“I think we’ve got the House,” one California Democrat said to me not long ago. “It’s the Senate we need to focus on.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Cry, I think.
This is how Democrats lose the House.
I don’t know that there has ever been a time, in my lifetime anyway, in which perceptions varied so diametrically from one political party to the next as they do now.
If you’re a Republican, chances are better than eight out of 10 that you’re pleased with your president. Probably get a kick out of him too, not to mention the jobs numbers, or the stock market.
If you’re a Democrat — particularly one in a place such as California, where you are mostly surrounded by other Democrats — you cannot imagine how anyone could support him. How dumb could they be?
This is how you cement Donald Trump’s base. With a mixture of contempt and disbelief.
Meanwhile, they are counting on the last laugh. If Democrats don’t “get it,” they won’t win. Simple as that. If we keep thinking the Trump voters had it wrong and “should come to their senses,” we will lose in 2018. If we don’t offer something other than our aversion to Trump, we’ll be no better off after the midterm than before.
I know: Roy Moore lost. Need I point out that the man was notorious for allegedly preying on children when he was in his 30s — and that even so, the president endorsed him, and Moore’s opponent only narrowly beat him? And as best I can tell, the president hasn’t paid any price for endorsing him. He won’t pay any price for pushing the FBI to investigate the Clinton Foundation, although his never-ending efforts to politicize law enforcement should offend any student of the rule of law. But not.
It’s not just Teflon with President Trump. It’s not that the muck doesn’t stick. It’s that in his universe, it’s not muck at all. There are plenty of people, sad to say, who still want to “lock her up.” We don’t win by rerunning the last election, or by trying to convince those who supported Trump that they were wrong to vote for him when they did.
For the record, I’m not at all confident about the House. True, the incumbent president’s party tends to lose seats in midterms. Bill Clinton lost the House in his first midterm. The incumbent president tends to come back and win re-election two years later, it’s also worth noting.
But not so fast.
First, we know politics is local.
Second, incumbents in Congress always win. Democrats need more Republicans to leave in order to truly open up seats.
Third, Republicans have controlled the drawing of district lines in more state legislatures than Democrats. The maps favor them.
Fourth, Nancy Pelosi. I happen to like her, and I think she has accomplished an enormous amount as the leader of the Democrats. But I really liked Hillary Clinton, too. I know this much: I am not America. I live in California, not Ohio.
The challenge for Democrats has never been to win my vote. If you’re a die-hard of either party, it’s not about finding the candidate you like best, because that may well be the candidate with the least chance of winning. It’s about finding a candidate you like who might appeal to people with whom you generally disagree. It’s not easy to think that way, and not near as much fun as cheering for Bernie Sanders. But it’s better than losing.