By now, you’ve read every professional pundit’s take on what last night’s non-decision in the Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election means. So, in that time honored tradition of piling on, here’s a few thoughts of my own.
- Crappy candidates don’t win elections: unless they’re running against even crappier candidates. So long as the GOP keeps running people like Rick Saccone (who tried to pressure his possibly pregnant secretary into an abortion, despite running as a pro-life candidate) and Roy Moore (no need for further explanation), they will continue to lose elections. Unless, of course, the Democrats run even worse candidates. They tried that with Jon Ossoff. They also tried it in 2016 with somebody named Hillary Clinton.
- Smart Democrats run away from the “Party of Pelosi”: If you closed your eyes, Conor Lamb sounded like any number of moderate Republicans. At least in word, he is about as far from the national party platform as you can get and still call yourself a Democrat.
- Which leaves national Democrats in a quandary: Democrats need to flip 24 seats to regain the House in November. In order to do that, they’ll need a whole lot more people like Conor Lamb to run. If they succeed, what happens to the Democrats who’ve hewed farther to the left since the 2016 election? The return of a strong “Blue Dog” faction can’t be something Democrats eyeing a 2020 Presidential run (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, etc) are eagerly anticipating. Nor can it be something the “old guard” House members (Pelosi, Hoyer, etc) really want to deal with.
- Presidents no longer have coattails: It might sound trite, but Presidents truly don’t enhance anyone else’s electoral chances anymore. While America has a long history of voting for the opposition in midterm elections, none of our last three Presidents have been able to transfer their considerable intraparty favorables into voter turnout. This year is continuing that trend. Whether that’s a function of our three decade long bout of hyper-partisanship, or Presidents who simply can’t reach voters on the “other” side, I don’t know. But it doesn’t really matter – it is, what it is. Just remember, the House has changed leadership 4 times during a midterm in the past 25 years.
- Anyone who thinks 2018 won’t be the fifth, is deluding themselves: Yes, 24 seats is a tall order. Yes, Democrats winning those seats will be running against the national party’s positions in many cases. Yes, that will create massive headaches for them, both in governance and electoral politics. But you know what? Another function of this period of hyper-partisanship is that the only accomplishment that matters is winning the damn election. Actual governing is secondary. You can bet the DNC and DCCC will pour everything they have into the districts they believe they can flip, and flip them they will.