The results of the November 2nd elections were not good for Democrats but the sky is not falling. Democrats still have time to salvage the midterms if we pay attention to what went wrong; particularly in Virginia.
1.Candidates matter: While it’s impolite to speak ill of the dead, Terry McAuliffe was a terrible candidate. Not just because he was personally obnoxious, but also because he ran with a dreadful strategy: “That other guy is the second coming of Trump.”
In the aftermath of the November 2nd election, we saw multiple instances where good progressive candidates won — for example, new Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and new Boston Mayor Michelle Wu — based upon their accomplishments and programs.
2. Voters are pissed off. It’s not unusual for midterm voters to be irritated, but the US electorate is unusually roiled at the moment. That’s the enduring Trump legacy: voters of all persuasions are angry. Reds because they believe Trump was cheated; Blues because they want Trump to go away. Reds because they don’t want to be vaccinated; Blues because they want the pandemic to be over. Reds because they believe the economy has been artificially suppressed; Blues because it’s hard to make a living. Etcetera.
The November 2nd electorate was angry and Republicans did a better job harnessing this anger.
3. Midterm elections are tough because most voters have a limited memory. Whatever problems voters are currently experiencing they attribute to the current Administration. It’s Biden’s pandemic and Biden’s economy and Biden’s border…
Voters want the pandemic to be over. They’ve forgotten — or don’t care- that Trump and the Republicans turned it into a disaster. Everyone wants Coronavirus to go away. (The best way to accomplish this is “tough love:” vaccine mandates. Force everyone to get vaccinated. Get vaccinated or stop being a cop or bus driver or nurse.)
Voters have forgotten that Trump and the Republicans screwed up the economy by a series of bonehead moves: cutting taxes of the wealthiest individuals and corporations, mishandling the pandemic, mishandling Covid relief… Voters want the economy to be better; they want life to be easier. The best way to accomplish this is for Congress to pass Biden’s “Build Back Better” program. Now is the time for Congressional Democrats to stiffen their spines and pass this legislation. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Now is the time for Democrats to “get going.” (During this writing, Democrats passed a historic $1.25 trillion infrastructure bill. And the economy added 531,000 jobs.)
4. In Virginia, Republican voters were incensed about parental control of schools. There’s a grain of truth to this because, during the pandemic, many parents had to drop out of work to take care of their children because of school closures and vaccination requirements. Fox News, and other conservative outlets, have jumped on the “parental rights” issue to pump out a ton of disinformation; such as parents should determine school health standards.
It’s sad that Red voters are so gullible. But in every election we have seen this. We should be used to it. And better able to fight back. We must do a better job fighting disinformation.
Writing in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/04/memo-democrats-be-loud-be-proud/?), Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson said: “Democrats should not retreat on cultural issues but instead should fight lies with truth. Explain that when Republicans say “critical race theory” they really mean “aspects of American history that they hope will make White voters uncomfortable.” Explain that the Biden plan gives more funding to police, not less. Be loud and be proud.” [Emphasis added]
5. There was high voter turnout in Virginia. Democrats turned out more than usual, but even more Republicans turned out. Republicans have learned to turn out their base with manufactured cultural issues. We should get used to this.
Writing in The Guardian, (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/04/democratic-strategists-are-embracing-popularism-but-theyve-got-it-wrong) political observer Steve Phillips said: “In the 16 seats flipped by Republicans last year, an average of 34,000 more people came out to cast ballots for the Democratic candidate than in 2018. The challenge for Democrats was that Republican votes jumped by 54,000 votes per district…. Rather than distancing themselves from issues that are unpopular with Trump supporters, Democrats need to double down on the issues that resonate with and inspire infrequent voters who are progressive.” [Emphasis added]
6. Republicans have embraced racism. Many of the November 2nd voters were motivated but the racist tropes of Fox News and other conservative outlets; for example, the supposed teaching of “critical race theory” in Virginia schools — a blatant lie. It’s important to recognize how central racism is to the core of the contemporary Republican Party. For example, many Republicans believe in “replacement theory” — the notion that Democrats are encouraging the population growth of non-Christian non-whites so “those people” can take their jobs.
There are many facets of the legacy of Donald Trump: one was open racism.
A christian white Republican member of my family recently told me that the January 6th insurrection was understandable “because people were fed up with the Black Lives Matter riots.”
7. Democrats can prevail so long as we turn out our base and there’s a level playing field. We can turn out our base with exciting candidates and dynamic programs. We need help with the “level playing field” part. We need to do everything we can to pass the Freedom to v/ote act (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/freedom-vote-act ). Yes, even if that means changing the filibuster rules.
It’s not time to panic, it’s time to get busy. We know who the Republicans are. Do we know who we are?