Glut of Democratic Candidates Divided on Message

Washington Post: “The largest number of Democratic congressional candidates in decades are putting into play dozens of House districts across the country, raising the possibility of a bitterly contested midterm election cycle next year as the party and its activists try to take advantage of President Trump’s unpopularity to win a majority in the House.”

“Yet these candidates and their supporters are also waging a battle among themselves about what the Democratic Party should stand for. After a string of defeats in special elections this year, activists across the country are pitted against Washington-based leaders and strategists about what the message and the tactical plan should be to win the 24 seats needed to take control of the House.”

Do Democrats Have a Message?

Washington Post: “Right now, the one discernible message is opposition to President Trump. That might be enough to get through next year’s midterm elections, though some savvy Democratic elected officials doubt it. What’s needed is a message that attracts voters beyond the blue-state base of the party.”

“History says a president with approval ratings as low as Trump’s usually sustain substantial midterm losses. That could be the case in 2018, particularly if the Republicans end up passing a health-care bill that, right now, is far more unpopular than Obamacare. But Trump has beaten the odds many times in his short political career. What beyond denunciations of the Republicans as heartless will the Democrats have to say to voters?”

Pelosi Faces Growing Doubts

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats “put a brave face on Wednesday morning after a disappointing loss in the Georgia special election, yet there is no disguising the unhappiness in the party ranks,” Politico reports.

“There is no challenge to Pelosi’s leadership, and none is going to happen at this point, said numerous Democrats. But it’s clear frustration is growing with the longtime Democratic leader following the extensive losses Democrats have suffered over the past half-decade.”

“And the fact that Republicans spent millions of dollars on TV ads tying Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff to Pelosi — and the brand of progressive policies she represents — shows that she will once again be an issue for Democratic challengers in the very districts that the party needs to win to make her speaker again.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“We no longer have a party caucus capable of riding this wave. We have 80-year-old leaders and 90-year-old ranking members. This isn’t a party. It’s a giant assisted living center. Complete with field trips, gym, dining room and attendants.”

— A Democratic operative, quoted by Politico.

If Liberals Voted…

David Leonhardt: “If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Hillary Clinton would be president. Even with Donald Trump’s working-class appeal, Clinton could have swept Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.”

“If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Democrats would control the Senate. Clinton or Barack Obama could then have filled the recent Supreme Court vacancy, and that justice would hold the tiebreaking vote on campaign finance, labor unions and other issues.”

“If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, the country would be doing more to address the two defining issues of our time — climate change and stagnant middle-class living standards. Instead, Trump is making both worse.”

The Hush of Tragedy

Rick Klein: “A baseball game that literally pits the red team against the blue team has a chance to be more than that. But it’s only a chance, and it’s a fleeting one, if history is any guide. Tragedies tend to quiet politics, making once-urgent arguments seem petty, and serving as reminders of common bonds and shared commitments. That’s particularly true when service itself is under attack. But does anyone believe members of Congress will be applauding for the other side next week?”

“It’s not hard – or encouraging – to figure out what happens from here, in part because it started happening almost immediately. Political statements are made (this is politics, after all); someone will be accused of politicizing tragedy; everyone will be accused of politicizing tragedy; Democrats and Republicans will return to their respective dugouts.”

Los Angeles Times: “The attack almost seemed a natural, if sick, extension of the virulence that surrounds the country’s increasingly tribal politics.”

Democrats See Growing Divide Between Party and Base

“Democrats are facing an open breach between the demands of their political base and the strict limits of their power, as liberal activists dream of transforming the health care system and impeaching President Trump, while candidates in hard-fought elections ask wary independent voters merely for a fresh chance at governing,” the New York Times reports.

“It may be essential for Democrats to reconcile the party’s two clashing impulses if they are to retake the House of Representatives in 2018. In a promising political environment, a drawn-out struggle over Democratic strategy and ideology could spill into primary elections and disrupt the party’s path to a majority.”

