As with many, I’ve been trying to look at some numbers now of several disappointing Democratic races in several redstates to make some sense of what happened. It’s taken some time to actually look at the numbers because I got my hopes up and the let down has been painful. The ones I’m looking at are the Senate races in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and the KY-6th Congressional race with Amy McGrath.
Note: have I mentioned for the umpteenth time that I live in Kentucky? Yeah, I thought I did. It’s why I took KY-6th so hard. But I will get back to that in a sec.
Honestly, I thought that Donnelly would win reelection in Indiana. I got swamped with a lot of TV commercials from Indiana, so I was in the loop in how Donnelly was running his race. He was a moderate to conservative Democrat who won election in 2012, and he was running as Mr. Centrist this year. And brother was he was emphasizing how centrist he was. I loved how I was an extremist because I wanted universal healthcare like Medicare for all.
Yes, I went to college in Indiana, so I am well aware of how conservative and Republican Hoosiers are. Yes, I even sent several donations to Donnelly, and I dutifully agreed with everyone else that we had to let Donnelly craft his message as he saw fit. The last liberal to be elected statewide was Birch Bayh in 1974. Check. Got all that.
Donnelly lost by over a 130,000 votes or by 5.9 percentage points. Technically, it was not a close election.
I thought Claire McCaskill would pull win reelection as well. She had pulled off a victory in 2012 against legitimate rape Akin, and McCaskill was running a centrist campaign in 2018. Yes, I sent her money too. Yes, I dutifully agreed with everyone else that McCaskill needed to run a centrist campaign.
McCaskill lost by over 140,000 votes or by 6.0 percentage points. Not close again.
The moderates on Daily Kos are sensing a pattern here in this diary, but hold on a for a bit.
I gave money to Heidi Heitkamp. I thanked her for her vote against Kavanaugh. I prayed fervently for her to make another miracle as she did in 2012. She was in North Dakota and needed to run as a centrist, and, well, you know…
A 10.8% percentage loss. Yes, everyone was predicting this would happen. It still sucked.
Then, while others were not optimistic about Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, I thought differently. Bredesen had been elected as governor. He was running as a centrist. I gave him money. I HATED that he said he would have voted for Kavanaugh, and I still gave him money afterwards. I hated Blackburn with a passion. And I kept reading about high voter turnout in Tennessee. What could it possibly mean?
A loss of over 200,000 votes or 10.8% percentage point is what that meant! And it was a historic voter turnout to boot.
Now, you are thinking that I am going to say that we needed to run only progressive candidates as alternatives to the centrists in these redstates. If we had run authentic progressives this would have given the voters a choice that would have energized Democrats and maybe convinced others about the strength or authenticity of progressive Democrats. Strength and authenticity plays with independents and even gets some more conservative voters to respect candidates they disagree with.
This is where moderate Daily Kossacks can throw Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams, and Andrew Gillum in my progessive face.
I could make some argument about how weak the Democratic parties are in Florida, Georgia, and Texas are. With no party apparatus to help GOTV in those states and with active voter suppression, I could try to say that those progressive candidates performed better than expected. But better than expected is not winning.
And the centrists who lost can argue the same thing with respect to GOTV and voter supression tactics by Republicans. I believe that Amy McGrath’s loss in the KY-6th is at least partially explained by the fact that the Kentucky Democratic Party has no real statewise GOTV operation. And believe you me, I gave most of my donations to McGrath, and she reportedly used most of her money to set up offices in areas in the 6th that Democrats had not bothered to visit.
Sounds a lot like what Beto O’Rourke tried to do in Texas.
But McGrath was not a progressive. She was a moderate with a great personal resume. And she came across as very authentic. I was excited about her because of her personal strength and authenticity.
However, from what I can see of the unofficial returns, McGrath’s main strength was still in the suburban areas of the 6th. Yes, McGrath got some more rural Democratic votes, but Republican Barr increased his share of the Republican vote by similar margins. In other words, he neutralized enough of her gains in rural areas to win.
So what does all that mean, at least to me?
I think we are fighting rural tribalism, and it seems to make no difference if you are a progressive, moderate, or moderate to conservative Democrat. As long as you have an R by your name, the rural, conservative redstate voter will pull the lever for the Republican.
No shit Sherlock. It took you this amount of time to figure that out Merlin1963?
I do not think we have had such a stark election with both types of messaging to test the two hypothesis that many have been fighting about for years. Progressives vs Centrists. Who to support? I sent donations to both. I’d have voted for any of the above candidates if I had been in their states or districts. I would not have stayed at home or bitched about how their was no choice.
But rural redstate voters love themselves some Republicans. They love Republicans so much they are willing to vote for a dead pimp over a Democrat. And that is a more fundamental problem for Democrats than whether the Democrat is a progressive, moderate, or conservative.
So what do to about it?
I . DO. NOT. KNOW.
I’m open to any suggestions.