Thursday, June 22, 2017

Maintaining Separation

I wasn't able to tune into much news yesterday so I missed the excuses Democrats had for losing another special election for Congress.  Was it Russian hacking that cost Jon Ossoff the race in the sixth district?  Or was it gerrymandering this time?  Was voter ID requirements the reason so few Democratic voters turned out?  Did the county clerks refuse to hold early voting office hours on Sundays?  I bet the FBI director said something suspicious about Ossoff a week before the election and that swung public sentiment against him.

The sixth congressional race was the latest in a series of "referenda on Donald Trump" that Democrats swore was going to prove that the nation had turned against Republicans--and that a "wave election" is coming in 2018--where they would retake control of Congress.  And yet, in four special elections to fill seats vacated by Trump administration appointees, Republicans won them all.

Granted, the margins of victory in some of them were smaller than those seen by the President in those same districts just last fall.  But in Georgia, Trump won the district by a scant one-percentage point.  Karen Handel--who had lost a number of statewide races in the past--tripled that margin in her win Tuesday.  That proved Republicans dis-satisfied with their choice for President in 2016 still are not willing to jump ship to a Democrat in any other race.

And that is the delicate balancing act that Republicans at all levels of politics have to continue to maintain for the next three-and-a-half years.  How to stay true to the party's core values--while the tweeting madman in the White House tries to carry the banner for the same party while veering from one extreme to the next.  So far, voters are seeing that effort being made.

The Ossoff loss also points to Democrats' biggest internal challenge to winning back control on some level of government.  Party members' decision to concentrate themselves in urban areas leaves them with few viable candidates to compete in other districts.  Jon Ossoff didn't even live in the sixth district before running for that seat.  He couldn't vote for himself in the "jungle primary" back in April.  Add to that the fact that he is only 30-years old and you can see why voters may have questioned his qualifications for Congress.

The catchphrase for protesters taking part in anti-Trump rallies, protests blocking speakers on college campuses, demanding justice in police-related shootings and at campaign stops for the Democratic challengers in the four special elections so far this year has been "This is what democracy looks like".  But when it comes to winning elections--the actual "democracy" part of democracy--the Democrats still have a long way to go.

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