29 November 2022

No complacency after the election

Democrats have every right to celebrate the results of this month's election.  The red wave fizzled out.  The Republicans took the House majority by only a tiny margin, which will be rendered unworkable by their own flaming-nutball fringe.  Democrats held the Senate and will probably get to 51-49 after the Georgia runoff.  Election denialists lost almost every race, and except in Arizona, there has been practically no "stolen election" nonsense.

Nevertheless, they should avoid complacency.  There are still reasons for concern going forward.

1.  Holding the Senate in 2024 will be very difficult.  Every Republican senator who will be up for re-election in 2024 is in a safely red state (with the possible exception of Florida), so there is no realistic chance of picking up any new Senate seats.  That means Democrats can't afford to lose more than one -- and that's assuming they win the presidency again so that a Democratic vice president remains as the tie-breaker.

2.  A number of unusual factors conspired to squelch the red wave.  The Dobbs decision and threats to Social Security and Medicare turned off a lot of voters.  Trump stuck the Republicans with some dud candidates who lost races a more conventional candidate might have won.  He also insisted on making himself and his stolen-election claims an issue.  But you can't count on Republicans to keep making huge stupid mistakes right before each election, and Trump won't always be a factor.

3.  As Electoral-Vote points out, voters were more rejecting Trumpists than rejecting Republicans in general; and Hispanics, Asians and even blacks continued shifting toward Republicans -- who did better with each of those groups than in 2018.

4.  Liberal blogs have been proclaiming that, at last, young voters turned out in high numbers.  It's not true.  And total turnout wasn't actually all that high -- it was lower than in 2018.  These figures are total votes for the House of Representatives in each year:

5.  Democrats have been telling themselves the polls were hopelessly wrong and can be ignored from now on.  In fact, the polls turned out to be pretty accurate if you exclude the wave of Republican-leaning junk polls that were dumped just before the election to skew the averages.  So no, we can't just ignore polls from now on, and the red wave was probably real before Dobbs and Trump's narcissism flattened it.

6.  Most importantly, there are many issues where Democrats are far out of step with the American mainstream -- it's not just a "messaging" problem:

.....the cultural left in and around the Democratic party has managed to associate the party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. These unpopular views are further amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as within the Democratic party infrastructure itself, all of which are thoroughly dominated by the cultural left..... Democrats continue to be weighed down by those whose tendency is to oppose firm action to control crime or the southern border as concessions to racism, interpret concerns about ideological school curricula and lowering educational standards as manifestations of white supremacy, and generally emphasize the identity politics angle of virtually every issue.....

In the recent New York Times/Sienna poll, voters by 15 points (49-34) say Democrats have gone too far in pushing a "woke" ideology on issues related to race and gender, rather than not far enough..... the poll asked voters whether they supported or opposed "allowing public school teachers to provide classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to children in elementary school (grades 1-5)" Note that this stipulation is actually stricter than the one in the Florida law that aroused such horror in Democratic circles. Voters responded by 43 points (70-27) that they opposed allowing such a practice..... If [Democrats] ever hope to overcome their structural obstacles to electoral and governance success, there really is no choice but to move to the center on cultural issues.....

Mainstream voters are never going to accept that violent criminals do not deserve harsh punishment, or that the US should not enforce its immigration laws, or that it's OK for men to use the girls' bathroom or compete on women's sports teams.  The fact that the left is so out-of-step on such issues should be a big concern to anyone who cares about Democrats actually winning elections, as opposed to merely being able to stand around basking in their own righteousness.  Calling voters names ending in -ist and -phobe for having such views, and running away whenever anybody brings up the problem, will just result in more voters moving toward the Republicans.

7.  Before the election, I argued that it would be best for the country if one side won in a landslide, because if one party loses massively, at least that one will be forced to purge its own lunatic-fringe ideas and move toward the sensible center.  Well, there was no landslide, but the results were enough of a disappointment for the Republicans that they seem motivated at last to purge at least some parts of their extensive inventory of lunatic-fringery -- Trump worship and election denialism.  More and more major Republican figures are openly saying that it's time to move on from Trump and his obsessions.  It's not enough -- I've seen no sign that they're ready to turn against other crank ideas like global-warming denialism or anti-vaxism -- but if they move toward sanity even this much and the Democrats refuse to budge on any of their own fringe views, then to that extent they will benefit.

8.  Knee-jerk hatred of gun culture -- and yes, guns are part of the culture in huge areas of the US -- remains a major problem.  So long as every mass shooting by an isolated psycho triggers a flood of disdain and loathing against a hundred million law-abiding gun owners, and outright threats to a clear Constitutional right, the Democrats will be electorally pretty much locked out of whole states and regions, without which it's only barely possible to win nationally.

o o o o o

It's unlikely that these issues will hurt the Democrats much in 2024 specifically.  The Republicans will probably fail to win the presidency because the conflict between pro- and anti-Trump factions will still be ongoing (if Trump is the nominee, he'll alienate centrist voters, and if someone else is the nominee, Trump will throw a tantrum and tell his supporters not to vote).  If they use their House majority to stage a bunch of posturing phony "investigations" instead of to work on solving the country's problems, they'll turn off mainstream voters and lose the majority again.  But in the long run the exhausted majority of voters will reward pragmatic centrism and punish those who cling to the polarizing fringes.  If you want the Democrats to win elections going forward, help them be the former and not the latter.


