Tuesday’s narrow win by Democrat Conor Lamb in a special congressional election in Pennsylvania has thrilled Democrats eager to believe that the entire country has finally seen the error of its ways and is about to remove the interloper Donald J. Trump, if not from power then at least from moral authority in the White House. This, they crow, is yet more proof of the “blue wave” that surely is coming in the fall, when the party of slavery, segregation, secularism, and sedition retakes the House of Representatives, re-installs Nancy Pelosi as speaker, and effects the Progressive Restoration in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016.
Chastened Republicans, meanwhile, are expected finally to bow to the inevitable and hang their heads in shame, while accepting the natural overlordship of their Democrat betters and returning to their Vichycon places at the table, collaborating whenever possible and putting up only token resistance when not.
Not so fast. It’s always dangerous to draw national conclusions from local elections, which House races are by definition.
First, the district was holding a special election to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last October after the news broke that he had encouraged his lover in an extramarital affair to abort a pregnancy, which turned out to be a phantom. Of course, for a Democrat, this would have been no problem at all, since the modern Democratic Party considers a “woman’s right to choose” to be right up there with “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Forget honey traps: Murphy was caught in a hypocrisy trap, so he had to go.
Second, Democrats in the district have a registration advantage of some 70,000 voters, but many of those are “conservative” and it went hard for Trump in 2016. Outside observers (i.e., Democrat media shills and the krack kadres of GOP kampaign konsultants) at first expected the seat to stay red. But then the Republican bonzes took a look at the polls, and promptly bailed on candidate Rick Saccone, writing him off as lost.
Third, the district is about to be renamed and reshaped in the wake of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order to redraw its boundaries. Gerrymandering, it seems, is a high crime and misdemeanor when elected Republicans do it, but when unelected Democrats do it, it serves the cause of social justice and is thus OK.
So it’s hard to generalize from what seems to be—in the gleeful words of the New York Times—“a win in the heart of President Trump’s Rust Belt base . . . even in deep-red areas where Republicans remain bedeviled by Mr. Trump’s unpopularity.” Democrats have been itching for this moment since their hopes were crushed in Georgia last June, their sorrow only partly assuaged by the GOP’s own loss of Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat in Alabama and an easy win for Democrats in the Virginia gubernatorial contest.
All politics really is local, as Tip O’Neill famously observed, and House elections, gerrymandered to the hilt and thus subject (as the Constitution intended) to the transient passions of the moment, are more local than anything else with a national resonance. What, after all, is gerrymandering but a delayed response to political developments within a given state, including control of the state legislature, which draws the districts? Expect the federal courts to strike down this usurpation of the separation of powers in Pennsylvania, but for now the damage has been done.
Still, the fixation of the Washington press corps—and everybody in the media is now basically a member of it—on Trump and the 24/7, never-ending presidential campaigns of the 21st century means that all politics is now national, and that everything is a constant referendum on Trump. This way lies insanity, but it is a fine madness devoutly to be wished by the media and the Democrats, who do not see politics as an eternal give-and-take, but a contest to be won, and finished, decisively.
What ought to worry the GOP about the Lamb victory is not the victory itself—Lamb had been leading handsomely in the polls, running as a “conservative”—but the stealthiness of the campaign, which is all part of an emerging new Democrat strategy. As House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) noted, “the candidate who is going to win this race is the candidate who ran as a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Nancy Pelosi, conservative.”
So behold the emerging Campaign ’18. For months now, Democrats have been recruiting youthful military vets, some of them anti-abortion, and committed to a generational change of the Democrats’ geriatric leadership. In an area like Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, which historically has been home to white, working-class, blue-collar cradle Democrats, this is a winning idea. In order to take back states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Democrats finally are realizing that the Pelosi-Schumer-Clinton axis of evil no longer holds any appeal, but that clean-cut, all-American types like Conor Lamb very much do. A party that has never had any problem compromising its transient “moral” principles won’t hesitate to run right at conservative Democrat voters, even it means betraying their professed ideals in order to support the national party with votes in Congress when it matters. “By any means necessary” is the Democrats’ slogan for a reason, after all.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the consultants who make a living by turning winnable races into close elections, bear much of the blame. Behind the scenes, in race after race, they decide beforehand which candidates are viable and which aren’t. The result is a top-down determination about where the PAC money will go, and about which candidates will get national media attention. Ask yourself this: had you ever heard of Rick Saccone until last week? Bet you heard of Conor Lamb. As CNN reported Wednesday:
Democrats in Washington believe they have found a winning strategy in Trump country: don’t nationalize the race. Coming off the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district Tuesday night—where Democrat Conor Lamb is poised to win—and Alabama’s special Senate election in December, national Democrats feel confident they have found a way to succeed by working behind the scenes with campaigns and focusing their efforts early on defining Republican candidates on issues that matter locally.
“Everyone learned their lesson from Jon Ossoff,” a Democrat operative said. “We realized that nationalizing a race like that obviously didn’t work and ultimately we lost.”
What this means is, the Young Turk Democrats are prepared temporarily to swallow their Trump hatred in order to elect stealth House candidates. This is entirely characteristic of Democrats, who play a long game, and always with one corrupt goal in mind: the domination of American politics for their own personal, professional, and ideological enrichment. Against this, what has the Republican Party to offer?
The answer to that will determine the outcome of the 2018 congressional elections. If the Republicans can’t counter this obvious ploy, they deserve to lose every seat in the House.
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