Brian O'Shea of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the results in Karen Handel wins; latest Georgia 6th District runoff results 06/20/2017.
There are a couple of points that I hope don't get lost in the flood of commentary, interpretation and polemics over this special Congressional seat.
Lost in all of the noise is that Georgia is sending a real awful person to Congress.— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) June 21, 2017
And a closely related observation:
Now that it's open season on Jon Ossoff, I thought I'd mention that he came within an ace of not having a runoff at all. That ain't nothing.— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) June 21, 2017
David Sirota makes a polemical point in this tweet:
Democrats could run a robust national redistricting program on the amount they spent losing a single House race— David Sirota (@davidsirota) June 21, 2017
But the upside of it is that the Democratic establishment was willing to spend significant amounts on a Congressional race in what had been considered a relatively safe Republican district. And a key part of the the 50 State Strategy when Howard Dean was DNC Chair involved trying to run Democratic candidates in every Congressional district, even in the "safest" Republican ones. There were several reasons for that: sometimes Democrats win in unlikely places; it's a way to build the Democratic Party organization; it gets the Democratic messaging and "branding" in front of more voters; and, at the very least, it forces Republicans to spend money to hold safe seats, funds that might otherwise go to other, more competitive races.
The Democratic Party is way too comfortable with losing, as a general matter. But not running candidates in Congressional races is a sign of laziness. In the sense that it takes time and, yes, losing some elections, to build the party nationally, in that way the Dems aren't comfortable enough with losing.
So, despite the richly deserved criticism being heaped on Ossoff's ConservaDem campaign by progressives, there is something encouraging in the experience of the Dems being willing to fight in the George-6 race. We can always hope that the experience of fighting Republicans will prove contagious for the Dems. But that's a bit like the cynical crack about second marriages, the triumph of hope over experience.
Also, from Charlie Pierce, who knows that people sometimes need to be reminded of the obvious (Do Not Ignore This Persistent Truth About Republicans Esquire Politics Blog 06/21/2017):
The biggest mistake the Ossoff campaign made was relying too heavily on the notion that there were Republican voters in that district that could be broken off from their party. This almost is never the case. Through decades of constant and unrelenting pressure, and through finagling with the franchise in a hundred ways in a thousand places, the Republicans have compressed the votes they need into an unmovable, diamond-hard core that will vote in robotic lockstep for whoever it is that wins a Republican primary. In American politics today, mindlessness is one of the strongest weapons you can have. Republicans vote for Republicans in Republican districts. Period.Charlie seems to be having a why-can't-we-all-get-along moment when it comes to intra-Democratic Party strife: "Conclusion: I would like the 2016 Democratic primary elections to be over now."
One thing that this and the three other special Congressional elections this year bring to mind, also, is the obvious potential downside of the 50 State Strategy. Which is that contesting hard-for-Democrats-to-win Congressional seats also may gives the Democrats more elected Blue Dogs who think they need to hedge on Democratic commitments and values to stay competitive for re-election. Ossoff definitely sang from the Blue Dog hymnal: Greg Bluestein and Jim Galloway, Farewell to Jon Ossoff: Perhaps the last ‘cooperative’ Democrat Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06/21/2017.
New Deal Democratic activist and commentator Nina Turner addresses the Blue Dog problem here, Nina Turner on Why Ossoff Lost in Georgia Special Election The Real News 06/21/2017:
I learned a new phrase from the coverage of the Ossoff campaign, "Panera Bread strategy." It refers to the currently preferred coirporate Dem strategy applied by Ossoff to appeal to upscale "Romney Republicans" who are fine with Trump's policies but find the man himself a bit uncouth. D.D. Guttenplan takes on that approach specifically in Jon Ossoff’s Loss Should Be a Lesson to Corporate Democrats The Nation 06/21/2017.
On a related point, I would like to see a more innovative, less donor-aligned Democratic leader in the House than Nancy Pelosi. But Pelosi does have two strong favorable features from a progressive point of view. One is that she has been effective at the management job of a Party leader in Congress, i.e., keeping the Democratic Caucus reasonably together on important votes. The other is that she's a literal "San Francisco Democrat," which means she has a safe Democratic seat. The demands of being the Party leader means that she's adopted a less progressive profile that she previous had. But the Democrats' previous idea for selecting Congressional Party leaders was to select people from "purple" districts on the theory that it would give the Democrats a friendlier image to swing voters. But it also meant that that they were in greater danger of being unseated and therefore not in the best position to take strong public stands on some issues that are important to the Democratic base nationally.
So, if Pelosi steps down, the Democrats will need someone who's also not at all likely to go full Blue Dog on major issues.