Showing posts with label Trump. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trump. Show all posts

Monday, November 30, 2020

2020 Election: Biden Won and the Democratic Party Lost


“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.”

-Winston Churchill

That President Trump was going to lose this election was a foregone conclusion in my mind because he lost his one and only advantage - a strong economy. The historically unprecedented job and wage growth, especially among women and minorities, was wrecked by a global pandemic. This coupled with Trump’s inept leadership and lack of national strategy to manage the spread of the virus doomed his re-election bid. In addition to a struggling economy, Trump had a historically low approval rating, with which no incumbent, other than Harry Truman, has ever won re-election.

Going into the election, the Democrat’s also had an unprecedented fundraising advantage at every level. Biden’s campaign raised $809 million; more than any candidate in history, and entered the last month of the race with a three to one advantage over Trump. In Senate races, Democrats raised $716 million, to Republicans' $435 million, giving them an advantage of more than $280 million.

In Maine, Sara Gideon raised $69 million compared to Senator Susan Collins's paltry $26 million. In South Carolina Jaime Harrison raised $57 million in a bid to unseat Senator Lindsey Graham, achieving the highest quarterly fund-raising total for any Senate candidate in U.S. history. In Kentucky too, Amy McGrath consistently outraised and outspent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. History tells us that candidates who spend more in Senate races overwhelmingly win their races; Democrats were confident they would retake the Senate.

For four years the media and the left have painted Trump supporters as bigots. Liberal coastal elites in newsrooms across the country had convinced themselves that once the vast majority of the country saw Trump’s true colours, thanks to their efforts to unmask him, the majority of Americans, apart from a small and shrinking rural, uneducated white base, would come to their senses.

For this reason Democrats and the mainstream media assured us that we would witness a historic Blue wave that would result in Democrats winning the White House, retaking the Senate, growing their majority in the House, winning back Governorships, flipping state and local legislators. They were even confident of turning deep red states like Texas, blue, thanks to the growing number of Latino voters; even though Texas has been reliably Republican since 1980.

Along with an unprecedented campaign war chest, in 2020 Democrats also had a likeable candidate and America was facing an out of control pandemic, a struggling economy, historic unemployment and a President with a dismal approval rating – how did it go so wrong for Democrats, again?

The story on election night turned out far different from the confident narrative we heard going into the 2020 election and far from seeing a blue wave, the opposite transpired. 

Not only did Democrats fail to unseat Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham, but in Kentucky, Amy McGrath lost to Mitch McConnell by 20 points, making it the worst loss in that race since 2002. Republican Senators Joni Ernst, Dan Sullivan, John Cornyn, Steve Daines and Thom Tillis are all still standing. In races where Democrats outspent their opponents, they won 13 and lost 9. In races where Republicans outspent them, they won 8 races and lost zero.

 

(Data: FEC, Edison Research for the National Election Pool. Graphic: Reuters)

The story in the House is no better. Democrats lost their 35 seat advantage, with a Republican gain of 10-15 seats, and are now left with the smallest House majority in more than two decades.

At the local level where Democrats expected to chip away at the three-fifths majority of the 98 local legislative chambers that Republicans controlled, not only did they fail to flip even one, but they lost New Hampshire. The same story was repeated in Governor’s races. Republicans not only successfully defended all seven seats but flipped a Democratic one; giving them a 27 to 23 state advantage as new terms begin.

Yes, Biden won the White House but this too happened after five nerve wracking days, with far too many races too close to call for many days after the election. His victory is less than resounding or convincing and this should concern us all. Consider that if just 44,000 more votes had gone Trump’s way in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin, we would have a tie.

The truth is that the election felt more like a red surge. The Democrats' claim that Trump’s surprise 2016 win was in large part due to Hillary Clinton being a flawed and polarising candidate herself does not hold true when we see that the President earned nearly 10 million more votes than in 2016, gaining six million more votes than Mrs. Clinton.

Latinos are the fastest growing group in the United States and this year for the first time in a presidential election, they numbered more than eligible African-American voters. Far from losing ground, the man who put immigrant children in cages actually increased his support winning a 32 percent share of Latino voters. 

Latino voters powered Trump to a convincing win in Florida. A state that Democrats had expected to win going into the election. In Miami-Dade, which is 70 percent Latino, Trump picked up 200,000 more votes and closed a 30 point gap to 9 points. While it is true that about a quarter of Miami-Dade residents are Cuban-born, this group has historically supported Republicans, so their support alone cannot explain the gains Trump made here.

In Texas, counties with Latino majorities favoured Trump, marking a massive swing from just four years ago when Democrats dominated all these counties. Zapata County in Texas, which is 95 percent Latino, and one Mrs. Clinton won by 33 points in 2016 - Trump flipped in 2020, winning it by 6 points. A Wall Street Journal analysis shows that Mr. Trump improved his performance in every Texas County with a Latino population over 75 percent.

Even in the neighboring state of New Mexico, which is nearly half Latino, Mr. Trump picked up many more votes from four years ago. Counties like San Juan in the Northwest and Otero County in the Southeast with heavy Latino populations all moved closer to Trump.

