Political Predictions for 2018

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I’m taking a break from blogging about films, literature, and the horror genre to offer some political predictions for 2018. First, I will preface this post by reiterating what a news editor told me about 10 years ago when I worked as a full-time political beat reporter for a daily outside of Philly. Politics is fluid. Nothing is certain. Anything could change. If we’re talking about the 2018 mid-terms, which feel like the most consequential mid=terms in a long, long time, then we need to acknowledge that the 10 months that separate January and November is a very long time in politics. Anything can happen, and 2016 and 2017 certainly proved that.

1.The blue wave builds…. but when does it crest/peak? This is my biggest question heading into 2018. Just how big will the blue wave be? Any statistician or political junkie/pundit will tell you that there will be a blue wave next year. The Democrats lead on the generic ballot for control of Congress by about 15 points. Their margins are especially high among 18-34 year-olds and women. Their odds are split among independents. Meanwhile, The Hill and Politico reported last week that behind closed doors, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been fretting that the GOP may lose control of the House and Senate. So yes, a blue wave is building, but we won’t know how big it is until November comes and goes.

2. The Democrats gain control of at least one branch of Congress. If I made a bet on Democrats regaining control of Congress, I would put most of my money on Dems retaking the House. They need to gain 20 plus seats to make this happen. Yes, a lot of the districts are heavily gerrymandered, but the Democrats are running an incredible amount of candidates next year, especially compared to the GOP’s numbers and the number of GOP reps retiring, probably because they know a wave is coming. Control of the House will come down to suburban Philadelphia districts, suburban DC districts in Virginia, and a few districts in CA where the Dems should be able to topple some moderate GOP reps. It is also likely the Dems will win some seats in districts they typically wouldn’t win in other years because though Trump will not be on the ballot, he will still be a drag on the ballot for the GOP. In 2010, the GOP netted 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats. They obliterated the comfy majority the Dems had in the House and nearly retook the Senate, which they’d do two years later in 2014. Historically, the party that occupies the White House loses a lot of seats in the first mid-term. So, if the Dems retake any branch of Congress, my money is on the House.

3. The Dems don’t retake the Senate. This is the prediction I feel most iffy about. Since Doug Jones won in Alabama and will keep that seat until 2020, the Senate is now within Democratic reach. However, it is still a major, major uphill slog, even though the Dems only need to flip two seats for control. This prediction comes down to basic math. The Democrats have to defend 25 seats this year. The GOP only has to defend 10. The Democrats best chance to flip a seat is to defeat Dean Heller in Nevada, a state that has been trending blue since at least 2010. The path to the majority for Dems cuts through pretty red states, including Tennessee, Arizona, Mississippi, and Texas. Doug Jones won, but he won because of the awfulness of Roy Moore and because of incredible black turnout. The Dems may be able to repeat a similar turnout pattern in a state like Mississippi, but Tennessee does not have the make-up that Alabama has. Meanwhile, Texas is the great big elephant, the state that the Democratic Party is sure will trend purple in a few election cycles, but so far, that hasn’t occurred or even come close to happening. If the Dems are going to win a Senate seat in Tx by defeating Ted Cruz, then they are really, really going to have to focus on getting out the Hispanic vote and focusing on turnout in major cities like Austin and San Antonio. Is Democratic control of the Senate possible? It is, but it’s still unlikely.  The path for Democratic control is extremely narrow, and meanwhile, there are  A LOT of deep red state Dems on the ballot next year, including in the states of West Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota. The Senate map will be far, far more favorable to Dems in 2020 and 2022.

I will note that the health of John McCain in Arizona and Thad Cochran in Mississippi, both Republicans, also factor into all of this.

4. Dems win big at the state level and gain control of more governor’s mansions. Again, this comes down to math. There are a lot of blue state Republican governors on the ballot this year, including in Maryland and Illinois. In purplelish Maine, the unpopular GOP governor, Paul LePage, will be termed out. The GOP won a whole lot of governors mansions and state legislatures over the last two mid-term election cycles. In fact, one of Barack Obama’s legacies is the fact that his party lost a historic number of state houses under his tenure. This should really be the year when Dems reverse that trend. In fact, Obama has stated he plans to grow the Democratic bench once out of office. The Dems won a lot of state races in 2017, including in places like Georgia, Oklahoma, and Virginia. The party is poised for a lot of pick-ups at the state level this year.

