WASHINGTON — The “Blue Wave” is coming, so we’re told.
Alabama will miss the brunt of it. The state is reliably red, and the Alabama Democratic Party is currently squandering whatever progress it made with Sen. Doug Jones’ 2017 long-shot win over a flawed GOP candidate.
Nonetheless, nationally we hear there are too many headwinds for Republicans to overcome, all of which are tied to President Donald Trump: Russia (!), anonymous op-eds, leaks in Bob Woodward’s bestseller, Russia (!!), a West Wing and a Deep State working against him, Mueller indictments and Russia (!!!).
If we go back to 2016, the Washington power structure warned us of the disastrous consequences of a Trump presidency. The New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman forecast a depression of 1930s magnitude. Deportation squads intercepting innocent people! Journalists jailed as if this were Putin’s Russia! Men grabbing women by their … ! Oh, the humanity.
Since none of that has come true, the “loyal” opposition is grappling with its inability to scare people away from Republican leadership and President Trump. Instead, they are now dabbling in the art of armchair psychology, questioning Trump’s fitness to be president.
On Election Day, we’ll be nearly two years into a Trump presidency. Net-net, the quality of life for most Americans has gotten better. Unemployment is down across the board. Consumer confidence is at its highest since 2000. On average, we have a better economic situation than we did pre-Trump presidency.
But, these midterms are not about you. The media and opposition (at times, the media opposition) have effectively made this election cycle about Trump, and that’s why Republicans won’t weather these midterms as well as they could.
Historically, the opposition party does well in midterms after presidential elections. This was especially the case with President Barack Obama, who led Democrats to two midterm defeats in his eight years in office.
However, 2018 doesn’t feel like any of the last three midterms.
In 2006, it was about us, as in all of us. It was about a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina. It was about war in the Middle East and a Democratic Party with the political savvy to make it about the war and those casualties. Democrats triumphed big over Republicans, who had held Capitol Hill for 12 years.
In 2010, it was about you and the Tea Party and a statement about the growth of government and the idea of taking from the haves who worked for it and giving it to the have-nots, who were either duped in the subprime mortgage crisis or lacked health insurance. Republicans recaptured the House of Representatives, which, as we know now, marginalized the last three-quarters of Obama’s presidency.
In 2014, it was still about you and the consequences of Obama’s presidency, but not quite as much as it was four years earlier. The economy still wasn’t recovering, despite the so-called shovel-ready stimulus enacted five years earlier. Republicans took the U.S. Senate.
This midterm election cycle doesn’t have any of those broader elements. Instead of a strategy outlining a direct impact of presidential leadership on the lives of individuals, the approach is about what might ultimately impact your lives because of the perceived unpresidential antics on display from this president.
It’s about him and not about you.
Democrats didn’t learn from 2016. They made it about him.
“We’re with Hillary Clinton. Frankly, Donald Trump’s dangerous,” an AL.com editorial headline proclaimed.
Clinton and her most rabid supporters made it about the dangers of Trump.
Oops, they lost.
Our society is all about “me.” People love to talk about themselves — their victories, their defeats, their hardships, their successes.
Whether or not this is good or bad, it’s the reality. You don’t win elections dwelling on the hypothetical. And if Trump can get around the day-to-day bombshells and make it a referendum on this, Republicans will fare well: “If you’re better off than you were two years ago, vote GOP. If you’re not, vote Democrat.”
Apparently, the Democratic opposition in America seems to think that “how does Donald Trump make you feel” is the winning approach.
If you believe the polling, it is working to some extent. Republicans trail Democrats on generic ballots. Trump has low approval numbers.
Unfortunately for Democrats, a lot of that sentiment is in the wrong places. If you live in the Northeast or on the West Coast, you really don’t like Donald Trump. You didn’t like him in 2016, but you really don’t like him now. He’s just so uncouth!
Republicans were never going to do well in those precincts anyway. Where the real battle lies is in the same places Trump won in 2016, the Rust Belt states. It was a razor-thin win then for Trump, but he wrestled victory from the jaws of defeat because he went in there and made it about them — in other words, he made it about you, the voters.
Don’t underestimate that idea on Election Day. That is not to say Republicans will do well, but they won’t do as badly as they might have had Democrats fully thought this through.