The Enthusiasm Gap Grows

Amy Walter: “The latest example of this enthusiasm gap is the drop in the percentage of Americans who identify as Republican. Polling taken in May by Gallup finds 45% of Americans identify themselves as Democrats and 38% identify as Republican. The seven-point gap is the largest recorded by Gallup since April of 2015. With Trump’s overall job rating stalled in the high 30’s to low 40’s and the GOP- controlled Congress yet to rally around (or pass) a significant legislative agenda, it’s not surprising to see fewer Americans identify themselves as a Republican.”

“Think of party identification (do you identify as a Republican, Democrat or independent), like the ‘bandwagon’ effect in sports. The better your team is doing, the more likely that you will follow their games, wear their gear, and proudly tell people you are a fan. But, when your team starts losing, the gear goes back into the closet, the TV is tuned to another program and you give your season tickets away to anyone willing to go to the stadium.”

The Political Risks of Loathing Trump

Charlie Cook: “Polls show Pres­id­ent Trump’s ap­prov­al num­bers lan­guish­ing around 40 per­cent, while the an­ger and in­tens­ity of the Demo­crat­ic base is rising and the Re­pub­lic­an base re­mains pretty com­pla­cent, not full of fight as it was dur­ing the Obama years.”

“That’s a lot for Demo­crats and lib­er­als to be ex­cited about, but both groups would be well ad­vised to con­sider what happened to the Re­pub­lic­an Party and the con­ser­vat­ive move­ment in an ana­log­ous time, after Pres­id­ent Obama was elec­ted. Tea-party ral­lies were bois­ter­ous and of­ten un­ruly, town meet­ings of Demo­crat­ic law­makers drew pro­test­ers and some­times turned in­to shout-fests, and con­ser­vat­ive-me­dia rat­ings soared. Many ele­ments of the Obama agenda be­came enorm­ously un­pop­u­lar, and the Re­pub­lic­an Party took a sharp turn to­ward the right and away from es­tab­lished party power cen­ters. Obama ef­fect­ively rad­ic­al­ized the Re­pub­lic­an Party and the con­ser­vat­ive move­ment to the point that the tea party took over both the GOP and right-of-cen­ter polit­ics. The po­ten­tial for the Demo­crat­ic Party and the Left be­hav­ing the same way in the op­pos­ite dir­ec­tion is very real.”

Clinton Is Wrong to Blame the DNC

Dan Balz: “Of all the reasons Hillary Clinton thinks she lost the 2016 election to President Trump, the least among them was the state of the Democratic National Committee. That it was a mess long before she became a candidate was well known. That she did nothing about it sooner was her own mistake. But had she done so, it probably would have made no difference in the outcome.”

“Obama’s two campaigns were built largely separate from the DNC. Data produced by Obama for America and its various other names was proprietary and not readily shared with the party… All this was well known to Clinton’s 2016 campaign team, if not to her personally. The DNC was a problem that no one wanted to address.”

The DNC Meets The Resistance

NBC News: “Both the DNC show and its organizing program are attempts to connect with a fired-up and somewhat alienated grassroots base that has largely put its energy and money into other organizations. The DNC wants to bring into the fold ahead of the midterms and 2020 presidential race some elements of The Resistance that want nothing to do with the party organization, partly based on what is perceived as the DNC’s shabby, finger-on-the-scale treatment of Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton in 2016.”

“A sign of the problem: Last month, the DNC posted its worst April fundraising haul in eight years, even as other Democratic committees and left-leaning groups raked in cash at unprecedented rates.”

Democrats Lack a Core Economic Message

Los Angeles Times: “Democrats have no clearly defined leader or universally accepted direction aside from opposition to Trump.”

“Democrats essentially remain in the box where Hillary Clinton spent the general election: able to unify Trump opponents, but unable to craft a message for those not motivated by distaste for him.”

Said pollster Peter Hart: “The Democrats are closer to where the electorate is headed, but have shown a tin ear and an inability to understand the groups that formed the backbone of the Democratic Party for decades.”