The special Congressional election in Ohio Tuesday night offers continued evidence of a Blue Wave. While the Republican came out victorious, the result was similar to those we’ve seen since the special election in Georgia’s 6thCongressional District last year. Democrats are dramatically out-performing Republicans.
In Ohio on Tuesday, the losing Democrat received 99,820 votes. The Republican received 101,574 votes. In 2016, the Democrat in that district received 112,638 votes, while the Republican received 251,266 votes. In other words, the Democrat in a special election received almost the same number of votes as a Democrat in a presidential year, while the Republican received almost 150,000 votes fewer. That, in a nutshell, is what is happening in the current political environment and explains why Democrats will likely do so well in November.
The upcoming election is far bigger than any one campaign. As I’ve said before, the political environment is the single biggest factor in any election. This year, it favors Democrats heavily. They’re coming out to vote. Republicans, on the other hand, are not nearly so motivated.
A political wave has three components: One side is motivated, the other side is demoralized and the middle breaks for the side that’s got the momentum. Right now, that seems to be happening.
Clearly, the Democrats have a lot of enthusiasm. They aren’t coming to vote for a Democratic agenda, though. They’re coming as a rejection of Donald Trump and a Congress that they believe has acted against their interests in everything from the tax cut to the stolen Supreme Court seat. The ideological divide that’s been roiling the Democratic Party since the Bernie-Hillary primary won’t play any role in dampening or increasing turnout because this election is about voting against something, not for much. That battle will come later.
We saw a similar scenario in 2010. The Tea Party came out in droves to vote against anything Obama. They brought an anger and enthusiasm to vote against, not really for, anything. They voted against Obamacare. They voted against corporate bailouts. They voted against taxes. They voted against debts and deficits. And, yes, some voted against the black guy. And they won big, taking back the House in large numbers. It took a few more years to get control of the Senate, but that came in 2014.
Democratic campaigns need to have a message this year but they should spend more time and energy fanning the flames of the resistance than trying to convince voters they’re the right choice on specific issues like education or health care. The voters who will shape this election already know that if you’ve got a “D” behind your name. Candidates should become cheerleaders, urging people to send a message to Washington, to Raleigh, wherever. Voting will be a cathartic, not intellectual, exercise. Take advantage of it.
For years, we’ve been saying that the Democratic base doesn’t come out in midterm elections. They haven’t for a long time, but that blanket statement is not true. Every election cycle is different and, usually, the political environment, not some campaign, shapes it. In a year like this one, the goal of Democrats should be to reshape the electorate, taking advantage of a motivated base and helping them get their friends and family to the polls. This year, Democrats need to win the turnout, not just the argument.