Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate for the March 13 special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, center, celebrates with his supporters at his election night party in Canonsburg, Pa., early Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Democrats are celebrating the shift of a Pennsylvania district from twenty points in Donald Trump’s favor (2016) to one point in their favor (2018). It was a race that leads them to (perhaps rightly) believe it was a sign that the Republicans’ House majority is, as Carl Arbogast wrote earlier, in trouble.
However, the farthest of the far-left is going to see Lamb’s victory and take it to mean it’s time to go full-progressive and stomp out Republican ideology in Washington D.C. once and for all. Should they decide to, they will be making a fatal mistake.
Take a look at how Lamb campaigned in this Pennsylvania district. He is young – 33 years old – and an Ivy League graduate, but he campaigned as pro-gun and anti-Nancy Pelosi. He talked a lot about bi-partisan efforts to fix healthcare markets, but also supports Donald Trump’s tariffs. He has said he is personally against abortion but believes a right to it exists.
In other words, that’s about as centrist as it gets, and it’s the closest we’ve come to seeing a blue dog Democrat in quite some time.
This is the platform that took a Democratic enthusiasm wave and used it to win a seat in Congress, and if progressives were smart, this is how they would work to take back the House and put up a decent fight for the Senate.
In stark contrast, look at Beto O’Rourke in Texas. He has gone full-left in a state that is more deeply and more consistently red than Lamb’s district. He stands no chance against Ted Cruz, who could pretty much claim victory the moment O’Rourke allowed himself, on video, to take a firm stance against the right of Texans to own an AR-15.
O’Rourke represents the worst impulses of the progressive movement, and this shows exactly why they are going to do more harm than good for the Democratic Party if they continue down the path they’re on.
Lamb, meanwhile, represents the best of political strategy. I have no doubt that he is going to be as liberal as most of his Congressional colleagues, but he understands (or perhaps has a campaign manager who understands) just how important it is to reflect the values of your constituency.
The far-left candidates who ride the enthusiasm wave to office need to learn that lesson. If they don’t, they run the risk of over-correcting after 2018, and they’ll ensure that Donald Trump wins in 2020.
The election in 2016 was a response to Barack Obama’s out-of-touch connection with the working class and the blue-collar families, as well as Hillary Clinton’s completely robotic approach to dealing with human beings in general. If the Democrats continue to prop up more of that and less of the Conor Lambs in the party, they won’t have much luck toppling an increasingly-unpopular and erratic candidate like Donald Trump, because at least Donald Trump knows how to connect to voters’ beliefs in these key areas.