Well, well, well, nobody saw that coming. While Joe Crowley is a Democrat, his stunning defeat last night just highlights in my mind something I’ve been saying about Republican chances in November for six months now. Here’s a few of the things I’ve taken away from last nights surprise result.
To my mind, Joe Crowley’s defeat last night is a crystal ball for the fate of a whole lot of Republicans in November. The comparisons between Crowley and Eric Cantor are accurate from where I’m sitting. Both were complacent, and neither had had a significant primary challenger since Adam was a lad. Both depended on their existing power, and oodles of campaign cash. To my eyes, nothing says “dismissive” like sending a surrogate to a candidate debate. But it’s the campaign ring rust that makes me compare Crowley to a lot of GOP House incumbents going into November.
The flashing red light for me regarding Republican chances in November was the 2017 Virginia state election, when we flipped 15 GOP held seats. One of the biggest ingredients in that secret sauce was names on the ballot. The GOP in Virginia had maintained their majority for years simply by Democratic inactivity, too many of them were running unopposed. Which made the GOP incumbents fat and lazy, When a feisty, energetic Democrat opposed them, they suddenly had to do something they hadn’t had to do in years, campaign. And they failed miserably. Democrats hammered home how out of touch they were with their own constituents.
This same dynamic is going to play out over and over again in November. The Democrats have done a wonderful job of filling ballots this year. They are motivated, and they are facing entrenched incumbents who have been ignoring their constituent’s concerns for years, safely hiding behind token opposition if any in elections. These challengers can hit them where it hurts the most, local issues. Maybe one congressman can’t solve global warming, but they sure as hell can fix potholes in the street. I love hearing reports that the GOP is struggling for a national message, because these races are going to be determined by local issues.
Enthusiasm and activism trumps money. When Dave Brat gave the heave-ho to Eric Cantor, he did it with shoe leather and enthusiasm, spending almost nothing. The average American spends more on a 4 year old used car than Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez spent to unseat Joe Crowley, who blew a cool mil. These Democratic challengers are putting the “retail” back in “retail politics,” and incumbents are struggling with it. This is why I feel so strongly that Beto O’Rourke is going to hand Ted Cruz his head. These Democrats are young and hungry, and they are going to take their message to the front door, and not the television set.
Nancy. Pelosi. Is. Out. Of. Her. Mind. And so are Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn if they agree with Nancy Pelosi. I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but when Nancy Pelosi said today that, “Hey, I’m a progressive, and I’m a woman,” what laughter there was in the background was very nervous and muted. Because the future is now.
If the Democrats flip the House in November, they aren’t going to do it because of entrenched, older, ideological Democrats. They are going to flip it because of the youth and enthusiasm of younger progressives. These progressives aren’t putting their lives on hold just because they’re fed up with Trump, they’re doing it because they’re fed up with “politics as usual.” And the senior leadership of the Democratic party is nothing if not “politics as usual.” One of the issues that democratic challengers are running on in the primaries is their unwillingness to back Pelosi as Speaker if the Democrats take over. They wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t resonate.
Senior Democratic leadership has been under assault since Debbie Wasserman Schultz got caught with her thumb on the scale in the 2016 primaries. Pelosi herself just fended off a challenger to her leadership. As the younger base gets more motivated and energetic, the more they are starting to feel that the senior Democratic leadership in the House is worrying more about their own power than they are about what their constituents want. If the Democrats retake the House in November, I’m not saying that Conor Lamb is going to be the next Speaker. But Pelosi faced that challenge to her leadership because there is a whole tier of experienced Democrats, much younger experienced Democrats right under the level of Pelosi, Clyburn, and Hoyer. If the Democrats retake the House, I don’t see how Pelosi becomes Speaker again, simply because the old bulls like Hoyer and Clyburn won’t be able to whip enough votes for it to happen.
So, from where I’m sitting, last nights primary result was about a whole lot more than just one incumbent getting his comeuppance. This was an air raid siren for the GOP as to what may be waiting for them in November, and a clear warning to senior leadership in the Democratic House that the salad days are over. They can either contribute constructively, or get pushed to the curb.