Mr. Trump also measurably increased his vote share among Black, gay and Asian Americans. It is pretty remarkable for a man who has been labelled a white supremacist to grow his support to 12 percent of Black people, including over 18 percent of Black men, not to mention 34 percent of Asians and 28 percent of the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Amazingly, the President’s LGBTQ vote share doubled from 2016.

If all these facts were not damning enough, in dozens of interviews with the New York Times, African-American voters who chose Biden say they voted for the Democratic Party with great trepidation and a longstanding concern of feeling underappreciated by the party they have stood by for decades. One voter summed up what many African-Americans are feeling about Democrats, saying that they have not “earned his vote — or his loyalty.” He added that “my vote is open for bid — what will you do for me and my kind now that the election is over?”

Even in California, one of the most liberal states in the country, while Biden trounced Trump as was expected, what came as a shock is that Democrats lost many down ballot races. Republicans are now expected to win back at least four of seven seats they lost in 2018. The last time Republicans managed to defeat an incumbent Democrat in California was in 1994. In this election they have already done it three times with a few races still too close to call.

Californian voters also handily rejected progressive ballot measures around raising business taxes, instituting rent controls, protecting gig workers and reinstating affirmative action. They also helped the GOP regain their status as the second largest party in the state after falling behind “no party preference” registration in 2018. With the 2020 election results, Republicans in California can claim their best year in more than a decade.

The 2020 election map also shows a more entrenched and divided electorate compared to 2016, with fewer counties flipping from one party to the other. In the last election 237 counties changed allegiances from Obama to Trump, in this election only 77 counties flipped, with Biden winning 59 of them.

The bottom line is that the election results show that Mr. Trump’s appeal is more resonant and broader than most people understood. Not only did he manage to grow his base, but he actually found new voters. This reality contradicts the Democrat’s claim about Trump’s 2016 win was a fluke and that the 2020 result would be a total rebuke of this President and his policies – Trump has expanded his appeal by bringing in new and non-white voters.

Rather than try to spin the results as a victory, the Democratic Party should view them as a warning sign that their message is not connecting with many working class voters; white and non-white.

In addition to figuring out how they will tangibly deliver on promises to Black voters, which will not be easy, they should be extremely alarmed by the fact that so many Latino voters chose Trump. This is the fastest growing demographic in the country and if the Democratic Party were to lose their support, it would cost them elections for years to come.

 

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Crisis of Hearts and Minds in the Democratic Party

(Pelosi and Schumer respond to Trump’s Oval Office speech / Image Credit: NBC News)

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” 
-George Bernard Shaw

Wayne Messam is running for President in 2020 against Donald Trump. Who? Exactly.

That, in a nutshell, defines the core problem the Democratic Party will face in 2020. Almost every mayor, senator, governor, congresswoman and man believes he can take on President Trump and that she alone is the best candidate to defeat the incumbent. I remember remarking about the demise of the Republican Party when 18 candidates ran in the 2016 primaries. That was a clear indication of a group with too many Indians and no Chiefs. At last count, we had 55 potential Democratic presidential candidates. I am just grateful that Michael Avenatti, the self-proclaimed Trump on the left and Stormy Daniels lawyer, dropped out of the race after facing multiple accusations of sexual assault.

Put it this way: if we thought the battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was ugly and exposed deep rifts within the base, then I suspect the 2016 primary will feel like a Disney movie compared to what we will witness in the 2020 primaries.

Democratic candidates are already stumbling over each other to showcase their lack of judgement and discredit the front runner, Joe Biden; whether it is Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to prove her Native American heritage with a DNA test or Corey Booker’s Spartacus moment during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Curiously, a few days after some of the progressive favourites announced their bid for the Presidency, media stories started showing up about Biden taking $200,000 for stumping for a Republican candidate and about his role in the much-maligned Clinton-era crime policies which resulted in a disproportionate number of people of colour being incarcerated for minor drug-related offences.

At the other end of the spectrum we have Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced her Presidential bid on a late night comedy show and Kamala Harris, both desperately trying to grow their likeability with younger voters. Ms. Harris released well-designed campaign merchandise with a catchy tagline, and is also taking on the new age social media darlings like Beto O’Rourke (who is expected to run) with a video of her dancing to a Cardi B song. No word yet on whether Ms. Harris will release a viral video on serious policy positions.

The problem is that when you have so many candidates with such minor policy differences, it is impossible for voters to differentiate, and candidates need to find extreme ways to stand out against the crowd. Outrageousness is exactly what helped Trump come out on top and ensured that the entire GOP narrative during the campaign and primary debates was focused more on size of manhood and pussy’ grabbing, versus substantive policy discussions.

I have written previously about how Republican’s moral blindness and abandonment of core Conservative principles during the Bush, Jr. years resulted in an internal civil war. No question that the cracks had been building for many years before, but the Bush years were the final straw, and it led to the rise of the rebel and anti-establishment Tea Party.