Anonymous NickM said...

I think a fundamental issue is quite simply what "liberal" means politically. I suspect it has very different meanings in the UK compared to the USA. For example. The UK got gay marriage without much Sturm und Drang (though some religious types did try to present it as The End of Days but were basically seen as nutters). Abortion is similar. In the US it is either an inalienable right or murder. I think us Brits (though not Northern Ireland) tend towards a more nuanced idea. A large aspect of the 1967 Abortion Act in the UK was about recognising the harm of backstreet abortions. We are of course far from perfect... A lot of Brits regard Americans as a bunch of gun-nuts. I don't.

29 November, 2022 05:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd just be happy with criminals being isolated.

29 November, 2022 06:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

NickM: The US has a large and powerful ultra-religious minority; the UK doesn't. That puts a different cast on the whole of culture and politics.

Anon: Most people wouldn't agree. Those who threaten or commit violence against others without provocation must be punished harshly for their actions.

29 November, 2022 09:26  
Anonymous spirilis said...

Toward six. All people have buttons and many like to find them and push. Very, very few people are able to control their emotional triggers. The closer to the bone the harder the control. Most of the "culture issues" are purposefully manipulated triggers designed to provoke an over reaction. Many of the triggered have a legitimate reason and I don't see them not ever being able to contain the pain. I think the rest of us will just have to stand with them.
I have absolutely no problems with gun-grabbers as I can envision no scenario in which they become successful, so great allies whose policies will not threaten me.
We are very close to the Age of Aquarius in which war will have no appeal as the Russian/Ukraine conflict is proving that it has no value to the participants.

29 November, 2022 09:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Spirilis: No need for such psychological complexity. A lot of the stuff the wokies are pushing is insulting to mainstream Americans and/or makes them quite legitimately feel threatened -- or even worse, feel that their children are threatened. Naturally they push back against anyone supporting that agenda. It's not any more complicated than that.

I don't think the gun-grabbers will ever be successful either, but the disdain and contempt which large parts of the radical left display toward gun culture are predictably making tens of millions of rural people and other gun owners implacably hostile to the left as a whole. This costs elections. It needs to stop.

Wars have been in decline for some time in most of the world, but I don't see the Ukraine war doing any better at "proving that [war] has no value to the participants" than World War I did (far more clearly and to the tune of a far higher pile of corpses). What needs to be demonstrated is that aggression brings no reward and will be punished. Only one side started this war. We need to punish Putin to deter future Putins elsewhere.

29 November, 2022 10:23  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

You made several very good points.

29 November, 2022 10:26  
Blogger Ami said...

As always, I appreciate your perspective and your calm, straightforward analysis of how things are going and why they're going that way. I'm not able to just step back and look in any kind of rational manner, I get angry and frustrated, then angry because there is nothing I can do and frustrated because there's nothing I can do and round and round we go.

Also, I still read Shower Cap's blog, which I found here originally.
He's not calm but I'd have to say he's definitely straightforward.

29 November, 2022 12:39  
Anonymous Reaganite Independent said...

Excellent post. James Carville’s been trying to tell Democrats a lot of this for some time now, but not everybody’s willing to hear it.

30 November, 2022 03:37  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ricko: Thanks -- I hope so.

Ami: Some things are harder to remain calm about than others (see post above this one), and sometimes anger is appropriate. But a complex situation like this really needs to be assessed calmly and rationally. Unfortunately I see very little willingness on the part of most left activists to recognize or address any of these problems.

Reaganite: Thank you. I don't think they want to hear it from me either, but from time to time I feel obligated to do what I can.

30 November, 2022 04:36  
Blogger Tommykey said...

My out of the box idea is that Democrats should run more pro gun rights than Republicans.

More people buy guns when Democrats are in power because they perceive the Democrats as wanting to take away their guns to oppress them, whereas fewer guns are sold when Republicans are in power. If you are someone concerned about gun violence, few guns sold should translate into less gun violence. So, fewer guns are sold when a fair chunk of the population is not afraid of the government taking them away.

03 December, 2022 12:30  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Tommykey: I'd like to see the Democrats support gun rights -- it would be more consistent with their position as the party of individual freedom on most other issues like abortion, same-sex relationships, freedom from religion, etc. But I don't know whether gun sales really have any impact on gun violence, when the number of guns out there in private hands is already so vast.

04 December, 2022 01:50  
Blogger Daal said...

tx for great run down.

04 December, 2022 15:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks -- one does what one can.

04 December, 2022 20:47  

Post a Comment

<< Home