008.
Chris Cillizza wrote about the sorry state of the Democratic bench after Tuesday, pointing out that a bad situation got much worse with the Donald Trump-driven failure of the party at the polls. Think of a political party like an Army. To have effective generals, you need to bring leaders up through the ranks. If everyone keeps getting killed off on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of any given November, you're not going to be able to win many battles. The Democrats gained two Senate seats -- in a year that it was long assumed they would regain control of the chamber.
Since 2008, this is what the Democratic decimation has looked like. (Data sources are below.)
Two patterns to note. The first is that the Democrats surged into power in 2006 and 2008, winning seats in elections that would normally have leaned to the Republicans. So some of the losses since 2008 are a function of reversion to norm, light-red areas going red once again. The second is that federal and state races largely correlate. A good year for the GOP nationally tends to make a good year at all levels.
It can be hard to see the extent to which the Democratic collapse has occurred. Here is the percentage change in each case since 2008.
That whistling sound you hear is the party Thelma-and-Louiseing.
Two days after its candidate for the presidency suffered a stunning loss, the tension within the party became uncontainable. The Huffington Post reports that at a party meeting on Thursday, a staffer named Zach yelled at Donna Brazile, who took over as chair following the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz this summer.
"Why should we trust you as chair to lead us through this?" he said, according to HuffPo's Jennifer Bendery. He went on to accuse Brazile of having "backed a flawed candidate," Hillary Clinton, and having "plotted through this to support your own gain and yourself."
"You are part of the problem," Zach reportedly said.
We tend to focus on the loss of the presidency as the example of Democratic failure. That's blinkered. Since 2008, by our estimates, the party has shed 870 legislators and leaders at the state and federal levels -- and that estimate may be on the low side. As Donald Trump might put it, that's decimation times 50.
No wonder Zach got mad.
Sources: State legislators, House, Senate, governors and party control.