We are in the worst part of politics this morning. You see, it turns out that everyone has a compelling reason the Democrats did not win in Georgia. It’s always “If only Democrats adopt my precise political positions on every issue and campaign just as I would campaign, even though I know nothing about political elections, they would win every race from now until the end of time. Anyone who deviates from my personal positions is a hopeless neoliberal, even though I don’t know what neoliberalism actually means.”
As a Commenter of the American Scene (TM), I guess I am required to have a take. So here’s a few thoughts:
1) It’s one special election. It is not that meaningful. If there one was unfortunate aspect of this election, it’s that it was played up–by both sides but especially by Democrats–as being a referendum on Trump and the future. But in the end, it’s one special election in a very tough district.
2) I don’t think anyone is particularly to blame here. Yes, I know Ossoff is a tepid candidate. It’s also a district full of rich Georgia white Republicans. They aren’t looking for a socialist. Just because you and I are on the left does not mean that leftist candidates can win everywhere. It may well be true that centrist candidates can’t win either. But that doesn’t mean that running the American Jeremy Corbyn in the suburban South is going to work.
3) Money isn’t everything. All the money poured into the campaign seems to have made basically no difference. Everyone’s mind was made up when the first round of elections took place. The intense fundraising Ossoff engaged in was basically a gigantic waste of money. That’s not to say you can cede the airwaves. But the fact that the South Carolina race was actually closer than the Georgia race suggests that the intense focus on fundraising is probably overstated.
4) The other thing about South Carolina is that nationalizing a race like in Georgia may often serve to galvanize the opposition as much as your own supporters. It’s possible that sneaky wins happen more often than taking hard districts with tons of attention paid to them. It would not surprise me at all if in 2018, Democrats win several districts like that one in South Carolina that are shockers and then lose quite a few districts that they have poured money into.
5) One thing the left is saying that is probably accurate is that the road to Democratic success is not through winning Romney voters. I think that idea is very comforting to centrist Democrats not comfortable with a populist approach. But it’s pretty clear that while you might win a few of them, most of them are going to vote for any Republican not named Donald Trump. Actually, most of them will vote for Trump too. But I think it’s unlikely that a moderate pro-corporate approach is a ticket to success in 2018. It may be in particular districts, but the fact that despite everything that has happened in the White House since January produced a result that was almost precisely the same as three months ago is telling.
6) The one thing that most motivates Republican voters is hating Democrats. Jon Ossoff is a Democrat. Nothing else matters.
7) Georgia is a very racist state. And while suburban wealthy Georgia may wrap that in a more genteel language than rural south Georgia, many of those voters are still voting based on a white identity. There may be no way to overcome that.
8) Gerrymandering works. This is what is supposed to happen to a gerrymandered district in a wave-style election.
9) It’s funny that everyone’s hot takes, including on the left, ignores the role of voter suppression, which Handel of course supports.
10) Like everyone else commenting on this election, I am probably wrong on most points.