Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Morning After

The aftermath from Election Day 2018 is proving rather ugly with several key elections still disputed.  Trump and Rick Scott are crying voter fraud in Florida, and Trump is calling for a new election in Arizona.  The irony is not lost in Florida where Al Gore came up short in a very close election 18 years ago that was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court to stop a hand recount.  Rick Scott would like to do the same this year as his lead keeps shrinking as votes roll in from Broward and Palm Beach County, where Democrats have the advantage.

As for Arizona, the only thing unusual is that so many state residents chose to mail in their ballots, which is why we are having such a slow count.  You have right up till election day to mail your ballot, so it takes several days if not a week or more to receive all the ballots.  Krysten Sinema's lead keeps growing.  He thought he had the state in his bag on Election Night only to see a Senate seat slip away.  Little wonder he was surly at his post-election press conference.

Trump was bragging that the Republicans picked up three seats in the Senate.  Tentatively, they flipped four seats with Florida outstanding.  The Democrats have now flipped two seats if we include Arizona where Sinema appears to have an insurmountable lead.  Take away the Alabama special election last December, which the Democrats won when Doug Jones shocked the world, and the Republicans are left with only plus one.  Hardly a big difference.   If Bill Nelson is able to retain his seat in Florida then the net is zero for Republicans between 2016 and 2018.  Mississippi is also still in contention with a runoff between Mike Espy and Cindy Hyde-Smith late this month.   Pretty bad considering the GOP only had 10 seats to defend, counting Jeff Sessions' old seat, whereas the Democrats had 25 seats to defend.  The political math doesn't favor the Republicans in 2020.

So, was this a wave or just a ripple?  That's what pundits are trying to discern.  Democrats will pick up somewhere between 29 to 35 seats in the House, and bring in an unprecedented number of women.  Considering all the gerrymandered districts the Democrats had to overcome, that's a very good haul. Where they fell short was in the Senate.  Polls appeared to be breaking their way in Florida and Texas, so these were two seats they were very much hoping to pick up.  It would have fully legitimized the "blue wave."

Democrats fared well in state elections, which at this stage is more important than Congressional races.  They flipped seven governorships and six legislatures across the country.  This pretty much gives them a split with Republicans and allows them to hold their own when it comes to redistricting in 2020 with the new census.  Democrats still have a lot to make up for the huge losses they suffered under Obama, but this was a very good start.

One thing was made painfully clear again, celebrity endorsements don't help.  In the final week, Obama was joined by Oprah and many other celebrities on the campaign trail.  They were plugging Andrew Gillum and Stacy Abrams and Beto O'Rourke.  Taylor Swift made a big appeal to Tennesseans to vote for Phil Bredesen over Marsha Blackburn.  All these high profile races went to Republicans.

As Meghan Trainor might sing, "It's all about the base."  What works is grass roots mobilization and no fear of embracing traditional liberal values.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won by an even bigger margin than she had in the primary over two white male opponents with a whopping 75% of the vote.  Two Muslim-American women won House seats in Minnesota and Michigan.  An openly gay Democrat won the governorship of Colorado.  An openly gay Native American won a House seat in Kansas.    The Democratic candidates that embraced social democratic values won, and in many cases won big.  Even when they lost, they lost by razor thin margins in Florida and Georgia, and Beto made the best showing of a Democrat in a Texas statewide election in more than two decades.  This was "yuge" folks!

Running to the center may have eked out a gubernatorial win for Tony Evers in Wisconsin and helped Joe Manchin secure another senate term in West Virginia, but for the most part Centrists didn't fair well.  Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, Phil Bredesen and many others lost.  Bill Nelson sits on the bubble.

No clear indication from the Democratic Party that they will embrace all these new Social Democrats in their midst, but they are now a force to be reckoned with, particularly in the House.  The smart thing to do is to tailor your candidate to the state district, which is what DNC leaders Perez and Ellison successfully did at the House level.  At the statewide level, it was a little harder to push a strongly progressive candidate, but if Beto can garner 48 per cent of the vote in Texas, then imagine what an unabashedly liberal candidate can do in so-called "purple states?"

Beto did so well that some liberal pundits are comparing him to Abraham Lincoln, who lost a tightly contested 1858 Senate race only to win the Presidency in 1860.  Is Beto now the presumptive Democratic nominee for President?  He says no, but there will be a big push to get him to run.

There will also be the temptation to put another woman forward as the Democratic nominee, given how well women did in the midterms.  You can call it the revenge of Hillary, as many women were upset with the way she was treated not just by Trump but the media in general in 2016.  Elizabeth Warren has positioned herself as the heir apparent, but there are many other women to consider, maybe even Krysten Sinema, who defied all the odds in Arizona.

Whatever the case, the Republicans are now the ones on the defensive.  They can downplay the surge of the Democrats, but there is no longer any Scott Walker or Paul Ryan or Chris Kobach or Dana Rohrabacher or a host of other Republicans who stood in lockstep with Trump.  Devin Nunes barely hung onto his seat, but will no longer be the head of the House Intelligence Committee.  That honor will fall to Adam Schiff, making life much more difficult for Trump in the White House.

The key for Democrats is not to lose the momentum.  They've got the tide behind them, to use another maritime term.  There will be no more talk of a wall or sending troops to the border or the countless other distractions Trump and Republicans use to disguise their pernicious assault on social welfare programs in this country.  Americans were sufficiently alarmed that Republicans might gut Social Security and leave Medicare and Medicaid to wither on the vine, as Newt Gingrich liked to say.  Democrats must reaffirm America's social values!

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