Tag Archives: Democrats

Interesting House Races, Arizona-Florida

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Florida have a total of 114 members in the US House of Representatives, which is about a fourth of the total members.

50 are Republicans. 64 are Democrats.

This year, Arizona is likely to see a Republican seat flip to Democratic. California will likely flip 2, R to D. Colorado will likely flip 1.

So, it is likely that the party count for these first states, alphabetically speaking, will end up being 46-68. If this shift happens at this level across the US, Democrats will come to within about 75% of where they need to equal Republicans in the house, numerically.

Arkansas 2nd

Incumbent French Hill is ahead of Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker (there is a libertarian in the race as well, with a crumb of support but enough to propel the Republican into a statistical safety zone should he get hit by a bus at an intersection lacking proper stoplights or pedestrian walkway markings). But while fivethirtyeight puts this race as close and leaning Republican, there has been virtually no polling here. A PPP Poll in April put Hill ahead by 5 points, and a Hendrix College poll in early September put Hill ahead by 9 points.

The district went for Trump by and Romney by 12.

There have been Democrats representing this district.

A blue wave effect in this semi-urban area, a semi-liberal island in a sea of redness, would have to be strong, but a Democratic upset here is barely possible.

There are three interesting races in Arizona.

Arizona 02 was represented by Republican Martha McSally, who is now running for US Senate. Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is running against Republican Lea Marquez Peterson. If Kirkpatrick sounds familiar to you, it is because she reprersented Arizona’s 1st district in the past. Kirkpatrick has also run (not successfully) against Senator McCain.

There has been only one poll here, one of those New York Times/Siena polls that seem to be mainly a way for the NYT to sell newspaper subscriptions. But maybe it is a good poll, and it shows Kirkpatrick ahead by 11 points. It is generally expected that this will be a turnover.

Arizona’s 6th and 8th districts are very likely Republican keeps, but there are viable Democratic challengers there, so there is a barely possible turnover in each of those districts, if the Blue Wave is big and strong and reaches the desert.

For a state with one gazillion house districts, California has only a handful of races that might produce a turnover.

California 39th. The seat is currently held by Edward Royce, but this Republican is leaving in what some might consider an anti-Republican or anti-Trump protest. Fivethirtyeight suggests that the race is a tossup, leaning towards the Republican. One poll shows Democrat Gil Sisneros ahead by one point, another poll shows Republican Young Kim ahead by 10. Both polls were taken about the same time, but the Cisneros favoring one, by Berkeley IGS, a little later and overlapping with the Kavanaugh Outrage Event.

For this reason, I’m going to say that this race will probably go Republican (and thus not be a turnover) but with a medium blue wave, Democrat Sisneros can win. By the way, the Democrat is a man, and the Republican a woman. If that had been reversed, perhaps the Kavanaugh Outrage Effect would be stronger.

California 45 is currently represented by Republican Mimi Walters, but Democrat Katie Porter is favored by 538. This race was much closer until the Kavanaugh hearings developed, after which Porter has run away. This is a very likely turnover.

Republican Darrel Issa is bailing from his seat in California’s 49th district. Democrat Mike Levin is well head (in two polls) of Republican Diane Harkey. This is a likely turnover.

In Colorado, Republican incumbant Mike Coffman is showing poorly in polling (entirely by NY Times/Siena) against Democratic challenger Jason Crow. This is likely to be a party turnover and unseating of an incumbent Republican.

Florida’s 6th district is especially interesting. The seat was held by a Republican, who is no longer running. The current candidates include Michael Waltz, the Republican, and Nancy Soderberg, the Democrat. Nancy is actually the sister of my close personal friend John, with whom I worked for several years at the University of Minnesota. Soderberg is one of those women Rachel Maddow has mentioned who come from the security community, many of whom are running this year for Congress, as Democrats. If I recall correctly, and I’m sure I’ll have some of this wrong, Nancy Soderberg was staff for Senator Ted Kennedy. She served in the Clinton White House key staff on the National Security Council, and later, as ambassador to the United Nations. She ran for Congress in 2012, lost, but did well.

Unfortunately, Republican Waltz is projected by 538 to win this race. However, the most recent polling, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (a Democratic Partisan source) puts them at even. Soderberg can win with a medium to strong Blue Wave, but I’m not going to put her in the turnover column at this time.

Elsewhere in Florida, 26th District incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo is being seriously challenged by Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The two are essentially neck and neck in polling, though Curbelo has been consistently ahead. This is a race that will be won by the Democrat if a normally uncounted faction, such as female millennials, show up to vote in larger numbers.

The Kavanaugh Fight Will Dampen The Red Wave

Why? Because everything that can possibly happen, anything of any sort, will dampen the Red Wave. Why is that? Because Democrats are unorganized, weak, lack knowledge about how the electoral process works, and more self centered than ideology centered. Not all Democrats, but plenty of them.

