Democrats got torched on Election Day. More accurately, they’ve been torched the last three Election Days.
Republicans now hold majorities in 68 out of 99 state legislative chambers, and have control of both chambers in 33 states. The party holds 33 out of the nation’s 50 governors’ mansions, up from just 19 eight years ago, and just one shy of the historical high set in 1922. They’ll likely end up with a 52-to-48 seat majority in the Senate, an increase of 13 seats in the last six years, and a figure likely to increase due to a favorable map in 2018. And then there’s the House of Representatives, where Democrats have shed a whopping 63 seats.
It’s worth noting that just a few months ago Democratic leadership believed that re-taking control of the Senate was a sure thing and that capturing a House majority wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Such sentiment seems utterly outlandish with the benefit of hindsight.
Despite the years’ of electoral drubbings, which have sapped the party of its policymaking heft and dramatically curtailed its ability to build a bench, the Democratic Party somehow seems content to stand pat. There’s simply no other conclusion that can be reached by the reelection of Nancy Pelosi, the typification of the establishment and the overseer of the party’s historic losses, as House Democratic Leader.
It’s not as if Democrats’ didn’t have a choice.
Ohio congressman Tim Ryan challenged Pelosi, arguing that her policies failed to resonate with blue collar workers, and her tactics were designed to coalesce power around leadership at the expense of the rank-and-file.
“This election is not going to be won at fundraisers on the coasts,” the Ohio Democrat told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s going to be won in the union halls in the industrial Midwest and fish fries in the Midwest and the South.”
Ryan later reiterated his point on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“We’ve got to have someone who cannot just go on MSNBC, but go on Fox and Fox Business and CNBC, and go into the union hall and fish fries and churches all over the country and start a brush fire about what a new Democratic Party looks like,” he said.
Instead, he argued, Democrats lost blue collar voters “through neglect.”
“We had a bunch of our voters go for Trump or not go out and vote at all. Because we’re not talking about the kinds of things that are on people’s minds. And that’s a major, major problem in politics.”
Pelosi, as is her want, lashed out with disdain. “He didn’t even carry his district for Hillary Clinton,” Pelosi responded with a laugh, “so I don’t know why he’s saying that.”
“I’m not going to pay attention to, ‘I can’t step in a union hall.’ I’m a woman of steel in there,” she said. “I’m constantly invited by the unions to go to their meetings. That’s just not, it’s just not true.”
“I don’t have enough time to receive all the invitations I have,” Pelosi added.
Pelosi’s answer wasn’t just content free, it was tone deaf. As Tim Alberta writes for National Review:
[T]he fact that Trump carried Ryan’s district — while the congressman won reelection in that same district by 35 points — proves Ryan’s overarching point that Democrats can appeal to Trump voters if the national party modulates its message and takes it to a broader swath of the electorate. Ryan and other House Democrats who won Trump districts shouldn’t be mocked or treated as second-class citizens inside their caucus; they should be celebrated and dissected for clues as the party looks to repair its image among voters who were once a core constituency.
Instead, Pelosi, and the members who saw fit to reelect her, appear to believe that the Democratic party is doing just fine in catering its message to the types of cloistered coastal areas from which Pelosi hails. But there is a bigger world out there than the San Francisco Bay-area district that Pelosi calls home. There are workers who can’t find well paying jobs. There are laborers who live in constant fear that they are the next layoff. There are families struggling to make ends meet. And there are small businesses being crushed by government mandates.
But Pelosi’s reelection shows that Democrats are willfully blind to the economic forces swirling around them. It shows a frightening contentment with a failed status quo.
“I quite frankly feel more liberated than I ever have,” she said after the votes were counted. And voters everywhere shuddered at the thought.