We’ve tried nothing, and we’re out of ideas!
I left KS-04 off my list of Races to Watch recently, for one reason: I had no idea it was going to even be close.
That’s bad. It’s pretty shameful. But at least I’m not a multimillion dollar organization dedicated solely to getting Democrats elected.
Much has been made of the closer-than-expected result. Ron Estes, the Republican candidate, won by 6.8% in a district that went for Donald Trump by 27%. That’s a gigantic swing. Democrats are predictably crowing in victory, while Republicans are hiding their flop sweat-soaked handkerchiefs and talking about how they always had it in the bag.
Democrats, I don’t know how to tell you this: you lost. You failed to achieve victory. The new Representative from Kansas’s 4th District is a Republican. Yes, you didn’t lose by as much as you expected, but is this going to become your benchmark? In 2020, if you manage to flip Michigan but Trump is re-elected anyways, will you celebrate it as a win? At some point, you have to actually win an election.
Part of the problem is that James Thompson ran as a pro-choice, Bernie-Sanders-supporting left-wing Democrat. The Democratic establishment wanted to run a pro-life conservacrat in that seat. When their pick didn’t win, they pulled up stakes and refused to help. This is ludicrous. Guys, 93% of Hillary voters support Bernie Sanders. He’s more popular than any Democratic politician alive. He’s more popular than Obama. Stop catering to the insane 8% of delusional, donor-class turds that hate him. Given that the first major political organizing project Obama stepped into after leaving office was to block a Sanders supporter from achieving any real power at the DNC, I am skeptical that they are able to get past this, but get past it they must, if they want to win again.
Ignoring populist races is a huge problem in a country where populism just proved stronger than the combined forces of the entire elite media and political establishment combined. Populism wins. Left populism is even more powerful than right-wing populism because it’s honest and speaks directly to the core of the problems faced by voters. It doesn’t scapegoat. Democrats hate and fear populism because it poses a threat to their power base, which since the 70s has increasingly been concentrated in a few wealthy urban enclaves and funded by big finance.
The real problem, though, is that Democrats wrote off the race as unwinnable. This cannot happen anymore. Thompson asked for $20,000 in the waning days of the campaign and was denied. Would that have made a difference? Who knows? But Democratic turnout was 68% of what it was last year in the district. This seat may have been a long shot, but it was winnable. Every seat is winnable, but you have to compete.
One argument I’ve heard is that the DNC is so unpopular in red states that they should stay out. This, to me, is not compelling. “We suck so badly that anything we touch turns to dust” is not a good defense. That implies not that this deeply unpopular organization should pick its battles, but that it should be dynamited to its foundations to provide room for a genuinely alternative to a develop — an organization dedicated to getting progressives elected. Plus, it’s not as though the GOP avoids tying their Democratic opponents to the establishment. Ted Cruz told Kansans that Thompson would be a “knee-jerk vote for Nancy Pelosi.” They don’t forget the DNC exists just because it’s not helping out. They have object permanence.
Another argument is that by “flying under the radar” they can stop the GOP from spending resources. Which, again, is ludicrous. They had President Trump do a robocall. They sent $100,000 from their campaign fund. They had Ted Cruz stump for Estes. They can see polls too, guys. This is the same thinking that kept Clinton out of Wisconsin/Michigan to “trick” Trump into not campaigning there. How’d that work out?
Democrats will never win unless they try to win. That’s all there is to it. Over the past ten years they stopped trying to win.