Democrats and the perils of complacency
A young friend of ours who worked for Hillary Clinton in 2016 waved a big caution flag recently about the fall elections. The same complacency that doomed Clinton is starting to afflict Democrats again, she warns. Too many party operatives are convinced that a "blue wave" will sweep the Democrats to a majority in the House; the only outstanding question in their minds is whether they will win the Senate, as well.
Our friend is only one voice, but she's worth listening to. She was on the ground in a key state when Clinton's managers persistently ignored warnings from the field that their candidate was in trouble. Chill out, came the word from Brooklyn HQ.
Democrats are fully capable of repeating the same willful self-delusion that sank them last time out. Is a "blue wave" possible? Absolutely. Is it inevitable? Absolutely not.
Several recent trend lines demonstrate the perils of complacency in Democratic ranks. President Donald Trump's approval ratings have edged slowly but steadily upward and stand at 43.2 percent in the latest average compiled by the website RealClearPolitics. One big reason is the economy. Unemployment has dipped to 3.9 percent, the lowest rate in more than 17 years, and a tax cut has bolstered paychecks for many workers. In the latest CBS poll, nearly two-thirds of voters rated the economy as good or fairly good, and a CNN survey found that 52 percent view Trump's handling of the economy favorably.
At the same time, popular support has waned a bit for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. A Monmouth poll found that 54 percent of voters still feel Mueller is conducting a fair investigation, but that's down from 60 percent just two months ago.
Trump's core base of support shows no signs of cracking.
In primaries this week, Republicans nominated two strong candidates -- Patrick Morrisey in West Virginia and Mike Braun in Indiana -- to oppose vulnerable Democratic senators, boosting their chances of retaining the chamber.
Then there are the Berniecrats, who helped defeat Clinton in 2016 by dividing the party and deriding its candidate. They threaten to do the same thing by endorsing unelectable lefties like Dennis Kucinich, who lost a Senate primary in Ohio this week but gave the nominee, Richard Cordray, heaps of trouble.
The party of an incumbent president almost always loses Congressional seats in off-year elections. Without a doubt, Trump has galvanized the Democratic opposition, with new candidates and new contributors flooding political arena. The party has won critical elections in Virginia, Alabama and Pennsylvania, and a record number of Republican lawmakers are retiring instead of risking defeat.
Democrats are focused on college-educated suburban women, many of whom backed Trump because they despised Clinton and were tired of eight years of Democratic rule.
History gives the Democrats a big advantage, but if they repeat the mistakes they made in 2016 and take victory for granted, they could get blindsided again.
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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