Monday, March 12, 2018

What establishment Democrats will learn from Tuesday special Congressional election in Pennsylvania

Will Bunch worries that whether Trump wins or loses in the special Congressional election, the national Democratic Party leadership will draw the wrong lesson from it. (Yes, that's about as safe as predilections get, I know, but stay with me.)

In A Democratic win in Pa. Trump Country won't mean what you think it means Philadelphia Inquirer 03/11/2018, he doesn't call Democratic candidate Conor Lamb Republican Lite. But he takes a dim view of the conservative tone Lamb's campaign seems to be striking:
These are the voters who deliver special elections, and they may do so on Tuesday because of antipathy for Trump, not because of any love for Lamb. And there’s a lot for the Democratic base and voters on the left not to like about their special-election candidate. Although ostensibly pro-union, Lamb won’t support a $15 living wage. His attacks on fellow Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are more than a tad awkward in this season of #MeToo politics. But then, Lamb goes out of his way to not mention that he’s a Democrat, or discuss any policy at all other than he’s for “working people.”

While there’s no dispute that Western Pennsylvania leans right on guns, Lamb’s passion for weaponry — he filmed a campaign spot firing an AR-15 — is shameful in a political moment dominated by the Parkland massacre. Hours after a teen gunman mowed down 17 people in the corridors of that Florida high school, Lamb (who mildly supports stronger background checks and thus sits a tad left of his fellow gun zealot [Rick] Saccone [the Republican candidate]) said, “I believe we have a pretty good law on the books.” Since Parkland, Florida’s NRA-backed Gov. Rick Scott has shown more gumption on guns than Lamb. Let that sink in. Sometimes firing an assault rifle for the camera isn’t a mark of political courage but cowardice.
Bunch talks about the shift the pollsters are finding nationally of suburban women being particularly disturbed about the Trump Orange Clown show. He thinks it's probably not a good strategy for Lamb to de-emphasize criticism of Trump.

On the other hand, for a candidate of either party to go hard on local problems in the campaign isn't unusual. And certainly not a bad idea in itself.

He concludes by stating what people who have been following the Democratic establishment's approach to the 2018 campaign will recognize as a sensible concern:
This [the Conor Lamb approach] isn’t the only way forward; another new study published in the Times last weekend urged the Democrats to push to regain a few million young and mostly nonwhite Obama voters who failed to show up at the pols in 2016; that wouldn’t mean so much in predominantly white PA-18, but it could sway key Senate races from Texas to Ohio. That, and tapping into the energy of angry, anti-Trump women. Playing for the God, guns and gold crowd that went ga-ga for Trump in 2016 seems a much lower priority — especially when it might drive away the first two groups.

But if the past is prologue, Beltway Democrats are going to get the wrong message from whatever happens on Tuesday. The worst plan for moving past the Trump nightmare would surely be to lead a flock of “Lambs” into November, some of whom will surely be slaughtered at the polls.
This is why ousting Trump, either by impeachment or election, depends on a sufficiently reinvigorated Democratic Party to actually stand for something in people's eyes besides not-being-Trump.

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