But that’s just me talking. All I have to offer is experience in campaigns since the 1970s. What you really want to do is listen to Rachel Maddow, who has a whole staff and a big brain. She says different. I hope she is right and I am wrong. (For the record, we rarely disagree.)

Stop fretting about the Feinstein – de Leon thing

In a recent “jungle primary” (all parties, all voters, and there but the grace of dog go the rest of us), long time us Senator Diane Feinstein resoundingly defeated fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon. But given that Feinstein has been a Senator representing the state since forever, the very idea of a challenge, and the very idea of a 51-33% victory, is a form of insurgency within the party. In this case, it is a progressive insurgency against a strong liberal. If you are outside the Liberal-Progressive zone, that might seem like cats fighting cats, but there is meaning to the differences. Liberals and Progressives all support the same policies, at the 20,000 foot level, but at the more detailed level, they are different. Both want health care for all. Liberals will tolerate a hybrid of insurance companies and some sort of Medicare for Everyone Else or a Public Option, while Progressives want nothing to do with the insurance companies and want a single payer. Or, depending on the individuals, Liberals and Progressives all want Universal Single Payer with no insurance companies, but Progressives want it now, and Liberals don’t think that is possible, and have more incremental plans.

Whatever.

Now, the California state Democratic party has had an endorsing event. You will see the following FALSEHOODS promulgated because of it:

  • Now that Berniebots/Progressives have added their own candidate to the race, the Democrats can’t win, this race
  • Progressives are going to throw Diane Feinstein out despite her great power and service and wondrfulness
  • Other similar things.

But, the truth is, the way the system works in California, there are exactly two people running in the general election for Senate: Feinstein and de Leon. There are no Republicans, do the Democrat will win.

Also, given that Feinstein cleaned de Leon’s clock in the primary, you can bet that she’ll win the general election as well. But, who knows, either one could win.

There is relevance to what is happening here. Within the California Democratic Party, progressives have suddenly developed a significant power base, quite possibly displacing both centrists and labor. If that is a bad thing, don’t worry. Given the primary system in California, they can’t do too much damage. If it is a good thing, then this is a real good thing, in my opinion, because we actually need to have more progressives, and we need to drop the centrist, incremental, line and be more strongly true to our values.

Personally, I’d like to see Feinstein stay to continue the fight against Trump. Personally, I’d like to see de Leon win, because we need to be shifting towards a more progressive landscape. Personally, I’d like to see the Republican lose this race, and that is going to happen for sure because there is no Republican in this race.

So everything in California is good. Stop whinging, y’all!

Harry Potter and the 2014 Election

The Potter Metaphor

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first in a series of books that are metaphorical of the central theme of politics and society in the Western world. Voldemort represents purity of race and racism, the good Witches and Wizards of Hogwarts represent the struggle of self aware consensus around the idea of fairness. The key protagonists — Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, together with a few others — succeed because of the diversity in ability they collectively represent.

One of the key moments in J. K. Rowling’s book is the solution of the potions challenge on the way to the hidden room containing the Sorcerer’s stone. There are several challenges and problems, and each one is met by a different protagonist. Harry has the ability to make Hagrid reveal his poorly kept secrets, so among other things the three students find out how to control Fuffy, the giant three-headed hound. He is also a skilled Seeker, and can thus grab the flying key. Hermione is the one that notices the trap door. Ron for all his failings is a master at Wizard Chess. The theme here is obvious. The three students often fail to understand each other and often do not see eye to eye, but by combining their different strengths and working together, they accomplish what no individual Witch or Wizard could do. The part about the potions challenge is a notably extreme case of this.

Voldemort and his death eaters, and the Slytherin such as Draco Malfoy and his father, as well as Snape, resent the half breeds and muggle-born. They wish to see those who are not pure removed from their society, by any means. The historical fact that Voldemort himself is a halfbreed, a thinly veiled reference to Hitler’s Jewish connections, is beside the point. But it is the muggle-born Hermione who solves the potions puzzle using a Muggle capacity rarely found in Wizards. Wizards, we are told by Rowling, have magical minds, not logical minds. Among the Muggles we find those like Hermione, who probably spent hours with brain teaser books as an eight year old, who are capable of solving complex logical problems, problems that seem impossible but in fact have only one solution. When Hermione and Harry reach the potions challenge, where drinking all of the liquids but one will cause a horrible outcome, but that one potion will open the next door, her Muggle mind comes into play. Harry does not understand how Hermione has solved the problem, but he trusts her with his life.

It is very unfortunate that this scene was left out of the movie version of the story, even though it is alluded to after the fact. As far as I can tell, the scene was never shot (correct me if I am wrong). To me, this is a key message in Rowling’s book. The fact that it was not transferred into the movie version, and that commentary on the book vs. movie differences tend note it but do not lament it, is a bit disappointing.

Death Eaters, Good Witches and Wizards, Republicans, and Democrats

Ask yourself, what is the message of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, other than racial purity and a high degree of intolerance? There is only one, revealed by Voldemort himself, and others including the Sorting Hat, in a few places throughout the story. The only thing that really counts is power. There is no good and evil. Just power.

