As expected, democrats began their self-reassurance Morris dance the moment it became clear election night in Virginia would end well. For the rest of the world, however, it was no surprise. Anyone who voiced doubt were either setting low expectations, or still suffering poll-fail shock from last year’s beating.
Back in political reality important facts remain: democrats haven’t won a single seat in Congress, are infighting more than ever, have no clear leadership, and still don’t have a solution for millions of Americans who feel left behind by the modern economy.
Yes, democrats have flipped a few state seats and a governorship in NJ – which was impossible to lose thanks to Chris Christie’s dismal numbers – but in the Trump era, the Republican Party is 5 for 5 in congressional elections. Democrats might have high hopes of winning back the House, but as it stands today, controlling the House remains a donkey dream. Here’s why:
Democrats Haven’t Solved Their “Man Left Behind” Problem
Putting aside the race baiting and anger stoking, Trump won because he deployed Steve Bannon’s mutation of patriotism into nationalism, and how celebrating blue collar culture can ease the fear that plagues so many Americans: being left behind while those in power don’t give a darn.
From the day they’re born, white Americans are promised that if they work hard, then they’ll be happy, and maybe even wealthy. For those who start poor this has never been the case, but it’s still subtly promised in everything from history books to sitcoms to country songs. Before the Internet dominated commerce, it still felt at least possible. But now that the US economy is rushing into “the cloud”, millions of people who live in areas where those jobs aren’t located have been left behind on the ground. Small towns get smaller and rural areas become more removed from the mainstream – millions of people are more forgotten as Capitalism rages on without glancing back at its destructive path.
The only thing democrats offer economically ostracized Americans: retraining programs. Here’s a tip: most people don’t like school! They have no desire to retrain, and for most, retraining is useless unless they also pick up their lives and move to a city where new-economy jobs are centralized. They don’t want to leave their homes, and therefore career retraining has no value.
Trump promised them what they wanted to hear: a good livelihood in your neighborhood. No need to train and no need to move. Democrats are asking them to change their lives and how they view the world… that won’t win elections.
For 2018, Single Issue Voters Remain Solidly In The GOP Column
Now that the media bubble for democrats is just as isolated as republicans, they seem totally unaware that a year later Trump voters would still take a sucker punch for their candidate, wealthy voters will always vote for tax breaks, gun owners always vote with the NRA, and evangelicals will always vote pro life.
The GOP owns their single-issue voters, whereas Democrats have to share the rest with independents and smaller political parties. On single-issues alone, the GOP will forever get 35-40% of the vote. Democrats have done nothing to solve that problem.
American Men Vote More For Strength Than Solidarity
For decades, Strength framed as an American “value” has been owned by GOP candidates. Thanks to Trump, it’s possible they always will. Being drawn to strength is a primal human instinct that cannot be erased, and therefore must be addressed if democrats want to expand their voter base. Through unions, democrats managed to get traction selling solidarity, but as unions dwindle, so does the Democratic Party’s base. Solidarity isn’t enough to win – democratic candidates need to learn how to look strong.
Even in well-educated blue districts, men and women are instinctively drawn toward candidates who demonstrate the magic S word (which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is a large factor why men still occupy the vast majority of elected seats in this country). Anti-Trump anger will force some independents back into the D column, but not enough to win back Congress. Republicans know this – just look at how aggressively they continue to use “weak” to describe democratic candidates and policy positions. Democrats preaching solidarity and unity will not win back the blue collar white men who deserted the party for Trump.
The Media Is Even Less Trusted Than In 2016
Ironically, now that most hard-right republicans are finally aware how fake news spreads online like wildfire, they trust mainstream media even less and have recoiled deeper into their echo chamber – which only exacerbates the problem. The less extreme wing of the GOP base is just sick of it all: they go to work, come home tired, and don’t have time nor taste for the national news that’s become little more than a Twitter feed; every broadcast ending with, “SAD!”
Fake news won’t stop. Fake news that’s designed to divide and anger voters isn’t a tool reserved for Putin. Injecting the right-wing with fake news is a path to make an enormous amount of money (finally giving English majors a decent income). Motivating and isolating the GOP base by means of divisive fake news will always occur, and those who do it are improving their art form. It will get worse before it gets better.
Can Democrats Win The House in 2018?
Sure, but not if they remain on their current path. They haven’t addressed the fundamental causes of why people voted for Trump in the first place, and they cannot get control until they do. Nor will Russia save democrats: as far as republicans are concerned, it’s fake news and always will be.
Democrats are doing one thing right, however: they’re spending more effort on down-ballot races, which get pushes more grass-root votes upstream to the top of the ticket. Whether that expansion is enough to take back Congress remains to be seen.
But to ensure victory, democrats need to do some more soul searching and come up with a tangible way to help “those left behind” by Economy – kumbaya and taxing the rich ain’t gonna cut it.