5. Dems win the House but DON’T move to impeach Donald Trump. I don’t find it likely that the Democratic Party will seriously move to impeach Trump, unless Mueller really uncovers something huge. If a Democratic House majority drafted articles of impeachment once the new Congress is sworn in come next January, nothing would happen. I say this because the Senate has to convict. The Democrats won’t have 60 plus votes at the beginning of next year to convict and impeach the current sitting president. Impeachment is a fantasy of the left, but I don’t see a path for that to happen. I also don’t think it’s the best move politically for the Dems.

6. Donald Trump’s approval numbers stay in the mid-low 30s. Simply put, Donald Trump’s base loves him. They will continue to love him in 2018. They make up about 1/3 of the country. Trump is losing independents and white, suburban women. I don’t see him changing in the new year. I don’t see anyone around him making him change. He is even presiding over a fairly strong economy, but that hasn’t helped his numbers. He is who he is.

7. Donald Trump pushes for an infrastructure bill. This is something that I assume Dems would like to work with Trump on, but they won’t work with him if the infrastructure plan involves a complete privatization of the nation’s highways. I predict Trump will push an infrastructure bill early this year, but it’s only happening if he is willing to move to the middle on this, along with Ryan and McConnell. Otherwise, it’s not happening.

8. McConnell and Ryan butt heads over “entitlement reform.” I hate using the term “entitlement reform,” so instead, I’m going to use the term cut to benefits. House Speaker Paul Ryan really, really wants to slash the social safety net and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, programs we all pay into via our taxes. Along with lowering the corporate tax cut, Ryan has dreamed of burning the social safety net since he was a college student reading Ayn Rand. He probably has enough votes in the House to do this, but the GOP only has a one-seat majority in the Senate now, due to Doug Jones. It’s hard for me to imagine how they pass any major cuts to these benefits in the Senate, but hey, crazier things have happened.

7. A deal is reached on DACA before the March deadline. Are we really going to be a country that boots 800,000 Dreamers? I sure as hell hope not. Most Republicans are not for ending DACA and kicking people out of the country that have been here since they were children. I don’t think Trump really wants to end DACA, despite his anti-immigrant fervor. I assume the parties will come up with an agreement, maybe by mid-January, when they need to fund the government again, since they only passed a short stop-gap measure before Christmas. I predict the deal will include increased funding for border security. I sure hope I’m right that they come to some deal here and protect the Dreamers….

8. Climate change will continue to wreck havoc and cause extreme weather globally, but the U.S. will continue to do nothing and Trump will continue to deny science, slash the EPA, and keep dismantling Obama-era environmental policies. We may be past the point of no return regarding climate change. 2017 saw a lot of extreme weather, and that will continue in 2018. Countries like China, India, France, the UK, and others will continue to take the lead on this issue, since the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement and has essentially given up being a leader on this issue under this administration

These are my predictions for 2018. Again, nothing in politics is certain, and 10 months is a very long time until the mid-term elections. That said, there are some trends from 2017 worth looking at, especially Democratic turnout and wins at the state level that are good indicators of where 2018 will go politically.

I hope that everyone has a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why last night’s election results matter

Democrats are waking up this morning, one year after Trump’s election, feeling ecstatic. They have reason to celebrate. They swept the governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia and won a slew of down ballot races across the country. In short, yesterday was a blue wave, one that might be an early indication of how 2018 will go.

The biggest headline is that Democrat Ralph Northam cruised to victory over Republican Ed Gillespie for the VA governor’s race. Over the last few weeks, this race tightened, but current results show that Northam beat Gillespie by about 8 percentage points, more than anyone expected. This race was given so much national attention because over the last month, Gillespie ran a very Trump-like campaign, accusing Northam of being soft on immigration. Gillespie even brought up the NFL/kneeling issue. Last night, Trump tweeted that Gillespie did not embrace him, and Breitbart accused Gillespie of being an establishment Republican. While Gillespie may have been that in the past, the campaign he ran was Trump-like, and it failed. This should make Republicans consider how they run in 2018, especially with the House now in play, based on the wave of GOP incumbent retirements, many in swing districts, and Trump’s toxic poll numbers.

Even more impressive is the number of VA State Assembly seats the Dems flipped last night, the biggest gain in over 100 years for the party. When the dust settles and everything is counted, the Dems very well may have control of the State Assembly, or inch close enough to ensure victory in 2020. Their gains  last night prove that Dems should compete in EVERY race, even in rural pockets of the country. Furthermore, the VA races were so important because it will allow the Dems to undo the gerrymandering in VA after 2020.

In NJ, Democrat Phil Murphy easily won the governor’s race and will succeed Republican Chris Christie. Murphy was always the favorite in this race, but it should be noted that he ran on a rather progressive platform, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and pushing for tighter gun control laws. In addition, his victory gives the Dems full control of the state government.

