Thirty-third president Harry Truman proclaimed:
“Given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the voters will pick the Republican every time!”
As we celebrate and savor former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump, we must also be cognizant that, despite record voter turnout, the 2020 election did not bode as well for Democrats as it could have.
Two years ago, a “blue wave” ushered in a Democratic House majority and seats at the state and local levels that defied odds.
And while it seems Democrats will maintain that majority, it could turn out to be the thinnest in two decades.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell beat his challenger Amy McGrath.
Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, who won former Senator Jeff Sessions’ seat after Sessions was tapped to be Trump’s Attorney General, lost his re-election to former Auburn University football coach, Republican Tommy Tuberville.
Meanwhile, Democrats did not flip a single statehouse and lost some seats in Congress.
“Republicans’ likely hold on the Senate is forcing Joe Biden’s transition team to consider limiting its prospective Cabinet nominees to those who Mitch McConnell can live with, according to people familiar with the matter.”
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), House Democrats’ Campaign Committee chair–who nearly lost her re-election bid–lamented:
“The voters who turned out in this cycle look a lot more like 2016 than was projected. I want answers and I know you want answers.”
One of 2016’s surprises was the number of suburban white women who voted for Donald Trump.
We could assume after four years in which 26 women have come forward accusing Trump of sexual assault, and the barrage of insults he hurls toward female reporters and lawmakers, that popularity would have diminished.
Surprisingly, though, more white women supported Trump this year.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) said:
“From a congressional standpoint, it was a failure. It was not a success.”
But Spanberger’s additional statement, “We have to commit to not saying the words ‘defund the police’ ever again. We have to not use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” suggests the Democratic party is about to lurch hard right just as more Americans have made it clear they want lawmakers to embrace more progressive policies.
Some progressive commentators are attributing Democrats’ loss to the obscene amounts of money anti-Trump conservative groups like the Lincoln Project poured into resources that could have been put toward progressive messaging.
As David Sirota and Andrew Perez wrote in their piece “How The Lincoln Project Set Liberals’ Money On Fire:”
“As Lincoln Project burned liberals’ money on unpersuasive videos and expensive stunts—including a Times Square billboard in the uncontested locale of Manhattan—the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee raised far less money in its battle for control of legislatures.”
“The anti-Trump cash cow for veteran Republican consultants [ran] ads focused on trying to court disaffected Republican voters and attack Trump’s character, as Biden loaded up the Democratic convention with GOP speakers.
“When polls during the summer showed that the strategy wasn’t working, galaxy brain Rahm Emanuel defended it to a national televised audience, insisting that 2020 would be ‘the year of the Biden Republican.'”
Turns out there were no "Biden Republicans." The whole drift to the right strategy was a 100% failure. GOP voters went more strongly for Trump in 2020 than in 2016.
— Alex Vitale (@avitale) November 4, 2020
David Sirota tweeted:
Imagine how much of a Democratic voter turnout operation could have been funded in places like Pennsylvania or Georgia with the $67 million that was lit on fire by @ProjectLincoln to supposedly court GOP voters https://t.co/aTFXVSfr4x
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) November 4, 2020
They worry about climate change and yearn for an infrastructure that will protect them from its ravages.
They want the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.
They want to ensure the minimum wage is a living wage.
They support free tuition at public colleges and universities.
They want to protect Social Security.
They want to bring our jobs back from corporate avarice responsible for shipping them to low-wage countries.
They hate having to pay more than any other other developed nation for prescription drugs.
These are bold, realistic, progressive policies every Democrat should adopt.
This is why so many genuine progressives who threw their hats into the political ring after Sen. Bernie Sanders’ inspirational 2016 bid for the White House have unseated entrenched establishment Democrats.
Some of those progressives, like “The Squad”–New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley–mopped the floor with their opponents again last week.
It’s why former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman trounced 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel.
It’s why activist Cori Bush will become Missouri’s first Black congresswoman.
Despite embarrassing loses, the Democratic Congress is fortunate to have these iconoclastic voices–and others–to counterbalance the sirens summoning the establishment to join the “reasonable” Republicans.
While the Lincoln Project was laser-focused on taking Trump out, we must not forget it is still a Republican-led organization.
And at the end of the day, whether they despise Trump or not, Republicans want to eliminate Social Security, eviscerate union membership, cut taxes even more for the wealthy and corporations, rollback environmental regulations, suppress our votes, and expand money’s corrosive role in politics.
Is this really the wagon to which the Democratic party wants to hitch itself?
Will we see a day in the foreseeable future when Dick Cheney and George W. Bush will be considered “Democrats”?
Do Democrats really think Republicans are going to surrender their intransigence now, and how much more to the right are Democrats willing to move when they don’t?
Although Joe Biden has a neo-liberal past to reckon with, he will have no choice but to respond to the times, which means he can–and must–become “the most progressive president since FDR,” as Bernie Sanders insisted he has the potential to be.
If we don’t successfully push President-elect Biden further left, we risk another fascist Republican who’s actually competent marching into the White House in four years.
Image credit: http://www.spaulforrest.com/2011_07_01_archive.html