We’re less than six months away from November’s midterm election. It’s supposed to be a tsunami for Democrats. That’s just accepted as conventional wisdom.
Not only is it a post-new presidency midterm, which historically means the party of the president in the White House suffers losses, there are also signs pointing to foreboding losses for Republicans, such as special elections in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district last March and in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race last year.
Democrats will have a decent night on Nov. 8, but not nearly what they could have, or even should have. A lot of that is their own fault.
Back on April 10, 2016, the Boston Globe published a “mock front page” that portended the future of the country under a President Donald Trump on April 9, 2017. Some of the headlines included “DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN – President Trump calls for tripling of ICE force; riots to continue,” “Markets sink as trade war looms” and “New libel law targets ‘absolute scum’ in the press.”
Although those were “mock” headlines, there were a lot of people who believed if Trump were elected, we would have similar situations on our hands. There was fear in the marketplace of ideas. The days and months after Trump was sworn into office, protests broke out everywhere and ginned-up Democrats were showing up at random congressional town hall meetings all over the country.
A lot of people thought Trump was really going to exercise presidential power in an unprecedented way, and they were scared and angry. As it turned out, that hasn’t been the case. Things could be better, but that is always true no matter who the president is.
Even the most frantic left-wing kook would have to admit Trump is not as bad as most thought he would be. There are no roving deportation squads. The global economy isn’t in a depression. Trump’s not even going out and grabbing women by the p*ssy against their will.
Democrats overplayed the looming national disaster that was supposed to follow in the wake of Trump’s inauguration at the very beginning. Democrats are not going to have as big of an election result as they could have because of it.
Perhaps they had to overplay it. It’s possible congressional Democrats had to introduce worst-case scenarios to slow down any possible major policy changes Republicans were seeking to institute with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.
They had an assist from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Little has been accomplished by Republicans thanks to McConnell, who has slow-walked much of what has been passed in the House of Representatives.
Trump supporters seem to still have much of their enthusiasm. This is different from the last time Democrats took control and the dynamic that existed between the public and President George W. Bush in 2006.
Democrats had finally figured out how to tap into an anti- Bush sentiment. Bush was blamed for fumbling the response to Hurricane Katrina a year earlier. The blood and treasure that was expended in the name of the country’s involvement in the Middle East was too high of a cost in the eyes of many Americans.
While Trump is unpopular, his unpopularity isn’t as widespread as Bush’s was in 2006. If you want to win an election on the basis of a president’s unpopularity, that unpopularity has to extend beyond the “Acela Corridor” in the East and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the West.
For Democrats, that just doesn’t exist yet for Trump.
There is also this idea of anti-Trump fatigue. For the last three years, the talking heads in the media and Democratic politicians have castigated Trump. Three years is a long time. Now the law of diminishing returns is taking effect.
You can gin up your crazies, but you can’t expect them to maintain an anti-Trump fervor the entire time and kick it into an even higher gear when the midterms come around. In fact, many of them are looking around and seeing that all of the awful things that were to happen with a President Trump haven’t happened.
That might not dissuade those same people from being anti-Trump. But they aren’t going to be as motivated.
Every little bit counts in a midterm election for Democrats. Traditionally, there is a much larger turnout drop-off going from a presidential election cycle to a midterm election cycle for Democrats compared to Republicans. That is how Republicans did well in midterms during the Obama presidency, but couldn’t win in 2012 with Mitt Romney.
Yes, Democrats will still do well. But don’t expect the numbers needed for articles of impeachment and conviction in the Senate.
They left a lot of the gains they could have had on the table by going all-in with every hand so early in the game.