Here are some other races of note from last night: Maine approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. VA elected its first openly trans state lawmaker yesterday, Danica Roem. She unseated Republican Bob Marshall, who pushed a bathroom bill similar to the one in NC. Transgender activist Andrea Jenkins was elected to the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly trans African American woman elected to the city council of a major U.S. city. Democrat Justin Fairfax was elected VA’s next Lt. Gov, and he is only the second African American to win statewide office in VA. NJ elected Shelia Oliver as its first African American Lt. Gov. Democrat Vi Lyes was elected as Charlotte, NC’s first African American mayor. I could go on and on, but this is a brief snapshot of last night. This very much looks like a rebuke of Trump’s white nationalism.

In my state of PA, there was good news for Dems, too. Democratic Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd was retained, meaning Dems will keep the majority on the state Supreme Court, and she will become the first female PA Supreme Court Chief Justice in a few centuries, yes centuries. Philly elected an uber progressive DA in Larry Krasner.  Last but not least, in my county, Lackawanna County, voters elected the first Democratic DA since the Nixon administration. While Dems have always swept the county row offices here, they’ve always failed to win the DA race. Mark Powell’s election changed that.

As a political junkie, I’m now paying careful attention to the Senate race in Alabama, Jeff Sessions’ former seat. Weeks ago, I didn’t think it would be possible that a Democrat could win that deep-red seat, but recent polling has Democrat Doug Jones pulling even with far-right candidate Roy Moore. The DNC should invest money into that race, as they did with the VA governor’s race. They should also compete in the TX and AZ Senate races next year because what was once out of reach is no longer out of reach. Last night proved that, especially in the VA State Assembly.

I’m also paying close attention to 2020 and Terry McAuliffe. He has reason to be ecstatic that Northam, his Lt. Gov., won the race to succeed him in VA. It will only raise his national profile, and it is likely that he was already considering running for the president in the Dem primary. He will probably make a case that as governor, he worked to protect gay rights and expand voting rights. That will play well with the base. He is also from a state that Dems need to win in 2020.

Heading into 2018, the Democratic Party needs to formulate a concise message, especially for some of the bigger Senate races. They can’t just be anti-Trump. They still need to counter Trump’s faux-populism with a clearer economic message. They have time to do so. That said,  Paul Ryan should be especially worried. While the Democrats path to the Senate majority is much harder, the House is now within reach, especially as more and more Republicans in swing districts announce that they’re not seeking re-election. Last night was a blue wave. Next year could be a blue tsunami.

 

 

 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed/Let it be that great strong land of love

Happy Inauguration/day/week/month, whatever you want to call it. As I write this, some citizens have their TVs turned on at home or at work, or maybe they’re scrolling through their smart phones, eager to see Donald Trump sworn in as the next president of the U.S. Others, meanwhile, may still be in mourning, or maybe they’re in DC, at one of the many protests, or maybe they’re choosing to tune out the news.

I’ve been involved in various progressive causes for a long time; I will say, however, that i don’t wish any ill will on this new administration. I hope upon hope that Trump and the GOP Congress realize they have to represent ALL Americans, including the number of groups that Trump attacked during his campaign and even post-victory. I don’t like to see this country as sharply divided as it is, to the point where some of us have stopped speaking to long-term friends or relatives. Even I have cut communication with a few relatives, and the election results are too fresh for me to try to heal that division right now.

That said, there is one good thing that has some from this election. People are engaged. They are  getting involved in their local Democratic Party, pondering running for school board or city council, attending meet-ups, planning rallies, making phone calls to their Senators and Congressman/woman, even their state reps. There is a level of political/civic engagement that we haven’t seen since maybe the 1960s. I do believe that Americans don’t want this divide, and I do believe a lot of Americans are fearful about what comes next. How will Trump govern? Well, we already have some indications of that. His cabinet appointments are a right-wingers dream team, everyone from Betsy DeVos to Jeff Sessions to Rick Perry to Tom Price to Rex Tillerson. Then, we received news yesterday that the budget Trump is leaning towards would abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and drastically cut funding to violence against women organizations, environmental research, and civil rights organizations. According to reports, the budget is essentially a Heritage Foundation “skinny” budget.” Cuts, cuts, cuts. The nomination of DeVos as Education Secretary and Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary are also clear signs that the GOP will try hard to fully privatize education and health care, something they’ve wanted to do for a long time.

My hope, moving forward, is that citizens will remain engaged and question statements from this administration, especially when they are  not fact-based. I hope Americans urge the press to do the job it needs to do, and I hope, most of all, that people continue to organize rallies, contact their representatives, and unplug from social media to attend a meet-up, realize they are not alone, and you know, actually talk to people face to face.

