Let me define ‘Red Wave’. Because a new president’s party tends to lose seats in the next midterm, not losing seats counts as something of a wave. And a net gain in the House would be an extraordinary wave. The Senate is different because the GOP is already positioned to pick up one or more seats. So if Republicans pick up more like 4 or 5 seats, that would be a wave.
I freely admit that the odds are against a Red Wave. But I’ll cite the 2016 election as reason enough to reconsider what’s possible. This diary is obviously speculative. I’m just exploring what I think could happen based on recent trends and a few X-factors.
Let’s go back 2016. It’s a cliché that most were blindsided by the outcome. I didn’t get my hopes up that Hillary would lose, but I had an irrational hunch that a Trump victory was possible. When he actually won, I started to re-evaluate a lot of assumptions and reject much of what passes for political analysis today.
Most seem to agree that Trump’s victory is part of a populist trend, along the same lines as Brexit. One consequence of populism is that predictions based on ‘normal’ precedent fail with some regularity. Hillary should have trounced Trump with her war chest and media backing. Same with Brexit. Polling suggested “Remain” would win and the alleged nativist rubes supporting Brexit would be humiliated. The opposite happened.
If we go back to 2010 and 2014, the GOP victories in the House and Senate were a shock to those who believed Democrats were riding a wave of demographic destiny. While the 2010 midterm loss for the Democrats is more easily explained, the loss of the Senate in 2014 was truly unexpected. It was assumed the ‘Ted Cruz’ GOP government shutdown would doom the Republicans. Again, the opposite occurred.
At first glance, 2012 was an exception to the anti-incumbent trend. A relatively unpopular president won re-election against a well-funded mainstream Republican. Conventional wisdom got one right and the ‘skewed polls’ theory debunked.
That said, it’s useful to remember that Obama’s victory over Hillary in 2008 was disruptive. And Obama’s rhetoric was somewhat populist, endearing him with some of the same voters who later elected Trump. He ran as an agent of change and so did Trump. Both cultivated a cult of personality and polarized the opposition.
In my view, this is not about partisan politics. In both cases, the insurgent candidate upended the status quo. Both repudiated the establishment’s preferred candidate. The Tea Party was a rebellion against the GOPe and rampant overreach by Obama Democrats. That rebellion attracted voters who’d abandoned the Republican party during the Bush years.
The way I see it, that same disruptive force carried through to the 2016 election. If Paul Ryan and McConnell don’t like Trumpism, they can thank the tactics they used to kneecap the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus. Similarly, Bernie represented an insurgency against Hillary because the left’s base had no confidence in the Democrat party.
At this point, the establishment in both parties wish things would just return to normal. The Clintons want the Bernie Bros to sit down and shut up. Similarly, the GOPe would love nothing more than for Trump and his voters to be brought to heel. If these establishment folks had learned anything from the past decade, they might have gotten their wish, but they’ve only exacerbated the tensions. The Resistance have behaved in such a noxious fashion that Trump’s poll numbers are rising – over 50 in some cases.
As for the GOP, if they lose the majority it will be their own fault. They’ve done their best to slow walk and sandbag Trump’s populist agenda. The failure to repeal Obamacare, funding Planned Parenthood and the general fiscal promiscuity of the Omnibus budget are staggering betrayals. Congress managed to spend 1.3 trillion and enrage everyone but their special interest donors. And yet somehow they failed to include the piddling 25 billion for the wall. So I concede that the recurring GOP Failure Theater performance has the potential to destroy any chance of a Red Wave.
On DACA, Sanctuary Cities, and Amnesty, the GOPe and the Democrats diverge from Trump’s agenda and alienate a significant percentage of voters. Trump’s priorities appear to be more in line with voters who oppose illegal immigration and appear to even want legal immigration reduced. Jobs and tax cuts may be anathema to Democrats, but if Trump’s poll numbers are to be believed, the people approve of what he’s doing, even if they don’t approve of him personally.
In light of that, why on earth would voters turn out to give Pelosi back the gavel? Do voters support Mueller’s freestyle ‘investigation’? Not according to polls. Do voters support impeachment over imaginary Russian Collusion, or dozen-year-old one-night stands with porn stars and Playboy bunnies? Not really. If you believe otherwise, explain how Trump’s poll numbers keep rising in the face of an onslaught of vitriolic anti-Trump headlines.
When it comes to a hot-button issue like the 2nd Amendment, do voters support declaring the NRA a terrorist organization and stripping citizens of their rights? That’s a hard no. Just look at the NRA’s record fundraising since Parkland.
