Should Dems bet on Beto?

Is Beto O'Rourke's loss in the Texas Senate race a springboard for a Presidential bid? Texas journalist Mimi Swartz hopes he first runs for Cornyn's seat.

Posted: Nov 12, 2018 2:21 AM
Updated: Nov 12, 2018 2:28 AM

The 2018 midterms can be extraordinarily helpful to Democrats in the 2020 presidential election.

History shows that dramatic victories by the opposition party two years into a presidency don't guarantee anything. Presidents Clinton and Obama, for instance, were reelected after midterm shellackings. But they can create substantial opportunities to achieve partisan advantage.

This is the case with 2018.

House Democrats can promote a robust issue agenda

One power that is afforded to the House majority centers on its ability to inject issues into national debate. This is the congressional bully pulpit.

House Democrats may face some difficulty finding legislation that will make it through the Senate, where Senator Mitch McConnell is waiting like Darth Vader to kill any bills. But they can shift the media discussion from the daily chaos of the Trump White House simply by proposing legislation and triggering debate.

This is important since the midterms demonstrated that Democrats support issues that are popular with the public. These include protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions, Medicaid expansion, gun control, and voter rights. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a skilled veteran of Capitol Hill and probably the next Speaker, can keep these sorts of issues on the front burner, reminding voters what their party stands for and forcing Republicans to show what they are against.

Democratic governors can change politics within key states

Democrats were finally able to reverse some of the damage from the Obama years by winning gubernatorial races in Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin, among others. These governors can play a pivotal role in the presidential campaign. They will have the capacity to push back against voter restrictions that have been put into place in recent years, which disproportionately impact voters who lean toward Democrats.

Governors also will be able to push for state policies that energize voters, and in turn generate ideas for a national candidate. Closer to election time, the Democratic governors can help mobilize their party behind the chosen candidate. A few of them might even emerge as potential candidates themselves.

Democrats learned that grass-roots mobilization matters

When many Americans are cynical about the impact of average people, the midterms offered a template for how electoral success comes from the bottom up.

From the minute the 2016 election ended, there was a surge of Democrats who were angry about the outcome and determined to do something about it. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in the Women's March on Washington and similar demonstrations around the country just one day after President Trump's inauguration. The march rallied those who felt defeated and energized a grass-roots movement.

Educated women in suburbs dove into the grunt work of organizing and building local political networks to deliver the vote in the midterms, according to Theda Skocpol and Laura Putnam's surveys and interviews.

Some of these women didn't just prepare to vote. They ran for office and set a record in the House.

Survivors of February's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School also became fierce organizers. They may be frustrated with the possible outcomes in Florida, where two gun-rights candidates might win. But their activism boosted participation among younger voters and inspired older Americans to see why the composition of Congress matters. Gun control advocates also increased their numbers in Congress, and a sizable contingent of NRA-backed legislators won't be returning to the Hill.

The local mobilization that occurred before the midterms can be the basis for Democrats to start preparing for 2020.

Coalitional candidates are the best bet

There has been endless head-scratching and debate among Democrats about whether the party should move to the left (towards newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example) or veer to the center (occupied by Connor Lamb and Doug Jones). Democrats should instead ask which candidates have the political savvy and charisma to build a big tent. Beto O'Rourke was one such contender, and his campaign showed the strength of that combination, even in a deeply conservative state like Texas.

Democrats are now competitive in a broader portion of the electorate as Trump has narrowed his party's appeal. They should search for someone who can put together an issues package and have the Beto-like appeal to attract a diverse voting body.

Don't fret too much over the reddest states

Democrats are celebrating and breathing a sigh of relief over the House and state election outcomes, but the results in the Senate should be sobering. In October, Trump campaigned fiercely on issues like immigration and Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, which seemed to resonate in Republican states. Whether it was Trump or loyalty to the GOP, voters in red areas supported the party line and were not open to very centrist candidates like Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who was defeated in North Dakota.

The President's bet that Republicans would come home in the end was on target. The midterms should prevent Democrats from making the mistake of thinking that they can flip states in most circumstances. Democrats should be realistic about Republican strongholds and see that putting their human and financial resources into fighting for purple states like Nevada and Colorado is the best investment.

It won't be long before the presidential campaign really begins. The candidates soon will announce their intent to run, the debates will begin, and the fundraising will kick off. Although this was not a total revolt against Trump, the midterms have provided Democrats with a massive opening to take back the White House in 2020.

Article Comments

Mason City
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 80°
Albert Lea
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Austin
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 79°
Charles City
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 79°
Rochester
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 80°
Summer heat is here to stay as we inch closer to the start of fall
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Spring and summer rain impacting fall colors

Image

Sara's Daybreak Forecast - Tuesday

Image

Rochester teacher receives big honor

Image

Mayo sweeps Farmington

Image

Century falls to Northfield in OT

Image

Austin downs Lourdes in section title rematch

Image

A yearly tradition could be coming back to the River City

Image

Better trail access...for beer

Image

Taking out the trash

Image

Tourism boom in Cerro Gordo County

Community Events