I will be at the Women’s March in DC tomorrow. I am attending for a number of reasons, but most of all because I believe in women’s right. Period. Following the march, I will continue teaching, writing, and co-leading a local chapter of a new grassroots organization, Action Together. We hope to keep people involved and get them to run for local political office.

There is work to be done. Since I titled my blog post after a Langston Hughes poem, let me end the post with a stanza from his “Let America Be America Again.”

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

A Post-Election Train of Thought

As I write this, I am working on few hours of sleep.  My partner and I stayed pretty late at a field organizer’s house last night, watching the election slip away from Hillary Clinton as the GOP also maintained control of the House and  Senate. Yep, come January, the U.S. is looking at a far-right Republican Party controlling three branches of government and most likely the Supreme Court. As I write this, I am an hour and a half away from teaching Virigina Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and “Professions for Women” in my Women’s Lit class. I will, of course, let them have an open, respectful discussion about the election, if they chose to. Teaching Woolf in this moment feels daunting. If you haven’t read either essay, here is as summary: Woolf declares that there have been so few female writers prior to her time in the early 20th Century because there was  not the economic or emotional space for women to write. They had to be mothers and/or  housewives, or if they did write, they had to face the crippling claims that women were not smart enough to write and publish.  Woolf goes so far in “A Room of One’s Own” to imagine if Shakespeare had as sister, born with the same talent and genius as he. If she went to the theater with a play she wrote, or if she wanted to act,  she would have been laughed right out the door. Woolf concludes that Shakespeare’s sister would have killed herself, due to the inability to fulfill her dreams and pursue her natural talent.

I don’t mean to be dire, but I knocked on a lot of doors, made a lot of phone calls, and did the usual campaign grunt work. I guess I can afford to feel a little down, after the campaign was so optimistic over the last few weeks, even after the Comey letter. I’m still unsure how to process this. I am bewildered and frightened by the FBI’s involvement in the election process, be it Comey’s press conference in July or the letter about 10 days prior to the election. I am alarmed at the massive hacks Wikileaks and possibly Russia committed against the DNC and Hillary campaign. I do wonder what other influences they will have on our election process going forward and how to prevent that. I am befuddled that the Democratic Party, with a president/figurehead who has a higher approval rating than when Reagan left office, STILL managed to lose the White House, and not only the White House, but the House and Senate, where they only needed FOUR pick-ups and had to defend far, far less seats than the GOP.

I am not ready yet to even ponder the future of the Democratic Party. I’ve been a part of it since I was 18 and worked on a number of campaigns. This loss, however, stings the worst, due to all that Trumps stands for. I have no idea what type of world we’ll be living in. I’m not optimistic the Dems can take back even one branch of government in 2018. The Senate map is nasty for them, frankly because they have to defend a ton of seats they won in 2012. The House is also an uphill slog, and Dems vote in even lower numbers during mid-terms. Still, I will get back to organizing,  fighting, and  reshaping the party. I hope others do, too, including the Bernie folks.

The Democratic Party is now post-Clinton and post-Obama. It has no figurehead, no well-known, younger leaders to direct it and craft a platform in preparation for 2018. It will have to get it together quick because the Dems are the only real check on Trump that remains, other than the lower courts. My main concern going forward is the lack of depth within the party, how thin the bench is, due to the fact Democrats have lost several mid-terms over the last several election cycles. Who will step up?

Regardless, I will keep putting in the work. I hope that others do, too. Find others in your community. Get together. Donate to causes that do good work for women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, religious tolerance,  lower-income folks, etc, etc. They will be the groups most impacted by a Trump presidency and GOP-controlled Congress.

Right now, I’m going to get ready to teach Virginia Woolf, to have an honest, respectful discussion with my students about the election, if they want to have it, and then I’m going home to rest so I can get back to work.

 

 

So what next?

I am writing this post a few hours before the third and final presidential debate. I watched the other debates at watch parties, surrounded by friends and other volunteers. Being around them made it easier to watch. It is likely that this debate will be the nastiest yet. Clinton is ahead in most of the swing states, and over the last two weeks or so, Trump has unveiled a new strategy: claim the election is going to be rigged. To their credit, a lot of mainstream Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have pushed back against such claims. Trump’s claims are dangerous because they dig at the fabric of our democracy and the voting process in general. Voting should be seen as sacred, but knowing he is probably going to lose, and possibly lose big, Trump is now trying to undercut the legitimacy of our election. We have never seen anything like this in past elections.

