Kelly McParland: So much for the Democrats’ hammer blow against Trumpism

Despite what you may deduce from the results of Tuesday’s mid-term results, the Democrats’ successful bid to regain control of the House of Representatives may not be the hammer blow against Trumpism they’d hoped for.

They needed a gain of 23 seats; they made it with room to spare. That will certainly spur efforts to neutralize the ogre in the White House, just as Republicans turned the final years of the Obama administration into a quagmire of wasted efforts and blocked ambitions. It only takes control of one wing of Congress to sap much of the power of the presidency, and with the House under their command, Democrats have all the tools they need to wreak their revenge on a president they consider a pestilence just this side of biblical stature.

They can do a lot to make Trump’s life miserable, and they almost certainly will put great effort into it. Whether it nets them anything beyond the pleasure of inflicting pain is another matter, the problem being that the Democratic party is not a united front dedicated to furthering shared aims and national goals. At best it is a loose coalition of factions, interests, individuals and regional powers, which co-operate to win elections or promote shared goals, but only as long as everyone’s agendas are being served, and no competing interest arises. National party bosses try to instil some order, but cats can be herded easier than congresspeople worried about a nomination challenge.

At the moment Democrats are a house deeply divided between an establishment desperate for some order, and a deeply frustrated activist wing keen to replace an aging and entrenched leadership with people who don’t look back fondly on San Francisco’s Summer of Love, or the day the Beatles landed at JFK airport, because they weren’t born yet. Even as advance polls recorded record turnouts across the country, analysts debated which was more likely to alarm voters: Trump’s Republicans holding on to the House or the return of the Democrats’ Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.

Pelosi is 78. She’s been in Washington for 30 years, more than a decade as Speaker or minority leader. Her Senate colleague Dianne Feinstein is 85, first elected to public office in 1970. Both are multi-millionaire California matriarchs — Pelosi owns a vineyard bordering the Napa river, Feinstein is married to the billionaire founder of a private equity firm. In contrast, some of the most high-profile, fiercely fought races were for governorships in Georgia and Florida, featuring younger, accomplished, energetic black candidates. Stacey Abrams is 44, one of six children born to a pair of Methodist ministers, a tax lawyer who writes romantic suspense novels on the side and would be the first black woman elected governor anywhere in the U.S. Andrew Gillum, 39, was seeking to become Florida’s first black governor in a contest that explored the nether regions of the partisan divide, tinged with a raw racial element. Commenting on opponent Ron DeSantis’s popularity among white nationalists, Gillum remarked: “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

Gillum lost. Abrams declined to concede early Wednesday in a tight race where a runoff seemed likely. The interest they generated can only fuel the activist wing of the party in its determination to push their way into its upper echelons. In that they are bound to run into party elders disinclined to make way. Democrats agree they need to regroup from Hillary Clinton’s disastrous 2016 run, but not on how. Of the top five potential presidential hopefuls for 2020, the best-recognized, most moderate candidate is also the establishment favourite: Joe Biden turns 76 this month, has been in Washington 45 years and twice previously sought the nomination.

His most oft-mentioned rivals range from left-wing to very left-wing. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Corey Booker appear convinced Americans can be lured away from Trumpite politics with a package of ambitious and pricey social proposals of the sort that carry much risk of resistance. Former president Barack Obama’s effort to pass a healthcare package that left millions unprotected was nonetheless deemed so radical it caused his own midterm meltdown, yet some of the hottest “progressive” debates treat Sanders’ 2016 platform — free universal preschool, universal government-run healthcare, free tuition at public colleges — as no more than a starting point. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the most celebrated new candidates, ran as a Democratic-Socialist on a platform demanding a “federal jobs guarantee” that would “create publicly financed jobs for everyone who wants to work.” She won easily.

The Democrats were supposed to produce a cakewalk to House control, a “blue wave” that might grow to a “blue tsunami.” In that they failed — TV talking heads discussed whether the end result was best termed a puddle or a ripple. Trump, meanwhile, couldn’t help but be cheered, having boasted that it was all a referendum on him. Both Obama and Bill Clinton lost more seats in their first mid-terms than Trump did last night. His party easily retained control of the Senate, escaped a scare in Ted Cruz’s Texas seat and saw pro-Trump Florida candidate Rick Scott defeat Sen. Bill Nelson, the last Democrat to hold state-wide office.

“This is the president’s party, there’s no doubt,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, one of his most outspoken GOP critics, who didn’t seek re-election.

His opponents still don’t grasp what it is about the president that appeals to the 40% or more of Americans who appear willing to stand by him no matter what he says or does, who he insults or how many aides, assistants or cabinet heavies head for the exits. To a great degree it reflects the solidity and narrowness of his fans: whites, particularly males, and especially those lacking higher education. The Democrat “base” in contrast, is no base at all: blacks; hispanics; educated white women; urban elites on opposite coasts; a broad host of environmental, gender, educational, aspirational and income-related camps of disparate ardour, all jostling for position.

Monday’s victory won’t solve the rivalry over the party’s future. Having survived Tuesday’s verdict, Trump can spend two years preparing a bid to continue running the country. Democrats, meanwhile, still have to sort out who’s running the party.

***

Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.