By Jacob Hopkins
Pundits from all corners of the media both conservative and liberal have made the argument that in order to win a majority in the House of Representatives in 2018, the Democratic Party needs to argue a comprehensive and optimistic economic message that unites the country. While a strong message certainly wouldn’t hurt the party, economics is not the central focus of voters in this midterm election, meaning the Democrats might miss an opportunity by emphasizing it. The current issue which is consuming almost 60-percent of the country is the clown show of a presidential administration currently embarrassing the United States on the world stage and the Republicans in Congress who are letting the administration get away with it.
This coalition of 60-percent of Americans comes from all backgrounds. It includes minorities, the LGBT community, white working class voters, and yes, rich white voters who are new to the idea of empowering a Democratic Party. What unites this coalition is opposition to the immoral administration of an unqualified bigot and disgust with the codependent Republicans in Congress who allow it to continue week after week. Focusing on uniting this coalition is the single most important thing to help provide a check on the Trump administration. In response, Republicans will attempt to peel types of voters from the coalition by promising the rich tax cuts and white working class voters immigration crackdowns. And that strategy may work if Democrats don’t focus on keeping the heat on Trump and promising public hearings about what the administration has done wrong.
That’s exactly why this beltway conventional wisdom that the Democratic Party must be all things to all people could end up hamstringing the party. Elections are won by having a strong message about the big issues facing the country and delivering it without getting distracted by side shows. The big issue facing the country is Donald Trump, and other issues are largely side shows. Does this mean that Democrats shouldn’t promise a vote on an increase in the minimum wage when they get into office? Of course not, but it does mean that issue is secondary, because it isn’t the number one issue facing the country. The buffoon sitting behind the resolute desk is.
Midterm elections are referendums on the party in power, and Trump is historically unpopular and will lose that referendum. It is a sure bet for Democratic candidates in districts where Trump is underwater in approval ratings. It must be argued with a laser focus on the campaign trail, or the party risks losing a historic opportunity to pick up seats and gain a check on the Trump administration.
None of this is to say that in a 2020 presidential election, there shouldn’t be a strong and comprehensive economic message. It would be political malpractice for a presidential candidate not to offer the American people a message for the country. But 2018 is not a presidential election. Very few people actually know who their member of Congress is, and when they do know who it is, they are usually already entrenched. Often people go into a voting booth in a midterm, and vote for a candidate based on the letter next to their name. Maybe that is a failure of public life, but it is the truth. If through 2018, the Democratic Party can position themselves as the people who will put a check on Trump, they will win in a majority of seats, because a majority of voters in a majority of seats think Trump is doing a bad job and are looking for change.