It is now possible that the Democrats can win back the Senate and the House. The Clinton campaign is pushing into red states and now spending money in AZ, which is a virtual tie, according to latest polls, and Georgia, Texas, and Utah. It’s not likely that Clinton will win all of these states. She may not even  win any of them, but the spending could have a serious down ballot effect that benefits Democrats. Even if this turns out to be a wave election, what will the aftermath be? If Trumpism is repudiated big time at the ballot box on Nov. 8, will he go away? Will he stop having meltdowns on Twitter? Will he stop claiming the election is rigged and there is some vast conspiracy going on between the Clinton campaign and the mainstream media? Will the nastiness and xenophobic rhetoric go away, or will his supporters, who feel totally alienated by the political process, become even bolder?

I hope that the Democrats, even if they win big, take a long, hard look at what caused Trumpism in the first place. Why is it that the media mogul, or even Bernie Sanders, resonated so deeply with a chunk of the electorate? What will the Democratic Party do to address the concerns of the white working-class? This isn’t solely a U.S. issue, either. The New Yorker published a story a few weeks ago about the rise of far-right, nationalist parties in Germany, France, and Austria, caused by the Syrian refugee crisis. Here, our electorate is much broader and more diverse, so it doesn’t seem likely that Trump will win the White House. That said, his nationalist rhetoric and the concerns of his supporters need to be addressed. Clinton is going to have a massive burden to try to soothe and heal this country post-election.

My fear, however, is that the GOP may try to obstruct Democrats at every turn, like they did with Obama over the last 8 years. Already, John McCain has stated that anyone Clinton puts up for the Supreme Court will be stymied by the GOP.

Tonight, I will be watching the debate with friends and other volunteers, for the third and final time. I am ready for this election season to conclude, and I hope that Trump/Trumpism is retired to the dustbin of our history, just like McCarthy and George Wallace. The question is, what happens after election day?

Trumpism Post-Election

Since the RNC and DNC concluded a few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton has continued to maintain a lead in the polls. She  has led from anywhere to 10 to six points. Her lead has shrunk somewhat in recent polls, but it is still healthy, especially in PA, VA, and other crucial swing states. Trump has since reorganized his campaign staff, flip-flopped on immigration, and tried to reach out to black voters. So far, however, his minority outreach has moved the needled little. An article published yesterday by The Morning Consultant points out that Trump has cut into Clinton’s lead nationally, but about 79 percent of black voters plan to vote for her. Meanwhile, Trump also signifigantly trails Clinton when it comes to female voters. He lags by nine.

Since the 1960s, when LBJ, pushed by the Civil Rights movement, passed sweeping civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act, black Americans have predominantly stuck with  the Democratic Party. On the one hand, Trump should get some credit for trying to broaden the GOP’s base, but as the Wall Street Journal pointed out recently in this article, Trump has mostly been making this appeal to white audiences, not in black churches or before the NAACP. When speaking about black voters, Trump does so in the context of high crime and high unemployment, as though that’s all that exists in black communities, thus feeding upon racial stereotypes held by some of his supporters.

With about 10 weeks to go until the election, it is likely the race will tighten somewhat. However, Trump’s massive deficit with black, female, and Hispanic voters will make it very difficult for him to win the general election. The question now becomes, what happens to Trumpism post-election? Trump is now trying to paint Hillary Clinton as so crocked that she’ll steal the election. Will that taint the early stages of her presidency? Will it make it more difficult for her to govern? It is likely Dems will win back the Senate and make gains in the House, but not win back the House. How will Trump’s recent depictions of her affect her ability to work with a GOP-controlled House? Will his supporters even let their GOP congressman/woman work with her, or will the unprecedented obstruction seen during the Obama presidency continue?

Furthermore, what happens to some his base? The white working-class anger over bad trade deals and a loss of manufacturing jobs is justifiable. They feel abandoned by the GOP and by the Democratic Party, who passed NAFTA and the WTO under President Bill Clinton, and meanwhile, President Obama is still pushing the TPP, which Clinton opposes. In addition, what long-term impact will Trump’s blatant race-baiting have, especially all of the comments he made about Muslims, promising to not allow them into the U.S., and Hispanic immigrants, calling them “rapists” and “drug dealers.” What does it mean that people like David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, said he’s been inspired by Trump to run for the Senate? Trump’s candidacy has put forth some of the ugly aspects of American history and politics, so how do we heal when this is over?

Right now, the Clinton camp has an election to win, but once it’s over, she, as well as the larger Democratic Party and the GOP, need to figure out how to heal the divisions that have worsened because of Trump’s candidacy.