Senator Bernie Sanders is campaigning for House Democrats, hoping that the party will pick up enough seats to take back the House next month. But in an interview with the Hill today, Sanders said he’s not a believer in the blue wave that the left has been predicting for months. He believes control of the House is very much up in the air at this point:
“I know a lot of people talk about this blue wave and all that stuff, but I don’t believe it,” Sanders told “Rising” Hill.TV co-host Krystal Ball during an interview that aired on Monday.
Sanders said he believes that the outcome from Nov. 6 will be a “very, very close” situation, and predicts that only a “handful of votes” will determine whether Democrats are able to regain control of the House or Senate.
“We have an entity able to stand up to [President] Trump or we don’t,” the former presidential candidate said.
This is probably the smart thing to say even if you believe there really is a blue wave forming. If Democrats get overconfident, some could decide that the outcome is a foregone conclusion and stay home on election day. Better to tell your base it’s a tight squeeze and encourage them to vote, which is what Sanders is doing here.
On the other hand, Sanders may be right. A blue wave is still a possibility but it appears less likely than it was a few months ago. As Ed noted this morning, a new WSJ/NBC poll shows Trump’s job approval is still underwater but only slightly. And the GOP has a huge advantage on the economy (+15), which is surely going to help Republicans in some races. Also, while the Democrats still have an advantage on the generic ballot, that advantage doesn’t seem to exist in the electoral battlegrounds.
Last week Megan McArdle was one of many who suggested this surprising turn of events also has a lot to do with the public’s reaction to Democrats behavior during the Kavanaugh confirmation:
It’s virtually certain that whoever leaked Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations about Kavanaugh thought they were doing Democrats a good political turn. And “structural unfairness” of the political system can’t explain why voters who told pollsters before the Kavanaugh process that they were leaning Democratic now seem to have taken a right turn…
After 2016, but especially after Kavanaugh, Democrats should be asking whether an increasing focus on identity politics is actually enlarging their coalition. The more explicitly you target specific identities, the more likely you are to alienate the identities against which they’re implicitly framed. As Nate Cohn of the New York Times wrote in 2016, one way to think about Trump’s victory was that white working-class people started voting like a minority group — and were 40 percent of the electorate.
And one way to think about the Red Undertow is that while women make up half the electorate, so do men. If something runs up the women’s vote but threatens the other half of the country, it’s likely to be at best an electoral wash. Or worse, if some of the women in the electorate think of their brothers and fathers, husbands and sons, whose fortunes are inextricably tied to their own.
Identity politics and the divide-and-conquer partisan mindset that goes along with it can’t guarantee a return to power for the left in next month’s election. As McArdle points out, you have to wonder how Dems will respond if they fail to take the House. Will they take it as a sign that they’ve gone too far or (more likely I think) as a sign that they haven’t gone far enough?