That is a simple message, easy to understand. You don’t have to be smart, or learned, or thoughtful, to get this point. It may be untrue, but if you say it enough times, and live by it, it becomes true to the faithful. Professor Quirinus Quirrell is a prescient example of how this can play out, that character written almost as though Rowlings had a crystal ball allowing her to see the future of politics in the four largest Anglophone countries. Quirrell is like a working class Tea Party faithful. It does not matter how much pain he will suffer to serve his master, he will remain faithful, and he will keep repeating the message, and in this way, he will continue to believe the message.

Now ask yourself, what is the central theme for the the rest of the Witches and Wizards? There really isn’t one. I’ve alluded to consensus, and there is that. Fairness too, a theme we see played out, naturally, in the sports related manifestation of the greater metaphor, on the Quidditch field. But really, they are all over the place. They vary greatly in approach, what they think is important, what they are good at, and what they like to do. They are like Democrats.

Rowling’s three main protagonists, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, have differences that could and occasionally did interfere with their camaraderie. They couldn’t be much more different in background, proclivities, and abilities. Harry is rich, Ron is poor. Harry and Ron are not particularly intellectual, Hermione is an egghead. Harry throws himself into danger, the others are more cautious. And so on. Often, they annoy each other. This is seen in the early days of their relationship and comes to a head later in the series more than once. But when a task that requires multiple approaches is set before them, they manage to succeed by using these differences. Their power does not come merely from fetishizing power, it comes from piecing together a battery that is stronger as a whole than the sum of its parts. Again, they are like Democrats.

The 2014 Election

During the 2014 election, and this has happened before, many Democrats ran against their leader, President Obama. A Republican strategy would have been different. Keep the message clear; our leader is the greatest ever and we are all on the same page.

A large scale, if imperfect, overhaul of the country’s health care insurance system was badly needed and totally undoable, yet President Obama did it. Democrats fell into the trap of over acknowledging the imperfection, and many with other important agendas (like addressing climate change) decried the health care reform effort as a distraction. Well, the Affordable Care Act certainly is imperfect, and climate change action may have suffered from the distraction, but Republicans would not have used these points a razor to cut their own wrists. Democrats did. Democrats acted like Harry, Hermione and Ron over-bickering and failing to get through the challenges set to keep them from the Sorcerer’s Stone. Had the three young wizards acted like Democrats usually act, Voldemort would have succeeded in his plan to seize power before the second book was written. Had Democrats, in the 2014 election cycle, acted like Rowling’s characters actually did (fictionally) act, this may not have been a midterm washout.

What Democrats Need To Do

Democrats need to be more thoughtful about when they go about the important business of eating their own young. American politics has a two-stage configuration, conveniently divided by Primary Day. Before Primary Day we fight within parties, and after Primary Day we fight between parties. Or at least, that is the theory. But that is not how Democrats often do it. With a simple message that is usually not muddled at any stage during this process, Republicans can be in lockstep as they advance their political agenda (gaining power). Democrats see this as a deficit. There is no real conversation in the Republican party. A small number of loudmouths yell out the marching orders and everyone marches. The few who do not are fallen upon and devoured quickly. Democrats recognize that this approach does not solve problems. Republicans recognize that this approach wins elections.

What Democrats need to do is to take a page — one page — from the Republican playbook. They need to recognize what it takes to win elections, and go win some. This does not mean failing to have the conversation, failing to try to solve problems. It can be accomplished, rather, by doing a better job at dividing up the process into its proper stages. Democrats have compensated for their failure to come together the day after Primary Day by getting very good at the technical aspects of getting out the vote, that sort of thing. But Democrats who don’t think the Republicans won’t figure this out and get just as good at it are deluded. Having a great database and a great call center to get out the vote is necessary but not sufficient over the long term. Democrats have refined the medium, now they must refine the message.

Today is the day after election day, and we see Democrats already fighting about what went wrong. That is probably helpful, that is an important conversation to have. Democrats need to shift quickly into fighting about the solutions to our nation’s and our world’s real problems (at the local level too) and pretty quickly start fighting about who to put up for election next term. Fight and bicker and whinge but try to keep the conversation productive. Then, on Primary Day, put on the marching boots and the big girl and boy pants and all head in the same direction and act like a team. No, don’t act like a team, be a team. If your favorite candidate and your favorite issue failed to emerge as everyone else’s favorite, acknowledge that you are not the only person on the planet, suck it up, and get on board. It only seems like our election cycles go on forever. In truth, it is only a few months between Primary Day and Election Day. Everything you do that is off course during those months is self harm. Stop doing that.

Then, win.

Then, start up again with the bickering and consternation, conversing and cajoling, until the next cycle. Rinse, repeat. The Democratic Party represents a larger share of the American Public than does the Republican Party, yet it is not in the majority. This is not because Republicans win more. It is because Democrats lose more. Stop doing that.