Democrats’ path to a Senate majority is incredibly difficult and politically perilous. The 2018 map is unforgiving, offering no shortcuts and leaving no room for wrong-turns. And yet rather than identify where their party went off the tracks in 2016, Democrats seem to be going out of their way alienate would-be supporters.
Republicans currently have a 52-to-48 advantage in the U.S. Senate, a razor thin margin given the 34 seats up for reelection in 2018. For Democrats the majority seems so close, but is actually so far away. Of those 34 seats up for reelection, 25 of them are currently held by Democrats, while just nine are held by Republicans. Of those 25, President Donald Trump won by double digit margins in five (North Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Indiana and Missouri) and won outright in five others (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida).
As James Lindell writes for the Boston Globe, this means that Democrats “need a tremendous amount to go right politically next year for them to even have a shot.”
The path to a Democratic Senate majority would mean the following would have to happen:
All 13 Democratic incumbents running for reelection in competitive seats would have to win.
Both Republicans incumbents running for reelection in competitive seats (Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Nevada’s Dean Heller) would have to lose. Trump won Arizona by almost 15 percentage points.
Democrats would have to defeat a Republican incumbent from one of seven deeply Republican states. The best shot among this group is Ted Cruz in Texas.
Put another way: For Democrats to win the Senate, they have to go a perfect 16-0, which includes Democrats winning in North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, Missouri, and, yes, Texas.
It would be a lot easier to walk that narrow path if Democrats would stop shooting themselves in the foot with voters who were once loyal to the party. John Randazzo, a retired hydraulics company manager and registered Democrat who twice voted for President Obama, typifies Democrats’ problem among working class Americans.
“I honestly feel that he’s thinking like the average American right now, what he wants to get done,” Randazzo told the Boston Globe. “I’m on board. I know he’s trying hard.”
On the other hand, the current faces of the Democrat Party aren’t appealing to him.
“[Elizabeth Warren] and Pelosi, they’ll never get my vote the way they’re acting,” Randazzo said. “They are completely the opposite of what Donald Trump stands for. He says one thing, they disagree and it’s the other thing, and it’s ridiculous.”
Democrats challenge is rooted in their long-standing inability to bridge the far-left, progressive elements of their party with the blue-collar working class elements. Warren, from Massachusetts, and Pelosi, from California, typify the type of coastal elites who have dominated the party’s leadership and policy direction. While they may be great at winning over liberals arts students, they’ve utterly failed to resonate with small-town voters in the industrial midwest and Rust Belt.
More accurately, Democrats’ have actively alienated voters from the country’s interior. Hillary Clinton’s labeling them as a “basket of deplorables,” certainly didn’t help, but it was merely giving a name to what many Democrats seemed to feel – that blue collar voters’ religiosity, social values, and relative lack of education, made them objects deserving of scorn rather than a constituency that ought to be pursued.
Rather than engage in outreach to these communities, Democrats have retreated further into an ideological dogma known as intersectionality. The idea is that identity exists on a grid of categories such as race, gender, sexual orientation and class, and that these overlap in a interlocking system of oppression and/or power. William Deresiewicz, writing in The American Scholar, explains this new stem as a religion.
First, that they possess a dogma, unwritten but understood by all: a set of “correct” opinions and beliefs, or at best, a narrow range within which disagreement is permitted. There is a right way to think and a right way to talk, and also a right set of things to think and talk about. Secularism is taken for granted. Environmentalism is a sacred cause. Issues of identity—principally the holy trinity of race, gender, and sexuality—occupy the center of concern. The presiding presence is Michel Foucault, with his theories of power, discourse, and the social construction of the self, who plays the same role on the left as Marx once did. The fundamental questions that a college education ought to raise—questions of individual and collective virtue, of what it means to be a good person and a good community—are understood to have been settled. The assumption, on elite college campuses, is that we are already in full possession of the moral truth. This is a religious attitude. It is certainly not a scholarly or intellectual attitude.
This approach does nothing to foster cross-group solidarity, nor does it help to build bridges between social groups. Instead, as Damon Linker argued in The Week, it “moves in the diametrically opposite direction, breaking the electorate apart into ever-smaller groups and pitting them against each other in a competition to determine which of them suffers the most pervasively from systemic discrimination, and so also which has the right to demand deference and expressions of repentance from everyone else.”
No doubt many Americans are wondering how they became oppressors overnight. They’re also probably wondering why they would make common cause with a Democrat Party who views them as loathsome, backward and uneducated, yet also somehow possessing of a “privilege” that must be expunged. If Democrats want to overcome their inherent midterm disadvantages, they’ll need to stop looking down their noses and start extending a hand to these voting groups.