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2018 midterms

Wave Goodbye to the Wave Election

by Kevin Kelton    

Though the makings of a democratic wave election in the midterms seem apparent – enthusiasm, leading indicators, a highly divisive president – one key component is missing… and it could be the fatal flaw.

It’s the “why.”

Every wave election has an overriding theme or movement behind it. Today’s Democratic party lacks either.

In the last half century, there have been six wave elections.* Two were presidential election cycles, the other four were midterms.

The 1980 Reagan wave was powered by a weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis, but mostly by a charismatic presidential candidate who gave a face and voice to the movement. Similarly, the 2008 Obama wave was driven by a war-weary nation and a financial crash, and a charismatic candidate. But let’s put those aside and look at midterms, where there is no presidential candidate to embody the movement.

In every midterm wave, there were clear economic and foreign policy crises that turbo-charged the national mood:

1974 – the Vietnam war and Watergate

1994 – a faltering economy, healthcare, and the GOP’s “Contract with America”

2006 – a war-weary nation, Hurricane Katrina, and GOP scandals (Jack Abramoff; Tom DeLay)

2010 – Obamacare, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, the national debt, illegal immigration

Now let’s look at the prospects for 2018. Other than an historically unpopular first-term president, what issues do the Democrats have to run on? Even with the current stock market correction, it’s unlikely the economy will tank before November. (It takes six months of negative GDP to classify a recession, and right now GDP is strong.) Unemployment is historically low. There is no new military conflict. By November DACA will likely be resolved and the only immigration issues will be the border wall and the lingering Muslim ban court cases. Trump is riding high on the tax cuts and the recent long-term budget deals. Even the #MeToo movement is too fractured to break solidly Democratic. The party can’t own the issue with Bill Clinton, John Conyers, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Anthony Weiner as its poster boys.

Plus the Democrats are still a splintered party with no national leader to rally the troops. So they will be left to a series of local races with no unifying issue or theme to power them past heavily financed incumbents.

Unless the anti-Trump movement itself is enough to power the wave, what should be a tsunami may turn into a small storm. Democrats are likely to pick up seats in the House, but unless they net 24, the GOP will still own both chambers and the Executive branch.

The party’s leaders better settle on a set of core issues now, issues that will resonate with middle-class voters and power midterm turnout. And they better be bumper sticker stances, not nuanced wonky ones that take two minutes to explain.

So what can you do? Find the issue you are passionate about and post about it tirelessly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Join Facebook political groups to magnify your voice. Share posts on the issue and send them to your senate and congressional candidates. Be your own campaign manager and campaign spokesperson. Then pick five races with five candidates you are excited about and donate. If every Democrat becomes a one-man SuperPac, we win.

Unless we’re all in the campaign, Trump and company will be campaigning on tax cuts, jobs and prosperity, while Democrats be running on Russia and Robert Mueller.

I respect Robert Mueller. But I don’t think he’s a wave.

Kevin Kelton is a writer and co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook groups Open Fire Politics, Open Fire Food & Spirits, and Open Fire Sex.

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* An argument an be made that 2014 was also a wave election, but since the House was already heavily GOP, movement of congress further right isn’t being counted here as a “wave.”

 

Little Donald Trump (Ep. 139)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the dualing Carter Page memos, the stock market freefall, Trump’s war with “Little Adam Schiff,” the new developments affecting the midterm elections, the looming government shutdown redux, and our favorite Super Bowl commercials. It all culminates with a Dirty Dancing tribute.

My Alabama Blunder

by Kevin Kelton

On election night, with 60% of the vote counted and Roy Moore leading Doug Jones by 8 percentage points, I declared in Open Fire that it was all over. “I have never seen a candidate come back from an 8 point deficit this late in the count to win. Never,” I bloviated.

Well, now I have. And I earned plenty of well-deserved razzing from my Facebook peers for that short-sighted forecast.

But I have an even more embarrassingly bad prediction to which I must now confess:

I didn’t think black voters would show up.

In what I now see as my own amazingly misguided reading of the electorate, I simply thought the charges of sexual impropriety by a white man toward young white girls would not carry much weight in the black community. I referenced back to the racial divide over the O.J. Simpson verdict, when many news analysts hypothesized that blacks simply didn’t care about a rich, beautiful white woman being murdered, and to the more recent history of the 2016 election, where black voters in North Carolina, Michigan and other key states simply weren’t motivated to vote against another white man accused of abusing white women, and I assumed the same would hold true in red state Alabama.

I now realize there was more than a tinge of racist presumptions in my thinking, for which I publicly confess and sincerely apologize.

However, that was not the least of my prognosticating blunders regarding this election. I also discounted the influence that high-profile black politicians like President Barack Obama (in robocalls) and Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Deval Patrick, and Reps. John Lewis and Terri Sewell on the ground in the state would have on voter turnout. That might be the most telling sign that the Alabama results portend for 2018 and beyond.

