About five minutes after I closed our Election Night Zoom fifty years ago (or so it feels), Atlanta reported its first results and the NY Times Georgia needle lurched from +1 Trump to +0.4 Biden. (The final result is +0.2 Biden.) My mood brightened, and by the time I went to sleep, early next morning, Wisconsin and Michigan had counted enough for Biden to have pulled even.
Nothing, however, saved our down ballot results. We lost all the toss-ups, and some we were expected to win. I can’t pretend to have definitive answers, but partial results follow, of which the most important, for Indivisible purposes, is the first.
We thought that more voter engagement and higher turnout were unequivocally positive signs.
And this is false. Turnout was the best in a century—but! We discovered there was still a huge reservoir of pro-Trump voters who had not voted in 2016. Biden lost Texas (not close) with more votes than Trump got there in 2016 (not close either). Trump got more votes than Obama ever did, and I believe in every state we flipped, Trump ran better in defeat than he had winning in 2016.
Democrats seem split about whether to get even more infrequent but pro-D voters to the polls (youth turnout was still only ~55%), trying to win over rural white Trump voters, or (my preference) discouraging rural white voters enough they revert to non-voting.
As someone who formerly believed this postulate, I don’t know what to say: I think it is important we try to increase political participation and have a better-informed citizenry, but about half of the increase is from citizens who are “informed” by Newsmax, Facebook, and other disinformation sewers.
To keep things in perspective, the reversal of the 2018 Wave leaves the situation we expected after the 2016 election.
That is, a moderate-sized Presidential Victory, a narrow House majority, and a very close Senate. Unfortunately, we have to hope this is enough to start undoing the damage of the Trump Regime.
We were partially a victim of our own polling leads
Late-in-cycle polls showed R down ballot candidates improving, apparently as Republicans against Trump decided Biden was going to win and they could cast their usual ballot, except for President.
Democratic messaging still needs work
Bruce is, of course, correct that Defund the Police is an idiotic slogan and a gift to the Republicans. Biden repudiated it, but it was still out there enough to be used in anti-D ads. What makes this doubly annoying is that a majority of the country thinks we have serious problems with policing as currently constituted. Better slogans on the same issue could have been used as positives.
The Cunningham and Gideon campaigns are coming in for special messaging criticism, too much of the old “Watch me work across the aisle” nonsense that hasn’t worked for Democrats since the dawn of time: see Donnelly (IN), MacGrady (NC-09 twice), etc. Of course, Cunningham made the same terrible error as Gary Hart: he cheated on his regular mistress, who then blabbed to the press.
Outreach to Spanish-speaking voters failed in Florida and especially Texas
Before jumping to the wrong conclusion, note that there was no similar failure in Arizona and Nevada. Beto O’Rourke has written on what he thinks went wrong. (Note that when AOC, Beto, and sacrificial lamb Doug Jones all make similar comments about party errors, they are probably on to something.) I’ve heard that our Spanish-language ads were late and few, which can not be blamed on lack of money: Democrats everywhere had plenty of money. Some of the problem was R willingness to ignore the coronavirus and do canvassing as usual in areas that need it. This may help us down the road by killing off more of their volunteers and supporters. In Florida, I’ve heard that the D are too associated with “socialism”, while on the other hand Bernie Sanders did better-than-average there, so, hmmm. Historians of race relations point out that one way groups like Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants might assimilate into the dominate, white American society is by joining in oppression of African Americans, following a path trod by German, Irish, and Italian immigrants generations back. Let’s see what we can learn looking at the results more closely. And, let’s clone Stacey Abrams and send her to Miami-Dade, the Rio Grande Valley, and North Carolina, because she will find any voters we can get but haven’t.