TCR Brief: Why Democrats Need To Make Damn Sure They Go For The Kill In 2018
Although Democrats were not able to win a single Federal special election, they’re doing much better now in State elections, including in some red ones. On Tuesday, a Democrat ran away with a seat in Oklahoma’s State House, in a district Trump won handily. Democrats also flipped State seats in New Hampshire and New York, winning an Assembly district that had not elected a Democrat since 1960.
To which we say: encouraging, but also meaningless. Why? Simple: in order to win a seat, you’ve actually got to win that seat. Doesn’t matter how many seats your compatriots may have won or by how much.
And this is the time of year when incumbents in the U.S. Congress decide whether they are going to run for re-election next year or not. It’s common courtesy to announce by Christmas, in order to ensure somebody who wants to run for a seat but won’t challenge an incumbent has sufficient time to gear up.
According to an analysis by the Daily Kos (with slightly hard-to-read graphs), Republicans are rushing for the exits early this year, with 17 vacated Republican seats already (a combination of Republicans who say they’re not returning, and those running for other offices). That’s way ahead of previous years. Meanwhile, Democratic departures are in line with recent elections.
In the past week alone, several prominent moderate (or if you prefer, “pragmatic”) Republicans have announced they’re not returning, most recently Michigan’s David Trott. He and others have cited reasons such as “more time with the family”. But the real reason, in many cases, is they’re facing an ugly and expensive primary challenge from the Far Right that their pollsters tell them they’ve got no shot at winning.
The problem with so many moderate Republicans dropping out is they won’t be replaced in most cases by moderate Republicans. They’ll be replaced by either 1) Democrats who have their sh*t together, or 2) Wack-jobs from the Radical Right. It’s gotta be the former or we’re in big trouble.
Keep in mind Democrats need to be truly inspirational to get people out to vote (Georgia’s Jon Ossoff wasn’t; he lost a winnable race), while Radical Republicans can ensure a 100% turnout among their supporters just by getting out of bed in the morning. Remember also that all the Districts we’re talking about were won by Republicans less than a year ago, so we get really puzzled when we hear Liberal friends of ours walking around talking about how it’ll be “a piece of cake” to flip ‘em.
Just look at what’s happening in Alabama right now: the more mainstream Republican candidate, Luther Strange (who currently sits in the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions), looks about to be shellacked by Radical Right Winger Roy Moore, a former judge who was kicked off the bench two times, and was considered a walking and talking joke until Trump legitimized all the racist, exclusionary and hateful things he espouses. He was a rabid “birther”. And as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, he ordered the State’s judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a Federal Court. One of Moore’s primary campaign promises: national reciprocity for gun carry permits, meaning any carry permit issued by any state would have to be honored by any other state. That primary is in 10 days.
Democrats should have the greatest success going after Republicans in districts that Hillary won or narrowly lost. That means if they’re successful, they will mostly be unseating Republican moderates. We will shed no tears for them.
But a partial Democratic victory could create a nightmare scenario: a few more Progressive voices in the house, with Republicans still managing to eke out a majority while becoming much more Radical and unified. Those fewer, but more Radical Republican Reps will be ready to run rampant.
In that context, anything but an outright Democratic victory will be a disaster.
(This story originally appeared in “The Chaos Report” Newsletter. Subscribe at https://thechaosreport.com/subscribe/?scr=Medium)