Democrats have figured out how to win elections in Trump-era America, act like Republicans. That does not mean by running as conservatives, instead Democrats are winning by tilting far to the left.
Here is how Obama speechwriter and leftist Jon Favreau described a “centrist” Democrat who won a close special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th District on 13 March in a Tweet:
Conor Lamb campaigned:
- For universal health care (Medicare for all)
- Against Trump’s tax cut
- For expanded background checks (for gun owners)
- For stronger unions
- Against cuts to Social Security
- For a woman’s right to choose
- For medical marijuana (euphemism for cannabis legalization)
To add icing to the cake, Lamb even spent as much time campaigning against U.S Representative and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as he did against President Trump, our friend Pat Buchanan noted. He sounded a lot like a Tea Party member campaign against Republicans in Name Only (RINOs).
Get the picture, the so-called centrist or conservative Democrat was to the left of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) on some issues. What’s more impressive is that Lamb eked out a victory in Trump country, even after the President campaigned for his opponent.
Hard Left Democrat wins in Trump Country
Lamb beat Republican Rick Saccone by 627 votes, The New York Times reported. That was close but effective. Lamb demonstrated that Democrats can win in Trump country by veering left.
The victory spells trouble for Republicans; because Donald J. Trump carried the 18th District by 19.6 points in the 2016 presidential election, The Week’s David Faris pointed out. Not even Trump’s presence in the district prevented the GOP’s advantage from falling by nearly 20 points in two years.
The leftward push proves that centrism is now dead in both parties, despite the wishful thinking of pundits like The Week’s Scott Galupo. To win, Democrats will have to take a hard-left stance and forget about moderation.
The New Democratic Strategy it’s the old Republican Strategy
Lamb’s victory is the product of a new Democratic strategy that we’re likely to see all over the country this year. The strategy is hardly original, but it is effective and proven.
What Lamb did was to adopt a variation of a highly-effective strategy Republicans have been using for decades. A good name for the strategy is “preaching to the choir.” The tactic is to direct the message solely at your party’s base to energize and motivate your people and get them to the polls while ignoring everybody else.
There is no compromise; no moderation, and no shades of grey, just an all-out war on the other guys. Republicans have been following this strategy for decades, taking hardline positions on issues like gun control and abortion and winning loyalty from large segments of the populace.
The strategy has been highly effective for the Grand Old Party (GOP) it controlled 4,170 state legislature seats or 58% of all such seats in the nation, 32 state legislatures, both houses of Congress, and the White House in January 2017. Democrats lost more than 1,000 state legislative seats between 2009 and 2013, The Hill estimated.
What’s truly interesting is that the Republicans achieved all that by taking distinctly minority positions. Only 37% of Americans think abortion should be illegal, and 59% of the population supports a woman’s right to choose in January 2017, the Pew Research Center reported. Only 75% or three-fourths of Americans wanted stricter gun laws, a February 28, 2018, IPSOS/NPR poll indicates.
The Republicans won by seeking the support of mobilizing dedicated minorities. Now it appears that Democrats have adopted the same strategy. Although, it took them a very long time to take that course of action.
The Failed Democratic Strategy
For the last few decades, the Democrats followed a very different strategy than the Republican preaching to the choir. This stratagem was based on the “Median Voter” or “Swing Voter” hypothesis.
The thinking here is that there is a large percentage of centrist voters; with few strong opinions on any issue, who determine the winners of most elections. The way to appeal to such individuals is to take no strong stands on any issue and avoid any appearance of ideology.
This is the strategy Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York) followed in the 2016 presidential election and she suffered an embarrassing defeat. Hillary simply refused to discuss issues like the $15 minimum wage and single-payer healthcare out of fear of scaring away swing voters. Oneresult of that may have been that leftist voters did not go to the polls, or voted for somebody other than Hillary.
Around 12% of Trump voters in the general election supported Sanders in the Democratic primary, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Brian F. Schaffner estimated. Schaffner’s belief is that Bernie voters may have made have the difference for Trump in some swing states such as Wisconsin.
