Yesterday, John Hood wrote an analysis of the special elections that will take place this year in North Carolina. He correctly points out that this year is not last. While Democrats had the wind at their backs in 2018 running against an unpopular president, 2019 elections will take place in the midst of the Democratic primary for president. The candidates who want the Democratic nomination to take on Trump will define the party in the minds of voters. The message of candidates for Congress could easily get drowned out.
Right now, the conversations dominating the Democratic presidential primary are ones that will probably assure Donald Trump gets re-elected. We’re talking about packing the Supreme Court, scrapping the electoral college and supporting a Green New Deal, whatever that is. The electoral college and Supreme Court packing are process issues. If you feel strongly about these issues, you already know how you’re going to vote. The people who will decide elections don’t pay enough attention to politics to even really understand the debate. Neither issue will motivate the base or persuade the middle.
As for the Green New Deal, it may or may not be a good idea. I don’t really know what’s in it but running on a slogan is a terrible idea. People don’t vote for big ideas. They vote in their self-interest. For the Green New Deal to be the centerpiece of the campaign, Democrats need to be able to explain it in a sentence or two and then explain to voters how it directly impacts their lives. They haven’t come close yet.
I won’t debate the merits of any of these programs. However, if they’re worthy of consideration, they’re issues to bring up once Democrats have power. They aren’t going to get Democrats into power.
I hope these are conversations we’re having at the very early stages of the primary season and not the ones Democrats will be talking about a year from now. The 2020 election needs to be Donald Trump, health care and our standing in the world. The president has been an embarrassment who’s divided the country. Health care costs continue to spiral out of control despite Trump’s pledge to bring universal coverage. We’re losing the respect of allies that help keep us and the world safe.
Democrats running in NC-09 and NC-03 would be wise to start distancing themselves from the national conversation and keeping the campaigns about the people who live in those districts. They need to try to keep their races from becoming previews of the 2020 general election.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >