Steve Kornacki has left the building- or the big board at MSNBC anyway. After three weeks of counting, re-counting, conceding and congratulating, the 2018 midterm election is finally over. We already know the home-team won but now we can really see clearly what it actually means. Because in case you haven’t noticed, Trump has blown a gasket and is in full melt-down mode. We need to really dig what happened and how we maximize the opportunities created by the hard fought campaigns waged from Brooklyn to Orange County. Here are the top nine take-aways:
1- The Democratic Electorate is growing up– Key constituencies for the Democratic Party’s long term success have started to mature as voters. It has taken a while, but at long last it appears that a (nearly) critical mass of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and millennials have awakened to the importance of midterm elections. Turn-out spiked across the board and it is noteworthy that these groups of voters were a significant factor in those statistics. In prior years, these voters responded almost as if midterms didn’t exist. On that issue those good folks have been no worse than the president himself who recently uttered something along the lines of “Who knew there was such a thing as ‘midterms’?” Well now everybody knows and it is guaranteed to change how the election game is played forever.
2- Hate Dies Hard– Pundits and politicians alike are split on whether Trump’s rock-solid base hangs with him in spite of his racist and divisive rhetoric or because of it. They can hem and haw all they want but it’s all bullshit. Republicans could have gotten the tax-cuts and Supreme Court Justices they wanted so desperately without electing a guy who is constantly insulting black people, ripping refugee families apart and locking them in cages or openly wishing that more Norwegians would immigrate to the United States instead of brown people from “shit-hole” countries. The fact is that hate is the cheap fuel powering G.O.P. election turn-out and it’s not going anywhere. Racism is permanent and it is an integral part of Republican politics. Denial will not change that- no matter how many bullshit excuses Morning Joe panelists make for it. The “don’t monkey this up” guy and the “I’d sit front row at a hanging” chick both won statewide elections. I’d call that an inconvenient truth if there ever was one.
3- Shoot For The Moon & You’ll Hit A Star (Or Win The House)– Democrats fell in love with Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams. And we should have. What they represent is a future so bright for Democratic politics that we all should be wearing shades. We wanted that Senate seat in Texas and those governorships in Florida and Georgia so bad we could taste them. And we were so heartbroken when we didn’t get those big announcements of victory on election night that we lost sight of the real takeaway. The fact that ANY of those elections were one or 2 point races would have been HUGE standing alone. The fact that ALL THREE were 1 or 2 point losses is out of this world. No, you cannot cash moral victories at the bank, but you can get a huge commercial loan with the right business plan. And all three of these political stars have given us the business plan for success in the elections that lie ahead- in 2020 and beyond. Abrams, Gillum and O’Roarke have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the pathway to success is paved with authenticity. To wit: be a REAL Democrat and stop trying to act and sound like a “B-side” Republican. Know who you are and what you stand for and run on that without apology. And most of all, get your ass out there and ask for EVERYBODY’S vote. Being afraid to ask for votes where statistics or demographics say you are unlikely to get them is a recipe for losing- almost as sure a recipe as being a fake ass fraud who pretends NOT to be disgusted by all things “Trump.” Democratic candidates in Tennessee and Missouri tried that and they got beat badly.
4- All Losses Are Not Created Equal: Ted Cruz was probably feeling himself when he survived Beto’s hard charging campaign for that precious Texas senate seat. But he is going to feel like a gigantic asshole after the 2020 election when realizes he’ll have to spend the final four years of his term standing up every time Beto enters the room because he’ll be serving as president or vice-president. The old political adage that sometimes when you win, you lose and sometimes when you lose, you win applies to the 2018 midterms on many levels. Although I have been an Elizabeth Warren enthusiast as the next Democratic nominee for president I have been forced to recalibrate my prognosis. It has nothing to do with Senator Warren, who I have been in love with since she was the brain and brawn behind all consumer protection legislative initiatives under President Obama. This is about what Beto is and not what Senator Warren isn’t. Stated plainly, Beto O’Rourke has so much star power and authenticity that he is unbeatable in a head to head contest with Donald Trump.
He really does have the magnetism of Obama but brings the map-expanding demographic advantage that let Bill Clinton trounce his opposition when he last ran in 1996. And we probably wouldn’t have a chance at Beto running in ’20 (much less winning) had he beaten Cruz and been sworn into the Senate. The reason is simple: Beto swore he’d serve his full term as a senator if he won and he doesn’t possess the craven calculating character that most politicians do. So he would have kept his word and the party would have lost out- big time. So in this one case, Beto’s loss was a big win for the country.
5- We Don’t Need A “Year of the Woman”: I don’t ever want to hear “year of the woman” again. Because what happens after a “year of the woman”? The phrase implies a prompt return to the primacy of old white dicks getting elected to everything, running everything, and fucking up everything for everybody who’s NOT one of them. Later for that. Let it be known everywhere, starting right here in this space, that 2018 should mark the beginning of the “DECADE of the Woman.” My theory is that if we have a sustained ten year period of women being elected at a rapidly accelerating rate to offices up and down the ticket, up and down both coasts, and up and down middle-America, too, we will finally reach the critical mass of women in power where we no longer have to keep count. That is an ambitious mission to be sure but it is the one that we need to be on and nothing less will do. The reason is simple arithmetic and political practicality: we have been drawing leadership very heavily from less than a third of the population since America began. It’s been The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show and Bob Newhart since day one.
Just so we’re clear, I still like those old white guys’ shows and have nothing against them. But TV didn’t really come to life until the likes of Carol Burnett, Red Foxx and Flip Wilson hit the scene and added the flavor and perspective that American entertainment was so sorely missing.
Politics is no different. Our policies and progress is going to remain on black and white screens and muted color staged sets until our elected officials really look like the country they are serving. A decade’s worth of infusion of women from all backgrounds will get us there. So the “year of the woman” is thinking way too small.
6- Beware The B.S. Narrative: Those of us who consume large quantities of political television need to keep in mind that a great deal of what we are watching is entertainment. It’s easy for us to lose track of that fact because we are watching people in business or business-casual attire having intellectual conversations rather than watching the supple skin and ample bosom of a Kardashian bouncing across our high definition screens. Politically oriented or not, the entertainment component comes first- oftentimes resulting in the entertainment cannibalizing reliable political analysis. That is the reason why pundits are so eager to spin narratives out of election results that they can sell to a mass audience. That motive very often compromises or outright undermines the veracity of the narratives they spin. For the most part, they just care about sustaining an audience by confirming pre-existing beliefs. That is why they are constantly pushing election narratives that support other narratives that they have espoused before. Just ignore them.
7- The Art Of Concession: Bungling a political concession is almost unforgivable. And executing one perfectly is almost superhuman. The overwhelming majority fall somewhere in between. We’ve talked about Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams quite a bit already but we have to close our review of those two future leaders of the Democratic Party with this point: Gillum’s concession was bungled and did damage and Abrams’ was inspiring and is certain to launch her into national prominence for the rest of her life. Gillum committed the cardinal sin of concessions- the same sin committed by presidential candidate Al Gore back in 2000 that made me renounce my membership in the Democratic Party. He conceded way too soon- before all of the votes were counted. That is inexcusable and in most cases unforgivable. You just don’t do that. People have to work too damned hard these days to cast a ballot that gets counted for some political candidate to get a case of the yips and call it quits because it looks like he still has good will to leverage if he conceded “gracefully.” Bullshit, Andrew. You got lucky this time but don’t ever pull any weak shit like that again.
Stacey Abrams, on the other hand, let the whole world know the score as she called the race: My opponent will be certified the winner but his win is illegitimate even if it is legal. This fight for voters rights in the state of Georgia is just beginning- so buckle-up butter-cup. I’ll be back in 2020 to kick your corrupt ass.
I remixed it a little bit but you get the point. Project vision, resolve and strength if ever conceding a loss. Abrams nailed it. Two words for anybody who disagrees: Suck It.
8- Walking, Chewing Gum & Kicking Ass At The Same Time: Here’s the deal- Democrats winning the House means they are responsible for EVERYTHING that is not under the immediate authority of the sitting president or the senate. So any pundit asking if they should focus on oversight of the incurably corrupt Trump White House OR push legislation to address the healthcare system is either an absolute idiot or they are playing dumb because they think we are. Talking heads who talk like that should just be ignored because they are so committed to stirring up a meaningless debate that they are actually harming the public. The Democrats have a ton of work to do and they damned well better do it all. They are responsible for turning the legislative tide on healthcare, climate change, gun control, tax policy and shoring up the safety net Republicans were dying to shred had they won. On top of all that, they have to actually hold the Trump Administration accountable for every single rotten, corrupt, illegal act that they have committed since they took office. It’s a huge job but they asked for it. And if they bust their asses working on every one of these items, it will be OUR job to send them back in 2020 to finish everything that they started. They have the power of the purse and the power to prosecute. We expect them to use it all. Use it or lose it, baby.
9- Election Overhaul Is LONG Overdue: Our celebration at winning the House was definitely well deserved and we needed a little time to decompress from all of the stress we have endured in the 95 years that Trump has been president. But we cannot get so fat and happy that we ignore the fact that despite the victory, America embarrassed itself during this election. Our election infrastructure is so antiquated and dysfunctional that it is truly a national disgrace. Election security, ballot access, and our voting logistics leave us looking only marginally more organized than most other countries in the world and no more ethical than any of them. In a country that helps monitor elections around the world, NOBODY should wait in line for 3 or 4 hours to vote. NOBODY should have their name purged from the voter rolls. NOBODY should have their ballot thrown in the trash because they forgot to add their full middle name instead of their middle initial on their signature. NOBODY should have to travel outside of their own neighborhood to cast a ballot. And most of all, NOBODY who is on the ballot as a candidate should have any connection whatsoever with the administration of any element of the election. All of that happened in my home state of Georgia. Because we have Stacey Abrams and she has the support of thousands of committed citizens we will not let that happen again.
But what about the other states and districts where this disgraceful voter suppression took place? There are many. If it happens to anybody anywhere, it happens to everybody everywhere- and that cannot stand.
Fixing this mess isn’t on Congress, it’s on us. The changes have to be demanded by the people effected. So I close the book on 2018 with my most earnest petition to all people of good will: get involved where you live to make sure that every single citizen that wants to vote, can vote and does vote. In America, voting must be solely a reflection of a voter’s will and never a test a voter’s skill.