In fact, as if to ‘double dog dare’ voters to elect Democrats, both the Pelosi and Bernie wings of the Donkey party share a steadfast desire to raise taxes if they win in November. And they were dumb enough to say it loud and proud.
As bad as the GOP has underperformed on some issues, the Democrats’ extremism suggests to me that Republicans could hold more seats than expected. If only because voters see there’s at least a thin possibility Republicans will be better than the Marxist horde that seems to only care about impeaching Trump and regaining power.
With all that said, let’s review a few trends that work against the Democrats:
1) The economy is heating up after 8 years of Obama malaise. Today’s reported 3.9% unemployment highlights the strength of the economy and the incompetence of the previous regime. This rising economic tide has lifted a lot of boats, including women, blacks, and Hispanics. Even if that doesn’t convert these groups into Republicans, it might suppress turnout for Democrats. Recent polling suggests Millennials don’t heart the Democrats either, another bad omen for turnout.
2) Tax cuts spread crumbs everywhere. It bears repeating that the Democrat threat to raise taxes is probably one of the most amazing acts of political malpractice in my lifetime. They should have listened to 1992 Bill Clinton. It’s the economy, stupid. Voters care infinitely more about their pocketbook than the Democrat wet dreams of regaining power. Not for nothing, but the RNC has a massive war chest and the DNC is deep in debt. I fail to see how that adds up to a Blue Wave.
3) Kanye West and the black vote. I don’t know if I believe polling this week that shows support among blacks for Trump doubled from 8 to 16 percent. But it’s clear once again the left played their hand badly. When a black celebrity stands up for a little-known conservative black woman, it’s not a good look for the Democrat propaganda machine to smear and condemn him. The reality is, there is no good reason for blacks to be loyal to Democrats based on results. They chose poorly in attacking Kanye and Trump at the same time.
4) Establishment pundits keep getting everything wrong. Trade War? Tax cuts? Russia Collusion? DACA? Whatever the issue, the anti-Trump establishment (on right and left) have so beclowned themselves that one can predict the future with reasonable accuracy simply by expecting the opposite of whatever they pontificate. The fact that they seem addicted to being wrong at all times doesn’t help. They don’t seem to grok populism so they might want to lay low until they get something right a few times.
5) Something rotten happened in the Swamp. I think the biggest X-factor that could spawn a Red Tsunami is the disgusting corruption behind Mueller, Comey, McCabe, and others inside the Obama FBI, DOJ, and State. Forget morale. At this point, to believe Mueller is a good man on a mission to expose collusion with Russia is a full-time denial job. You have to work to avoid the deluge of revelations that point to the opposite conclusion. If the IG report on McCabe is any indication, I think the fallout could make Watergate look like an HR violation. It goes without saying that if Mueller manages to find something impeachment worthy on Trump, all bets are off for the Republicans. Still, we all know Hillary, the Clinton Foundation, the FISA warrants, and the behavior of key officials at these agencies, are all deeply troubling and possibly criminal. Corruption, collusion, obstruction of justice, and worse, are almost certain to be exposed if a proper investigation is conducted. Until now, AG Sessions has appeared to be the Democrats best hope for getting off unscathed. But that may change. And I think it will. IF the truth comes out, that’s going to drone strike the Democrat brand. They marched together in lockstep throughout the Obama years. This mess, therefore, taints them all. With their assault on Trump, they’ve made this a zero-sum game. At least one side loses before this is over.
Both parties have much to fear from the populist forces at work. Look back to Perot in 1992 or Newt’s Contract with America in 1994. The American people wanted accountability and real change. Certainly, the Republicans should have woken up after the 2006 loss of Congress. Or McCain’s loss in 2008. But even Obama, the ‘Hope and Change’ president, couldn’t talk Hillary into office. And now his legacy is being dismantled.
The people have supported different candidates to upend the status quo. And they appear fundamentally tired of what both parties have delivered. Whether you like him or hate him, Trump ran as an outsider and has delivered a lot of his campaign promises. That is a Unicorn as far as voters are concerned.
And as long as the Democrats are more committed to the #Resistance than their country, as long as they continue showing contempt for common political sense, I don’t see a Blue Wave (no matter how angry their lefty base gets). Most Americans are not that political or partisan, so the Democrats hyper attack-dog campaign against Trump has worn thin.
The Democrats could have tried to co-opt the populist wave like Clinton did in 1996 when he ran against big government and crushed Dole, but they seem determined to forfeit their historical advantage in the mid-terms with mindless feral extremism.
That’s not to say Republicans can afford to be complacent. They can’t. Mid-terms are still all about turnout.
This diary is my way of suggesting we could set our sights higher than surviving some mythical Democrat wave because for all our problems, they’re just awful.