Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Two stories. The first one is about an election for a seat in the Iowa state legislature:
In the midst of a new national debate on transgender soldiers serving in the military, voters in Southeast Iowa were seeing their TVs inundated with campaign ads about transgender bathrooms. Their target was Phil Miller, the Democratic candidate in the House District 82 special election, who had voted on the school board to keep in place a policy on transgender students using the bathroom of their gender identity....

But it didn’t work. At all....

Miller defeated Republican Travis Harris last night by ten points, 54% to 44%, far better than Democrats’ most optimistic hopes. That’s a swing in favor of Democrats of 32 points, given that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the district by 22 points. And it’s even an improvement over Obama’s 2-point margin of victory over Mitt Romney in the district in 2012.
Recently, Democrats have had a lot of success in local races like these. One day in May, they won two state legislative seats in districts that had gone for Trump, one in New Hampshire and the other in New York. Daily Kos counts fourteen Democratic special election victories since trump's election.

But now here's the second story:
“Dictatorial.” “Arrogant.” “Pompous.” “Superficial.” “Tone-deaf.” “Tone-dead.” “Out of line.” “Insulting” — “absolutely insulting.”

These are the words that Nina Turner, president of the group founded by Bernie Sanders to further his "political revolution," used in an interview to describe the Democratic National Committee. The grievances converge around a recent trip to deliver petitions to the party’s headquarters in Washington, where Turner and other progressives were greeted by barricades, security guards, and an offering of donuts and water, an empty gesture, as she saw it ... all of which has left Turner with the view, as she puts it, that "the establishment side of the Democratic Party have shown themselves to be dictators" who "want to dictate the terms of unity."

... DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa, citing the current political climate in Washington, said barricades are put in place anytime there is a large crowd, protocol set by the “building security team,” she said, not party officials.

A spread of donuts and water had also been set up for the Our Revolution party. Turner took particular issue with the donuts and water, which she called “hand-out trinkets."
Why am I linking these stories? Because while Democrats have a golden opportunity to make big gains in upcoming elections, at a time when much of the public is recoiling from the Trump presidency and the GOP Congress's heartless agenda, I'm starting to believe that the closer the office is to the top of the food chain, the less likely it is that Democrats will win it the next time around. State legislative seats? I think Democrats can win a lot of those. Congressional races? I have a fair amount of hope, but I'm less confident than I am about the local races.

President? I think that could be the hardest win.

The reason is this damn civil war between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party. I don't think it's coming into play in the local elections, so pro-Democratic energy is undiminished. It's more of a factor in congressional elections -- and Democrats haven't won one since Trump's victory (although they've done well in districts that have been out reach in the past).

The presidency? I don't know if Democrats (and Sanders voters who might not think of themselves as Democrats) are capable of ending the warfare and uniting around any candidate. There seems to be unending bitterness on both sides. The 2020 election ought to be a slam dunk, but it seems as if it won't be because the people who think Kamala Harris is a neoliberal sellout aren't speaking to the people who think Bernie Sanders leads a movement composed exclusively of dudebro racists, and vice versa.

I don't think this matters much at the local level. We're told this about that Iowa legislative race:
It’s difficult to tell just how much the margin in Jefferson County was caused by backlash to the Republican TV ads. Miller is very well-known in his home county, working as a veterinarian and serving on the school board.
That's what mattered. I don't imagine "dudebro" or "neoliberal" was uttered even once during the campaign.

But the further up the ballot you go, the more this fight is killing Democrats. So I could easily imagine the Trump backlash flipping a large number of state legislative seats and a modest number of seats in Congress -- while leaving the White House in GOP hands. Can we please figure out a way to do better than that?

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