When Democrats turn local races into national referendums, and get boots on the ground in the name of high-profile party icons, we can goose voter turnout to unprecedented numbers. But it takes work. You have to frame each race for a nationwide audience, and make local voters appreciate the far-reaching significance of their vote.

With effective voter engagement and a well-planned GOTV drive, Democrats can defy historic turnout patterns to bring new voters into the system and push our candidates across the finish line.

So to everyone that I misjudged or underestimated, I apologize and salute you. You showed our electoral process at its finest.

But to Democrats who bask in the after-glow of pulling out a long-shot win, let’s not forget that the unusually high minority turnout on Tuesday masks a massive racial divide that still infects the electorate at large. A full 74% of white men and 65% of white women still voted for the accused pedophile and Trump-endorsed darling of the alt-right. Sobering numbers indeed!

We can’t keep pulling inside straights by relying on only the minority vote. Democrats need to push up turnout among disaffected white voters as well. In every presidential election, if even 58% of registered voters show up, that leaves 42% missing in action. And many more who should be registered but aren’t. Despite the painful loss to Trumpism in 2016 (in which we still got 2.9 million more votes), our ideals and values are still the predominant values of America. We just have to get our potential voters registered and to the polls.

I don’t have a magic elixir for that. Maybe it will unveil itself in the progressive passion of another Bernie Sanders run, the modest decency of a Joe Biden campaign, the feminine power of an Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand nomination, or the big tent appeal of a ticket featuring Booker or Kamala Harris or Julian Castro.

But we need a message and a compelling voice for that message. Democrats cannot continue to compete with a white electorate that has written us off. Demographic trends may be promising, but in the here-and-now we need to start winning more white votes before the Trump Administration and the Republican party completely disembowel the compassionate, fair-minded America we fought so hard to create.

We threaded the needle on Tuesday night, and for that I’m extremely thankful. But we won’t always have god-awful opponents like Roy Moore to help us out.  Let’s be heartened by the outcome, but not blinded by it.

A big win? Yes. A turnaround? Hardly.

The Price Is Wrong (Ep. 120)

Episode 120 of “The More Perfect Union” podcast covers Trump’s various feuds with the Mayor of San Juan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Price, Rex Tillerson, Kim “Little Rocket Man” Jong-un, Cuba, China, Canada, Boeing, the estate tax, John Kasich, Bob Corker, and even Alec Baldwin. And that was one of his good  weeks!

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

Sanders’ Voters Are Not the Key to a Democratic Majority in the 2020s

by D.J. McGuire

Kevin Kelton is not just my collaborator on the More Perfect Union Podcast, he is also a friend. So it should not surprise anyone that I highly recommend the cyber-gauntlet he throws at Bernie Sanders supporters for 2018. I do think, however, that Kevin will be disappointed (although not surprised) to find that Sanders voters won’t tip the balance for the Democrats in 2018. On the plus side, once the lesson is learned, the Democrats can start reaching out to the center-right voters that are actually able and willing to help them build a majority coalition in the 2020s.

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Testing the Sanders’ Revolution

by Kevin Kelton

With the September release of Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, there will undoubtably be a renewed dust-up over whether she or Bernie Sanders should’ve been the 2016 Democratic standard bearer. But it’s over a year since the Democrats settled on a presidential candidate, and it’s time we put that primary campaign on the shelf. We have a common enemy now: alt-President Donald Trump and his alt version of America. To win that Herculean battle, liberal-progressive Democrats cannot waste time and breath fighting against anything but that.

The question now is, was Bernie Sanders’ promise of a political “revolution” real or all talk. The test will come November 6, 2018.

The midterms.

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The Week’s Advice for the Democrats: Hold Firm on Culture, Look for Openings From the Right on Economics

by D.J. McGuire

There has been a good deal of soul-searching within the Democratic Party about how to avoid repeating the 2014 and 2016 defeats. From what I can tell, most of those who (wisely) advise against careening leftward have recommended (not so wisely) downplaying “cultural” issues in an attempt to win back “working-class whites.” While I call myself a conservative Democrat, I have been advising largely the opposite – a move rightward on economic matters, not cultural ones. Events of the past week outside of the Senate health care votes have shown that to be the better approach.

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About Last Night’s Special Elections

by D.J. McGuire

“The people have spoken…the bastards.” – Richard Tuck, defeated candidate for California State Senate, 1966

Democrats will instinctively feel forlorn about their defeat in Georgia’s Congressional special election. They shouldn’t, although there are lessons to be learned.

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The Impeachment Clock (Ep. 100)

In the 100th episode of The More Perfect Union podcast, the gang talks about the prospects for impeachment now that Robert Mueller is on the case. They also look at what Democrats can do to sure up their case to voters in 2018, and why Calista was the Gingrich appointed Ambassador to the Vatican.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Helena, Molly, and lots of other smart, fun people.