Much has been made about the Republican “Civil War” in the last few years, even as the Democratic Party’s tumultuous primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders aired that party’s deep divisions for the world to see.
Since January 20, 2017, Democrats have generally found unity in their opposition to President Trump, and have been able to ignore the divide between the moderate and far-left wings of their party. Tuesday’s primaries brought those divisions back to the surface, as the party’s liberal progressives claimed victory in the short term, but laid the ground work for Republican success in the fall.
The Washington Post’s James Hohlmann called Tuesday “a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Democratic moderates.” He singled out a few of the far-left candidates who won in districts that voted for President Trump in 2016, especially the Nebraska 2nd Congressional, where pro-tax, anti-gun, socialized health care supporter Kara Eastman won against the DCCC-favored candidate. This fall Eastman will take on Congressman Don Bacon, a retired brigadier general and generally well-liked conservative.
Two other candidates, endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, won in the Pittsburgh area, in a part of the state where President Trump still enjoys deep support. Pennsylvania is a traditionally blue state, but it was key to delivering the White House for the Trump campaign and preserving the Republicans’ control of the Senate. None of this recent leftward lurch speaks well for those Democratic candidates’ chances with general-election voters in the fall.
In the 2010 midterms, voters elected the largest Republican wave in more than 50 years, thoroughly rejecting the tax-and-spend liberalism of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the expansion of government control over the U.S. healthcare system that came with the passage of Obamacare. In 2014, the GOP did it again, winning nearly every contested race in the country, from county level races all the way up to the U.S. Senate.
Conservative voters generally turn out in force for midterm elections. Older Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Republican, can be counted on to reliably show up at the ballot box in off-year contests. By comparison, Democratic turnout is traditionally highest in presidential years, when large numbers of younger and minority voters head to the polls.
The liberal news site Vox recently pointed out that Democrats’ generic ballot advantage is shrinking as we get closer to November. While sentiment among non-registered voters still favors Democrats, those votes are unreliable, as 2016 proved.
And the strength of the economy is making it increasingly difficult for political opponents to bash President Trump and the Republican Congressional leadership. A majority of Americans feel that the economy is “good” or “excellent” right now. Unemployment is low and consumer spending and sentiment is up in both red and blue states. Rightly or wrongly, Americans tend to pin these trends on the current president and his party.
Unless something major changes, President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republicans will ride into November with strong economic winds at their backs. It’s difficult to paint Republicans as the party of “no” when the economy is growing and regular people have more money in their pockets to spend as they see fit.
And it’s especially difficult to sell hard-left socialism when capitalism is working out for the average American. If Democrats continue to pin their hopes on economic scaremongering and liberal progressives in primary contests over the next few months, Republicans may just end up cashing in on another good Election Day this fall.
Dan K. Eberhart is a policy advisor at America First Policies and the CEO of Canary, LLC, a Phoenix-based drilling-services company and one of the largest private oil field services companies in the United States.