07 November 2019

This week, 2020, and beyond

This week's election results look very good.  Republicans swept from power in Virginia, a Democratic governor in Kentucky, substantial shifts in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and even in Mississippi our candidate for governor lost by less than six points.

These outcomes are very encouraging for next year.  They also offer some useful lessons.  Three points in particular stand out.

1)  Narrow wins aren't good enough.  The Republicans will try to steal any election where the margin is small enough to give them a chance at doing so, and I don't just mean before-the-fact by tactics like suppressing the minority vote.  Because Beshear's margin of victory in Kentucky was only 5,000 votes, they're already exploring possible tactics for overturning the result.

They will do the same next year if our presidential candidate's win is narrow, not just nationally but in any individual state.  Even if the margin nationally is large, if the Electoral College result comes down to narrow Democratic wins in a few swing states (where our current polling margins are small), Republicans are likely to try to reverse or sabotage those outcomes.  And their efforts might win support at the Supreme Court, if the fight goes there, since the stakes are very high for the Court's conservatives -- a Democratic president and Congress might expand the Court, weakening those conservatives' power.  We need big enough wins in the swing states to avoid this scenario.

The same applies to Senate races.  If we don't win the Senate, the Republicans can still obstruct most efforts to undo the damage Trump did and move forward.  The future of the country could come down to one or two close Senate races in states like Arizona or Iowa.  Again, the wider the margin of victory in those states, the less the chance of Republicans challenging the outcome.

2)  It's not just about the presidency.  In Kentucky, Beshear won due in part to Bevin's personal unpopularity, but Republicans won every other state-wide race.  Trump too is personally unpopular, but if we defeat him solely on that basis, Republicans might still perform strongly elsewhere.  We'll need a Democratic Senate, and control of as many state legislatures as possible to thwart gerrymandering after the 2020 census.

In fact, we'll need more than a slight majority in the Senate.  If the filibuster isn't abolished, not much will get done, and several Democratic senators have already come out against abolishing the filibuster.  This is not an argument for abandoning conservative Democrats -- it's always better for a seat to be held by a conservative Democrat, who will vote the wrong way on some things, than by a Republican, who will vote the wrong way on everything.  And we'll have a better chance of persuading these Democrats to change their minds on the filibuster than of persuading Republicans to do so.  But the bigger the majority in the Senate, the better the odds.

This is relevant to the old debate about whether it's better to win by appealing to voters in the center or by boosting turnout in our own base.  Centrists and moderate Republicans who want to repudiate Trump are more likely to ticket-split, voting for a Democratic president but also for Republicans at lower levels as a check on that president's policies (since they're voting for the Democrat not because they like those policies, but just to get rid of Trump).  Democratic base voters turned out by GOTV efforts are more likely to vote Democratic at all levels.

3)  Future elections matter too.  The fight doesn't end when Trump leaves office. A new president's party usually loses seats in Congress in the following midterm.  A loss of either the House or Senate in 2022 would enable the Republicans to resume obstructing and sabotaging everything, and their efforts would be even more nihilistic and destructive since they wouldn't need to worry about undermining a Republican president.  The party will need to deliver on popular promises, such as a public option, during 2021 and 2022.  Pushing unpopular policies like abolishing private insurance is likely to result in massive repudiation in 2022 (yes, in the long run it would benefit the country, but it's unpopular now and there won't be time before 2022 for the benefits to become apparent to the average voter).

Next year's running-mate choice will matter.  Given that our most likely nominees (Biden, Warren, and Sanders) are all in their seventies, there's a non-trivial chance that the person chosen as vice-president will be the incumbent running for re-election in 2024.

Running on "Trump is a terrible person" may be enough in 2020 (though it wasn't in 2016), but in 2022 and 2024 Trump won't be on the ballot.  A massive Republican defeat next year will most likely set them at each other's throats for a while, but it's possible that they'll get their act together, adopt a moderate façade, and pose a real threat again.  Getting rid of Trump really is the top priority next year, but the more we give people something to vote for as well, the more lasting the win will be.


Blogger nothoughtsnoprayersnonothing said...

I like your thoughts and have nothing original to add ... but will comment anyway. lol

Only the winner is remembered no matter how close the numbers. But the strength of the loser can be important for the future

We can analyze the why of a voter's choice, but deep down it could be for some crazy reason. That is why it is important to go door to door and have a friendly little talk to people who may only get their info from a 30 minute news show.

Hoping and presuming the dems will win next November, I think the pick of the VP is very important. While my leanings are pretty far left, I think a moderate would be more acceptable.

07 November, 2019 03:53  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

It will be interesting to see how people are voting and who gets elected where.

07 November, 2019 09:33  
Blogger Professor Chaos said...

We can not just run on "Trump is a terrible person." If we have learned anything over the last several election cycles, it's that the only way to win is to give people a reason to vote FOR YOU, not just against them. And unless the Dems end up with like 70 Senate seats, the filibuster has got to go. Or it at least has to be the Mr Smith Goes to Washington - style filibuster, none of this bullshit just voting no on cloture.

07 November, 2019 14:31  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

People need to realize that that need to log off Facebook and go vote.
There’s no other way to clean the government of pests and swamp creatures. The wave needs to be blue and basically destroy the repugs.


07 November, 2019 16:04  
Blogger jenny_o said...

The mechanics and fine points of US elections is still something I have trouble wrapping my head around. I need a primer, something very simple, to use as a basis for learning more. But your points are well-taken even with the gaps in my knowledge.

07 November, 2019 18:11  
Blogger jono said...

I wonder if tRump's visit helped or hurt Bevin?

08 November, 2019 12:25  
Blogger Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I'm still gobsmmacked that so many Republicans still think Trump is the "best" president we've ever had. (It made me throw up a little just to type those words...) You're right, though. It isn't enough for Dems to run on a "Dontcha hate Trump?" platform. They have to offer concrete reasons to make people want to vote for them. I'd love to have at least one more Dem candidate to get crazy excited about before I die...

08 November, 2019 13:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

No Thoughts: Thanks. My own inclinations are pretty far left on most things too, but the top priority is that the next president be a Democrat. I'm a lot less concerned about which Democrat. And yes, the bottom line is who wins. I wish the third-party nuts would remember that. Nobody remembers, or ever cared, what kind of "message" the Nader voters thought they were sending in 2000. The only important result was that Bush became president instead of Gore.

Mary: This Tuesday was promising.

Professor: It's bizarre that some Senate Democrats are saying won't vote to get rid of the filibuster. They've seen what the Republicans are like. If we get a majority, there should be massive pressure on them to change their minds.

Sixpence: All we need is fair elections -- no gerrymandering or vote suppression -- and the Republicans will be pretty much doomed to permanent minority status.

Jenny_o: Thanks. Even a lot of Americans have trouble understanding our rather weird system. The only thing stranger than a democracy where the candidate with the most votes loses the election, is the fact that some people still defend that system.

Jono: It probably helped, since Trump is more popular in Kentucky than Bevin is. It just didn't quite help enough.

Susan: I think a lot of them realize he's a scumbag and a con man, but they'll never admit it -- it would be unbearable to acknowledge that they were wrong about him and the "libs" and the "smart people" were right. But the ones who just want a president to humiliate all the people they hate -- to them, he is the best.

08 November, 2019 17:26  

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