Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
GOP presidential contender Donald Trump has given Democrats something that seemed only the stuff of shop talk, wishful thinking, and even fawn dreams a year ago. That’s a real shot at taking back Congress. First, let’s get the presidential race out of the way. Long before Trump’s campaign came totally discombobulated amidst the sex charge stuff, there was almost no way that he, or any other GOP presidential candidate for that matter, realistically could have won. Clinton had nearly twenty states big, little and mid-sized either locked down, or that solidly tilted toward the Democrats. This gave Clinton more than 200 electoral votes before the first voter punched a ballot ticket. Barring any major Clinton scandal, revelation, near cataclysmic crash of the economy, or 9/11 style terrorist attack on US shores a week before the election, it didn’t require much for her to net the remaining 60 plus electoral votes in other states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Colorado which have solid Democratic numbers and voted for Obama twice. So, that leaves the Senate and the House in play.
This requires grabbing five contested Senate seats from the GOP and keeping the ones that are fairly safely in Democratic hands. In the House it meant taking 30 of the seats that are in play to get full control, or at the very least winning as many of them as possible to dent the GOP House majority. The Senate takeover is eminently doable since the Democratic contenders are either seasoned elected officials, with solid name identification, a solid voter base, financial backing, and a fairly good ground game. The Democratic National Committee and other Democratic funding and organizing committees, are providing solid back up and support to the candidate’s campaigns.
The House is the much tougher nut to crack, since many of the seats appear to be in either lock down or heavily GOP leaning districts. There are reasons this could change. One is Trump. His race baiting, woman bashing, immigrant scapegoating, campaign of vilification and deliberate polarization could radically ramp up the number of independent, and even moderate, centrist Republicans, who defect to the Democratic candidate. Trump almost certainly will energize Democrats to flood the polls to defeat him and in the process boost the vote total for the l Democratic congressional challenger.
The most winnable House seats are not in the hard core GOP bastions in the South and the Heartland, but are in Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Nevada, and Minnesota that are either Democratic controlled or swing states. The voter demographics in the competitive districts are not top heavy with Trump’s core voter base, namely lower income, blue collar, rural, less educated whites, but are suburban districts with a sizeable number of college degree, or educated, professional, business career voters. They are conservative, and have voted GOP, but the GOP presidential candidate they backed was a traditional GOP candidate such as John McCain or Mitt Romney, not a race baiting, polarizing Trump. The GOP’s nightmare scenario that the Democrats will dent the GOP House majority or upend it has GOP House speaker, Paul Ryan climbing the walls, and doing everything humanly possible to put a Grand Canyon length distance from Trump.
But a stupendously bad GOP candidate, Trump, or voter demographics in flux, alone, won’t guarantee a Democratic walk-over in a bid to grab Congressional control. That will take a big, well-oiled, laser precise, voter registration, door knocking, social media mobilizing campaign, in the targeted districts to sell Democrats and independents and some Republicans on the merits of the Democratic challenger. It requires that the DNC and local Democratic county organizations pivot from their Clinton focus to a focus on the targeted local House races. It also requires that Clinton push and prod hard the DNC and local Democratic party organizations to mount the fully resourced, all out press in the final run-up to Election Day for the magic 30 plus seats to seize the House.
A Democratic-controlled Senate will give Clinton priceless support for her initiatives and legislative agenda, and blunt at least some of the hard edge of the GOP obstructionism and warfare that marred nearly every year of Obama’s tenure in the White House. However, it won’t insure that Clinton’s initiative and legislative agenda pass. A GOP controlled House is still a wounded beast and even more dangerous. It can clamp near endless gridlock on Clinton. It would not be exactly what Obama faced but the end result of having to battle every inch of the way for vital legislation and spending would be wasteful and draining.
So, the Democrats can thank Trump for keeping a Democrat in the saddle in the White House, now it has to do its part to put Democrats back in the saddle in the Senate, and especially the House.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio-One Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media.