Election Day: A sign of Democratic wins to come?
It’s been a difficult year for liberals, said Tim Morris in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “but the funk, the annus horribilis, the winter, spring, and summer of the Democrats’ discontent” seems to be coming to an end. President Trump’s favorability ratings are at a historic low. Republicans have so far failed to pass any meaningful legislation, and at least six big name GOP lawmakers already have one foot out the door. Even better, “a year after the nightmare began,” Democrats last week celebrated major electoral wins from coast to coast—from Virginia’s and New Jersey’s gubernatorial races to mayoral contests in Manchester, N.H., and Seattle. “Has the tide turned, the fever broken?” You’d better believe it, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Not only did firebrand Bernie Sanders–style leftists prevail in last week’s races, but so did moderates like Virginia’s governor-elect, Ralph Northam—a man “who is not, shall we say, overburdened with charisma.” With the anti-Trump sentiment this strong, Democrats could field almost anyone in 2018 and likely deliver Republicans a “butt kicking” in the midterms. “Hallelujah.”
Democrats have a lot to be optimistic about, said Jonathan Alter in TheDailyBeast.com. They need to flip just 24 seats to regain control of the House; their prime targets are the 23 Republicans in districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. But for all the current euphoria, Democrats are still in trouble. To woo the white working- class voters who flipped for Trump in 2016, they can’t just fall back on an anti-Trump platform. “They need to put some meat on the bones. What are they for?” They need a compelling economic message that covers jobs, health care, education, and retirement. It’s also high time they moved on from their post-2016 civil war. For the Bernie wing, that means ending their hostility toward candidates who, say, prefer to fix Obamacare before committing to Medicare for all, or who oppose abortion. Those kinds of toxic litmus tests are “an unaffordable luxury in the age of Trump.”
Democrats have their problems, but Republicans are in a much sorrier state, said W. James Antle III in WashingtonExaminer.com. The GOP’s leadership and governing class is loathed by the base. Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie— a lifelong establishment Republican— tried to bring out rank-and-file voters with a clumsy form of “Trumpism without Trump,” parroting the president’s populist positions on illegal immigration and Confederate statues. But that strategy only alienated the independents and swing voters who are fed up with Trump. Gillespie lost in a 9-point landslide, with 34 percent of Virginians saying they voted to express opposition to the president. Republicans are trapped, said Rich Lowry in National Review.com. “As a sheer political matter, there can be no such thing as Trumpism without Trump, or Anything Else without Trump.” Our bombastic president dominates the media narrative like no one else. “He is the main issue in American politics,” and with his proven ability to get out the vote, he “may be the only Republican fit to weather the storm.”
To turn things around, Republicans must focus on fulfilling campaign promises, said Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. Passing a package of tax cuts will show voters that Republicans can actually govern and deliver a crowd-pleasing “spike in economic growth.” A year is plenty of time to reverse the situation, said The San Diego Union-Tribune in an editorial. The Democratic Party’s approval rating is a mere 37 percent: 7 points higher than the GOP’s, admittedly, but still a 25-year low. If the economy keeps growing “and Republicans manage to pass a tax-overhaul bill that truly does help the middle class, that narrative offers powerful cover for GOP incumbents.”
Democrats will also have to overcome “daunting structural obstacles” if they’re going to win big, said Alexander Burns in The New York Times. Republican gerrymandering, “refined to a high art,” has created a perverse situation in which Democrats could have the election of their dreams in 2018 and still not see that support translate “into equally robust electoral gains.” Just look at Virginia. Democrats crushed their Republican opponents by 9 points in the state’s down-ballot races, yet will likely hold only 50 of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates. That pattern could be repeated nationwide next year. Most estimates require Democrats to win at least 55 percent of the national vote to take back those 24 seats and recapture control of the House. For a truly good 2018, “Democrats might need not merely a friendly tide, but a political rip current.”