The freedom caucus, as they are now called, was responsible for pushing out moderate Republicans like Speaker John Boehner and House Majority leader Eric Cantor (who was defeated in a primary), and is entirely responsible for the GOP dysfunction we witnessed during the Obama years. Their antics of ‘no compromise’ without any goal or unifying vision left their party defenseless and wide open for a hostile takeover by Donald Trump. Now, the Democrats, rather than learn the lessons from the demise of the GOP, seem poised to repeat history, within their own ranks.

Much like the Republican Party, the rift we see inside the Democratic Party has been growing for a number of years and is not sudden. While Bernie did not cause this rift, his anti-establishment campaign did ignite and light the match with young Millennials who were feeling disillusioned with Obama. By going after Hillary Clinton, Bernie also took on the ageing Democratic ‘establishment’ and old guard who many felt had unfairly chosen Obama’s successor without consulting the younger, more progressive and diverse Democratic base.

The fact is that the Democratic party was already broken and hopelessly divided when Obama won his first nomination; in fact he too had defied and defeated the establishment by running against Hillary Clinton, and his primary victory simply hobbled an already weak party.

To win his primary battle against Hillary, Obama knew he needed to go around the party machinery. This is why he created Organising for Action; “OFA was created as a shadow party because Obama operatives had no faith in state parties,” according to Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane KleebAs a result, during the Obama years there was a massive erosion of power in state legislatures, congressional districts and governor’s mansions.

At the start of Obama’s first term, Democrats controlled 59 percent of state legislatures, by the end it was down to 31percent; the lowest percentage for the party since the turn of the 20th century. Democrats held 29 governor’s offices at the beginning of his term and by the end they had only 16; the party’s lowest number since 1920. There is no question that, while Obama himself was popular, his persona transcended the party and did not trickle down the ballot. His was a coalition built less on party unity and more on personal charisma, optimism and the idea of tearing down racial barriers. Large numbers of people who came out to vote for him were voting for the first time, and many were minorities who had not voted in a long time.

In 2016, Hillary failed to bring together the same voting coalition that helped Obama win office. Millennials, deeply disappointed with Obama for not being progressive enough, broke for Bernie and many older blue collar voters who voted twice for Obama, and had not cast a vote for a Republican presidential nominee beforebroke for Trump because they felt completely ignored and betrayed by Democrats. Of course, we cannot negate Hillary’s own long-standing establishment baggage and deeply polarizing personality. We also have to credit Trump for reading the depth of frustration among working class white voters, a group who had long been the core of the Democratic base. There is no doubt Trump’s message was deeply divisive, but that fact remains that he was the only candidate speaking directly to them.

After the 2016 election, I hoped the Democratic Party leadership would take time to introspect, listen with humility and then forge a new platform for the American people for 2020, one built on ideas, and not ideology rooted in identity politics. Yet, two years on, the dysfunction and factionalism within the base and party seem to have grown deeper and wider, and with their unhealthy obsession to remove Trump from office by any means, it is clear Democrats learned nothing from their humiliating 2016 election defeat.

In fact, it feels like every corner of the Democratic coalition is self-destructing or tearing itself apart in some manner. The Women’s March organisation, a powerful activist group within the base, which was formed by a diverse group of women as an act of resistance to Trump’s misogyny, had a rift in its very first meeting. Apparently, it began when the black and Latino women told their Jewish counterpart that “Jews needed to confront their own role in racism”.

Rather than find ways to unify, it seems the divisions from this first meeting only continued to grow over the past year and finally blew into full public view this year with charges of anti-Semitism roiling the movement and overshadowing plans for more marches. This rift eventually led to marches being cancelled in some cities, and three competing marches being held in New York City.

Then there is the Bernie wing of the party, who call themselves Democratic Socialists, which is represented by young, outspoken leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This group genuinely believes their time has come. 2016 was the first time since Gallup has been asking this question that a majority of “Democrats had a more positive view of socialism than they did of capitalism. Much like the Freedom Caucus, this is a rebel group that is intent on remaking the soul of the Democratic Party from the inside. In a recent interview with Five-Thirty Eight, Waleed Shahid, a Bernie Sanders campaign alumni who recruits progressive candidates for Congress, was asked if this far-left group was the equivalent of the House Freedom Caucus, his answer was unequivocal: “Yes, it is”.

One could argue that the Democrats seem united, having selected Nancy Pelosi as speaker, whom the new left was totally against, and having withstood the government shutdown as a cohesive unit. The problem is that this unity is an illusion because it is driven entirely by a shared hatred of Donald Trump, and not built on a unifying vision or faith in leadership. Hate is never a reliable adhesive for long-term unity and it just corrodes the vessel it is carried in.

Democrats will not win in 2020 by simply being the anti-Trump party, again. Hillary Clinton spent all her time and energy vilifying Trump, rather than offer Americans ideas and solutions and we all know how that movie ended. Nor will they win if they cannot clearly articulate what they stand for, and they would do well to remember that a house divided is a house that can be conquered.