Democrats are down in the dumps that they lost the Presidency to such an unworthy contender. It is one thing for Hillary to have lost the Presidency the first time to Barack Obama, who is so charming that he could have won a third term if he had been allowed to run. After all, the economy is chugging along and foreign affairs are under control, Obama having declared the Middle East a place to stay out of. But it was quite another thing for her to have lost to Donald Trump, the most unqualified candidate in history, who is boorish and inarticulate even if also outspoken. The Donald, all the prognosticators said, would have to pull an inside straight to win, and that is just what he did.
Republicans say the Democratic base deserted its party, although it might be more correct to say that the most unattractive part of what was once the Democratic base, both North and South, took over the Republican Party. It was an unfriendly takeover, Republican Bigs trying to the end to figure out a way to deny Trump their party’s nomination. Since the election, Capitol Hill Republicans have been leaning over to welcome Trump, but we will see how long that lasts if Trump insists on policies contrary to those of the Senate and Congressional leadership, which is not likely to happen. But those are matters of conjecture, while electoral politics answer to a severer metrics: demographics and organization and public sentiment. What was done on Election Day can be undone next Election Day, which is less than two years away.
The death of the Republican Party was predicted after Goldwater was defeated. It won four years later with Richard Nixon, a very flawed standard bearer. All kinds of things happen on the way to the ballot box. In that case, it was assassinations, riots in Chicago, the endless war in Vietnam, as well as a Republican candidate who hid his meanness under a veneer of respectability. This time, there are other forces at work towards the undoing of the recently achieved Republican victory.
Liberal commentators make a lot of the weekend marches in protest of Trump, first the Women’s March the day after his election and then the protests against his immigration orders. Well, where were all those people on Election Day? Hillary couldn’t drag out ten thousand or so additional votes in Pennsylvania or Michigan or Wisconsin. Women didn’t respond to a desire to elect the first woman President ever, and African Americans didn’t respond to the need to elect someone other than a black man even though Trump’s lack of allegiance to a civil rights agenda was clear long before he nominated Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. So we will have to look elsewhere than to demonstrations for a Democratic resurgence.
Chuck Schumer’s plan, as I suggested a few weeks ago, was to use the nearly divided Senate as the place to confront the Republicans, and that he has tried to do. The Democrats there, however, have only succeeded in making nuisances of themselves, although all credit to them for having done that and brought attention to just how ultra conservative the Trump cabinet appointments are. But he has not been able to thwart a single one, even the nomination of the completely unqualified Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. And the Republicans, all on their own, were able to get Trump’s promise to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare delayed for a year while they try to figure out what to replace it with, there being no other model than a single payer system to offer because Obamacare was already a system that had given in to giving private insurance companies a major role in health care. Paul Ryan has to invent something brand new, and I don’t think he or anyone else is up to that job. So look elsewhere than to Congress for a source of Democratic resurgence.
The best place to look, I think, is to the shifting political demographics of the states. For a long time now, political scientists have pointed to the likelihood of a natural Democratic Party majority that would last a long time because the Republicans have either never figured out or don’t care to appeal to the emerging non-white majority. They got only 8% of the black vote in this past election and Trump went out of his way to insult Mexicans and so alienated Hispanic voters, who gave Trump only % of their vote. Moreover, many of the Southern States that form the basis of any Republican victory, whether for Congress or the Presidency, are places of changing demographics, with more and more Asians, Hispanics and Northern Liberals moving to that area. Obama had, after all, carried North Carolina in 2008, even if not in 2012, and Hillary lost it too.
The North Carolina state government estimates that an influx of population to its main urban centers and to an increase in the number of elderly in the same places,which means that North Carolina, doubtlessly because of its fine weather, is a destination for retirees. Both of these facts would suggest the state will be more Democratic, as is the fact that the non-white population is also on the rise. The question is when the turnover of North Carolina into a Democratic state will take place. In two years or in four? It is no wonder that conservatives in North Carolina are trying to make voter registration more difficult. More people voting works against them.
Every two years Liberals are disappointed that the South has not yet gone purple, much less blue. That will happen, however, only if there are political events that give people a reason to vote Democratic. Issues might matter. Any rollout of a plan to replace Obamacare that does not continue coverage for those who now have it will alienate voters who took a flyer on Donald Trump, and Congressional leaders are well aware of that, which is why they are leery of introducing anything. The same is true of any plan to significantly alter Social Security or Medicare. In addition to issues, there are personalities. Hillary will no longer be on the scene, and however much I might think she would have made a perfectly competent President, a lot of people mightily disliked her and mighty few found her an overwhelmingly charming or magnetic figure. Contrary to press judgments, the Democrats have a number of figures who could attract positive attention, including Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Andrew Cuomo, and any number of other figures, and it is to be remembered that Trump got the nomination only because he was running against a mighty weak field: a set of stumblebums and well financed empty suits that made them candidates for Joe Louis’ “Bum of the Month Club”. The Republicans do not have a deep bench.
And then there is the lingering story of Trump’s involvement with the Russians, which no one has yet been able to pin down, but which, I am sure, many a journalist is investigating. Something will turn up that will discredit him on an issue serious enough to make a voter pause before voting for a Republican who rushes to his defense. Not that I want him impeached, though I know people who would prefer Pence in the White House. I disagree. Pence is much more conservative than Trump and might get the White House better organized. At this point, short of a foreign attack, a disorganized White House is the best thing that can happen before the 2018 mid-term elections. Let the President waste even more of his time on immigration orders that do not alter much anyway, addressing as they do a problem that is mostly just in his head. `