Monday, October 9, 2017

Democrat's May Be Forced To Run A "Culture Wars" Midterms Against Their Will

It is a historical political truism that nearly always the sitting president's party gets defeated in the Congressional midterms.
 Sometimes they get hammered as per the Dem's under President Obama which saw the second biggest losses in modern times, a massive 69 total senate and house seats, on relatively rare occasions the losses are down to a net one as under JFK in 1962. Only in extraordinary circumstances has there been an actual gain in both the senate and house, with FDR at the height of the depression and G.W. Bush post 9/11.

That being said the 2018 midterms are more challenging than usual for an opposition party ;

"To start, Democrats must confront what looks like a punishing Senate map in 2018. The party that controls the White House tends to lose congressional seats in midterm elections, but it seems unlikely that Democrats will regain control of the Senate two years from now, much less the House of Representatives. 

Republicans significantly outnumber Democrats in the House, and only need to protect eight Senate seats in 2018 while Democrats must defend twenty-five seats.
Adding to the challenge, Democrats have senators up for reelection in states Donald Trump won by double digit margins such as North Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Indiana and Missouri.

 Those aren’t the only perilous races: Democratic incumbents also need to defend Senate seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida, states that voted for Obama in two presidential elections before switching to vote for Trump. “There’s no question the map will be extremely difficult for Democrats"

But, as the 1938 loss of 77 and the 69 loss in 2010 shows when the political tide goes out after an earthquake the governing party is left squelching in mudflats until the tide eventually turns as it always does.

It is fair to say that a fair number of midterm defeats have not be anywhere near cataclysmic, and if President Trump is unpopular in November 2018 and, perhaps more importantly the McConnell/Ryan team have put no runs on the board the Dem's have a decent chance of having a "throw the bums out" substantial gains result in at least one chamber if not both. 
This is regardless of whether or not Trump is popular as, as is always the case with the midterms, it is a matter of getting the base out. Conservatives, the GOP's midterm mainstays, may decide to stay at home in the knowledge that Trump personally would not be at risk.

There is one overriding circumstance which could so motivate the base that they turn out in substantial numbers whether or not the GOP has done their job as the base would wish and/or Trump is perceived as having failed the base, and that is if the Dem's are forced to run a "culture wars" campaign.

The last time they did this overtly, or more to the point were perceived to have done so, was in G.W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. 
The Bush/Rove team so characterized John Kerry as an effete, elite, unpatriotic east coast liberal and potential bringer of same-sex marriage (the call in opposition was "I'm for Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve") that the base was motivated, especially crucially in Ohio to turn out. It is astounding to see Kerry actually being touted as the Dem's 2020 presidential candidate given that history.

Given the post 2016 election realization by the Democratic Party that their neglect of a message to the Midwest/rust blue collar voters, and the perceived elitism and disdain by the liberal establishment of "flyover country's" mores, it would seem obvious that the last thing the Dem's would wish to do would be to have to campaign in 2018 on cultural matters instead of an anti-Trump + positive policies messaging.

However circumstances may force their hand no mater how unwillingly.

The spectacle of, mostly Black, sportsmen "taking the knee" and refusing to go to the White House for ceremonial purposes hits the Trump base in its most sore spot, and in one of its major and hallowed congregating places the football stadium where a perceived disdain for the flag and national anthem is especially bad optics.

While the media and of course the leftist Twitterverse has been outraged at President Trump's attacks on the players and team owners involved the Democratic voices have been strangely muted.
 Apart from a few Black congressmen the Democrat's leadership has been basically silent. For them to attack Trump means they would at the same time be defending those perceived as being anti-flag and anthem and pro-BLM.

To take to the hustings with such a defense, especially in the senate seats where they are most vulnerable would be to court disaster. Any GOP candidate worth their salt would surely campaign for the flag and anthem and the visuals in campaign adverts would write themselves. But, can the Democrat's avoid supporting the Black athletes protests?

If they stay muted the message to Black voters would be clear. The party Black voters stayed at home from voting for in large numbers in 2016 would be seen as further deserting their needs when the social crunch came.
 That this could be disastrous in the midterms would be bad enough, but the implications for the Dem's in Michigan,Florida and Ohio in 2020, especially if the Trump administration has delivered on jobs, could be catastrophic in its long term implication for the Electoral College.

The 'demographics are destiny" concept, which failed so badly in 2016, and from which their appears to be no easy escape for a divided Democratic Party, may yet be a further salt to be rubbed in the open wounds of a misguided political strategy.

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