This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," April 19, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the midterm elections loom and President Obama and fellow Democrats are firing up racial and gender issues. Will it help turn out the base?
Plus, with another tax filing deadline behind us, we'll tell you about some sweetheart deals being cut for Hollywood studios and Broadway big shots.
And as the faithful around the world celebrate Holy Week, a look at the troubling rise in violence against Christians in the Middle East.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
With Democrats facing an increasingly uphill battle in the midterm elections, all signs are pointing to a divide-and-conquer strategy to get supporters to the polls. Speaking at a Houston fundraiser last week, President Obama lamented the habits of single women, minorities and young voters that make up his party's base, telling donors, quote, "We have this congenital disease which is, in midterm elections, we don't vote at the same rates." So the president and members of his administration and Democrats in Congress are stoking racial and gender issues in an attempt to boost turnout this November. But will it work?
Let's ask "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; and columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady.
So, Jason, let's take this point the president made first about low turnout in the midterms. Is that historically true, that Democrats don't turn out in the same numbers?
JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: What's historically true is that the president's party tends to struggle in midterm elections. Democrats --
GIGOT: But it wasn't in 2006. They rolled, then.
RILEY: That was an exception to the rule, though. And it's also true that in 2010, Democrats got rolled, and so the president does have reason to be worried.
The midterm electorate tends to be older, whiter than in presidential years. And particularly, of course, with President Obama's base, their worry is that because he's not on the ballot in -- in November, that people who come out, the minorities in particular, won't come out.
GIGOT: So you're saying that his concern is, in fact, legitimate.
RILEY: Oh, sure.
GIGOT: No question about it.
RILEY: Oh, sure.
Now, let's get to the White House strategy. What is that strategy, Mary? What are they doing here, and they're talking about gender pay, equity, for example, with women last week than this week. We had -- excuse me -- I think we also had the race issue being played.
MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: Right.
GIGOT: In fact, I want to play a clip here of some comments by prominent Democrats. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?
HOLDER: What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think race has something to do with the fact they're not bringing up an immigration bill. I've heard them say to the Irish, this would be easy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- certain policies for the right wing --
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Do you think your Republican colleagues are racist?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not all of them. No. Of course not. But to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
GIGOT: Nice to know he doesn't think all Republicans are racist.
Mary, but what is this political strategy behind this? You don't get those kinds of comments one day after another by accident from politicians.
O'GRADY: Right. Well, as Jason mentioned, the main driver here is to get out the base that voted for President Obama in 2012. And those -- and so what he's dredging for are aggrieved voters who feel the system has been unfair to them. And a lot of that is targeted at women and minorities, because those are the people who statistically earn less -- and maybe not women so much, but minorities for sure earn less in our society.
RILEY: I think it's even blunter than that, Mary. I think the strategy is to lie to people in hopes of getting them out to the polls. Lie to blacks about voter suppression. Lie to women about the gender pay gap.
I mean, what Eric Holder said -- what's even more disturbing than what Eric Holder said there is where he said it. He traveled up to Harlem to kiss Al Sharpton's ring. The president also appeared at the same conference. So the president -- here's a guy who moved away from Jeremiah Wright to embrace Al Sharpton, one of the most racially divisive figures in this country. That is down and dirty right there. And I think it's absolutely despicable that the president of the United States would be countenancing, and the attorney general, would be countenancing folks like Al Sharpton.
GIGOT: Dan, is it going to work?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: No, as a matter of fact, I don't think it's going to work. Though, we do have six months for them to keep throwing against the wall and see if they can find an issue that really inflames people. I don't think Republicans are going to bite.
But let me just say one more thing. Yes, it is a degree of utterly cynical politics. But, Paul, I think there is belief involved here, as well, on the liberal side. They do think many Republicans are racist. And the president and Eric Holder have deployed the bureaucracies of the Department of Justice, the Labor Department, the Education Department, to attack institutions out there for what they believe is racial disparity, based on statistical analysis. So there's something more than politics going on here. And the unfortunate thing is it will drive a wedge into the American public after all the gains we have made.