“In the expectations game,” Damon Linker wrote yesterday, “the Democratic Party whiffed and whiffed badly.” It’s a curious claim immediately after an election which appears to have delivered the White House in that whiff, but Linker’s not the only person to have noticed that Joe Biden might be the only winner on the Left. And that’s only if the Left counts Biden among their number — which could be a very big question.
Linker describes what the Left lost, and even this isn’t a comprehensive description, as we’ll soon see:
So much for the Democratic fantasy — the one that seemingly never dies — of unobstructed rule. Democrats didn’t just want to win and govern in the name of a deeply divided nation’s fractured sense of the common good. No, they wanted to lead a moral revolution, to transform the country — not only enacting a long list of new policies, but making a series of institutional changes that would entrench their power far into the future. Pack the Supreme Court. Add left-leaning states. Break up others to give the left huge margins in the Senate. Get rid of the Electoral College. Abolish the police. Rewrite the nation’s history, with white supremacy and racism placed “at the very center.” Ensure “equity” not just in opportunity but in outcomes. Hell, maybe they’d even establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to teach everyone who voted for or supported the 45th president just how evil they really are.
No wonder so many Republicans turned out to vote. Democrats proved to be the most effective GOTV operation for the GOP imaginable.
Yes, Trump and the Republican cheerleading section online and on cable news and talk radio harped on every extreme proposal. But this wasn’t just a function of the fallacy of composition, where one loony activist says something off the wall and the GOP amplifies it far beyond reason in order to tar the opposition unfairly. These were prominent Democrats — progressive politicians, activists, and scholars and prize-winning journalists at leading cultural institutions — talking this way. Joe Biden himself usually did the smart thing and tried to distance himself from the most radical proposals. But in the end it wasn’t enough to mollify fears of an ascendant left hell bent on entrenching itself in power and enacting institutional reforms that would enable it to lead a moral, political, and cultural revolution.
It’s that radicalism that appears to have delivered a strange split decision. On the topline of the ballot, voters seem to have tired of Donald Trump’s chaos-agent act, which was always going to be a risk in a re-election bid. Joe Biden might be a doddering fool, but he’s a comfortable doddering fool, and a shoo-in for a single-term presidency. They’ll get a chance for a reset in 2024, and in some ways that might even favor the GOP, assuming they nominate someone with enough charisma and firepower to take on the media and the pollsters.
The same voters have narrowly decided not to hand control of government to the Left for all the reasons he lists. Nancy Pelosi might end up losing control of the House, Mitch McConnell is within a runoff election of keeping control of the Senate, and Democrats didn’t convert a single state legislature in what they were convinced would be a blue-wave election, as the Associated Press reports. In fact, it was the GOP who achieved incremental gains down-ballot:
In most states, the election will maintain existing conditions, a shift from recent elections in which at least a half-dozen chambers changed control, according to Wendy Underhill, director of the elections and redistricting team at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“This year, unlike all the others, with so much noise and money going into this election, and yet the results are status quo, no change,” she said. “It’s jaw-dropping.” …
Democrats had high hopes of taking control of the Texas House for the first time in nearly two decades, but fell short, despite tens of millions of dollars flowing in from state and national groups. Democrats’ hopes also were dashed in Iowa, Michigan and North Carolina. In Texas and Iowa, winning control of a legislative chamber would have broken Republican “trifectas,” in which the party controls the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature.
Republicans appeared to have gained two new trifectas — in New Hampshire by seizing the state Senate, and in Montana with a victory in the gubernatorial race.
That failure has dramatic consequences. Guess what’s coming next for those state legislatures? The Census Bureau has concluded its work and will soon dictate changes in the House of Representatives based on population shifts in the US. The Left’s overreach in 2020 has decade-long implications, Politico points out:
An abysmal showing by Democrats in state legislative races on Tuesday not only denied them victories in Sun Belt and Rust Belt states that would have positioned them to advance their policy agenda — it also put the party at a disadvantage ahead of the redistricting that will determine the balance of power for the next decade.
The results could domino through politics in America, helping the GOP draw favorable congressional and state legislative maps by ensuring Democrats remain the minority party in key state legislatures. Ultimately, it could mean more Republicans in Washington — and in state capitals.
By Wednesday night, Democrats had not flipped a single statehouse chamber in its favor. And it remained completely blocked from the map-making process in several key states — including Texas, North Carolina and Florida, which could have a combined 82 congressional seats by 2022 — where the GOP retained control of the state legislatures.
After months of record-breaking fundraising by their candidates and a constellation of outside groups, Democrats fell far short of their goals and failed to build upon their 2018 successes to capture state chambers they had been targeting for years.
Ally Mutnick and Sabrina Rodriguez credit Donald Trump with coattails, but that might be too simple. In many cases, Trump underperformed down-ballot Republicans. It seems more likely that Linker got this right — Democrats chased off voters they might have otherwise wooed, some of whom got spooked so much that they also supported Trump to hold off the progressive march.
So yes, even though Trump has apparently lost his re-election bid and Democrats will have the White House, the Left did get crushed. All they had to do for a wave was to stay sane … and they couldn’t manage it. Just wait for the inevitable midterm backlash to the Biden agenda in two years, and they’ll have plenty more to lament.
And by the way… why is Nancy Pelosi getting most of the blame for this?
We're seeing a lot of stories about knives out for Pelosi.
Really surprised we're not seeing more knives out for Schumer, who had a Super PAC with $230 MILLION, the best funded challengers in history, Republicans defending 23 seats, and he couldn't secure the majority. https://t.co/RQr6RAYgNI
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) November 5, 2020