Against the Grain

The Emerging Democratic Minority?

If Democrats can’t take advantage of Trump’s troubles in next year’s midterms, they could be out of power in Congress for a long time.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a rally in support of the Affordable Care Act and against the Senate replacement bill on July 17 in New York.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Josh Kraushaar
Add to Briefcase
Josh Kraushaar
July 30, 2017, 6 a.m.

Democrats deserve credit in uniting their party to block GOP attempts at rolling back Obamacare. They managed to outline a vague list of economic priorities in hopes of convincing voters they’re not just obsessed with President Trump. But even after six months of shambolic Republican governance, Democrats are still viewed as an unacceptable alternative to many persuadable voters in middle America.

Those were the sobering findings of a Democratic survey commissioned by the party-backed House Majority PAC, which Politico and McClatchy first reported. The poll surveyed working-class white voters in pivotal districts that Democrats are targeting in the midterms. Despite the Trump turmoil in Washington, Republicans held a 10-point lead on the generic ballot (43-33 percent) among these blue-collar voters. Democrats hold a whopping 61 percent disapproval rating among these voters, with only 32 percent approving. Even Trump’s job-approval rating is a respectable 52 percent with the demographic in these swing districts.

Democrats maintain that with robust economic messaging, they can move those numbers in their favor. But the results show how difficult that task will be. By a stunning 35-point margin, blue-collar white voters believe that Republicans will be better at improving the economy and creating jobs than Democrats. Under Trump, the economy has been growing—even in the disadvantaged parts of the country. Between promising job creation and Trump’s own paeans to blue-collar work, it’s hard to see the GOP numbers changing significantly.

The more uncomfortable reality is that these blue-collar voters’ resistance to the Democrats is on cultural grounds, not economic ones—a finding that studies of Obama-Trump voters have repeatedly shown. Democrats are facing a double-whammy: They’re still experiencing resistance among moderate voters in suburban swing districts over tax-and-spend economic policies. Meanwhile, small-town voters are having a tough time voting for their candidates because of a growing cultural disconnect.

In the short term, the House will give Democrats their best opportunity to prove they can make inroads despite the political hurdles. To win back control in the lower chamber, they will need to win Republican-held seats both in the suburbs and in small-town America. It’s not an either-or proposition. But if they fall short despite such a promising political environment, the longer-term ramifications for the party’s ability to regain congressional power are discouraging.

Just look at the Senate maps for the next two cycles. Republicans are likely to expand their majority next year even in a poor political environment because they’re hardly defending any seats next year. Even if they only win a few red-state races, their majority could easily be sustainable even beyond the next presidential election.

Consider: The Senate map for Democrats doesn’t get much friendlier in 2020. Most of the Republicans elected in the 2014 wave hail from conservative states that were once held by (now-extinct) moderate Democrats. Republicans will face challenges holding seats in North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa—but after that, the pickings are slim. Even if Republicans net just one Senate seat next year, their long-term future looks pretty good. (And Democrats won’t be able to blame gerrymandering for future Senate woes.)

One of the few Democratic officials to understand that Democrats can’t simply shun Trump as a way back to power is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. As The New York Times reported, Cuomo has gone out of his way to avoid criticizing Trump—despite frequently clashing publicly with the progressive mayor of New York City. The strategy has annoyed many Democrats in the deeply Democratic state, befuddled at the strategy.

These Cuomo critics should take a closer look at their state’s political map, where Democrats are contesting at least four GOP-held House districts that Trump carried in last year’s presidential election. These swing districts, from Long Island up to Syracuse, all sent a clear message about liberal overreach in rejecting their former home-state senator in favor of Trump. Cuomo, the son of a liberal icon, heard last year’s election results loud and clear. But he’s increasingly a lonely voice in a party that’s putting progressivism ahead of pragmatism.

What We're Following See More »
INITIATIVE TARGETED GUN RETAILERS, OTHERS
Trump Ends Obama’s “Operation Choke Point”
36 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"The Trump administration has ended Operation Choke Point, the anti-fraud initiative started under the Obama administration that many Republicans argued was used to target gun retailers and other businesses that Democrats found objectionable. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told GOP representatives in a Wednesday letter that the long-running program had ended, bringing a conclusion to a chapter in the Obama years that long provoked and angered conservatives who saw Choke Point as an extra-legal crackdown on politically disfavored groups."

Source:
LIBERALS RAISE CONFLICT OF ISSUE QUESTIONS
Gorsuch to Deliver Speech at Trump Hotel
41 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Liberal groups are raising questions about a speaking appearance Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch plans to make next month at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Gorsuch is scheduled to headline a luncheon celebrating the 50th anniversary of conservative group The Fund for American Studies on September 28, days before the next SCOTUS term begins October 2. Steve Slattery, a spokesman for The Fund for American Studies, said Gorsuch had nothing to do with venue choice, which was made long before the group asked Gorsuch to speak."

Source:
CYBER COMMAND ELEVATED AT DOD
Administration Faces Exodus of Top Cybersecurity Officials
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Trump administration has lost a handful of individuals serving in top cybersecurity roles across the federal government in recent weeks, even as it has struggled to fill high-ranking IT positions. The developments present hurdles for the new administration and speak to the longstanding challenge the federal government faces in competing with the private sector for top tech talent." Among those resigning is Richard Staropoli, "a former U.S. Secret Service agent who served as chief information officer (CIO) of the Department of Homeland Security for just three months," and Dave DeVries, the CIO at OPM. Separately, the White House announced today that President Trump has directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations.

Source:
SAYS TRUMP JUST ATTACKING REPUBLICANS
Former Top Aide to McConnell Says GOPers Should Abandon Trump
22 hours ago
THE LATEST
“YOU CAN’T CHANGE HISTORY, BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT”
Trump Defends Confederate Statues in Tweetstorm
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login