One problem Democrats faced was that their people did not come out to vote, but Republicans did. Such mobilization of the base is often effective in close elections like those we have today. Moderation sounds good on Sunday morning talk shows but it rarely gets anybody to the polls.
Democrats can win by acting like Republicans
The lesson Democrats like Lamb, have learned from the 2016 debacle, is that the center and the swing voter are dead. Those who want to win follow the Republican strategy, and campaign only to the base.
To Democrats that means going hard left, and taking uncompromising stands on issues like the minimum wage, single-payer health care, gun-control, unions, tuition-free college, gay rights, and abortion. This will shock many moderates, especially in newsrooms, but it seems to win elections.
Using this strategy Democrats achieved two congressional upsets in the past year, Lamb’s victory and Doug Jones’ surprise Senate win in Alabama in December 2017. Democrats using such tactics came close in a number of house districts including the Fourth Congressional District of Kansas where Berniecrat James Thompson came within striking range of Mike Pompeo’s handpicked successor. Thompson and his Thompson army will be back in November 2018 with a campaign focused on such issues as “marijuana reform” and “gun violence.”
Will the Hard-Left Democratic Strategy Work?
The available polling data indicates that such a hard left strategy might work. Self-described social democrat and outspoken advocate of single-payer healthcare and unions U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has been crowned the most “popular politician in America” by several polls.
Sanders received a 54% favorability rating in a Harvard-Harris poll in August 2017, Newsweek reported. The same poll gave President Trump a 41% favorability rating and Hillary Clinton a 42% rating.
Around 60% of those surveyed said the federal government should be responsible for ensuring healthcare coverage for all in a June 23, 2017, poll by the Pew Research Center. Around 33% of those surveyed, a number percentage similar to those who wanted abortion banned, endorsed the notion of single-payer health insurance.
Another issue that portends well for Democrats veering left is marijuana. Around 61% of American adults favored cannabis legalization a 5 January 2018, Pew Research Center survey determined. Those numbers were higher for younger people, 70% of Millennials (persons between 21 and 35), 66% of Generation Xers (those between 36 and 52) and 56% of Baby Boomers those between 53 and 73 wanted legal weed.
More worrying for Republicans should be that 45% of those under 30 support single-payer healthcare. Around 66% of Democrats; and Democrat-leaners, under 29 wanted a single national health insurance system.
The Boomers are Dying off and Driving Democrats Left
Such figures should scare Republicans because millennials (persons aged 20 to 36 in 2016) are on the cusp of outnumbering Baby Boomers (persons aged 52 to 70 who are more likely to vote Republican), Pew reported. The number of Millennials is expected to grow to 73 million in 2019, while the number of Boomers will shrink to 72 million.
That means up to two million likely Trump voters will die between 2018 and the 2020 election. This might make the difference in some states including Wisconsin which Trump won by just 22,748 votes.
Democrats taking hard-left stances such as legalizing marijuana, strict gun control, and Medicare for all might be able to mobilize enough additional young voters to win elections in such states. Something to remember is that a hard-left Democrat does not need the mass mobilization of young voters. Instead, he or she only needs to get a few hundred or a few thousand more diehards to the polls to win in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and possibly Texas.
Simply getting the portion of the under 30, or under 35 crowd that feels strongly about marijuana, gun control, immigration, single-payer, free college, or a $15 minimum wage riled up might be enough to win. Republicans proved that in 2016, by mobilizing the pro-life and gun rights crowds.
This shows us what contested U.S elections will look for the near future. They will be close, partisan, nasty, and hard-fought, like the contest in the 18th District of Pennsylvania. Politicians will be fighting hard over a few hundred or a few thousand votes and spend most of their time preaching to the choir.
There will be no room for moderation or compromise. Both parties will look alike differing only in the stances they take, and the discourse will be shrill. Centrism and compromise will be things of the past, and it will be the moderates disgusted by both parties who will stay home. One has to wonder if either party will miss the moderates or care that they are gone.