Donald Trump may be off to the worst start in presidential history, but recent polls and election results show Democrats are even more unpopular than he is. What’s wrong with the Democrats?
Recently I ran into a Democratic operative who was adamant that his dispirited party’s stock is rising.
It’s looking good, for example, that with all Trump’s troubles, the donkey party finally will win enough seats in special elections this fall to take control of our state’s Legislature from the Republicans.
“If Democrats can’t win this year,” he vowed, “we should be abolished as a political party.”
Might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
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I have written a lot in this space about the Republicans’ severe political problems. Locally, the GOP seems on the verge of going extinct in King County, which would all but assure the party couldn’t win a race for statewide office such as governor.
We’ve also covered at length President Donald Trump’s unpopularity, with polls at record lows for a president in the first six months of his term.
But this past week the Democrats showed how they excel, above all, at eluding victory. Once again they demonstrated how they’re the party that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Somehow the Democrats lost a special election in Montana to a disliked interloper millionaire from New Jersey who body-slammed a reporter on the eve of election. “Republican Charged with Assault Wins Montana Seat” read the humiliating headlines.
Yes, Montana is a red state, but it has a Democratic governor and one Democratic U.S. senator. While half the vote or more was cast before the body-slamming incident, the Democrats shouldn’t fool themselves: They would have lost anyway.
The bigger question is: Why are the Democrats, in this Terrible Time of Trump, still losing?
Recently a poll showed the Democrats have a favorability rating 9 points lowerthan Trump’s. Another poll, by ABC News, found that 67 percent think Democrats are “out of touch” with regular people. That’s 10 points worse than Trump — who himself is about as irregular of a person as you can get.
I haven’t seen Democrats doing much soul-searching about this. Marooned at sea, the plan seems to be to just ride the anti-Trump fervor wave all the way back into shore.
Warning: In Montana, this didn’t work. The Republican candidate campaigned like he was Trump’s mini-me, from appearing with Vice President Mike Pence to his attacks, in his case literally, on the press. The Democrat, for his part, barnstormed with Bernie Sanders.
Now, in Seattle, everyone loves Bernie. But who thought it was a good idea to parade around in a Montana general election with the socialist?
Democrats nevertheless seem pleased they lost Montana by less than expected — which also is classic Democrat-think. No Republican ever says, “Yay, we lost but we sure came close!”
I don’t know what ails the Democrats exactly. Most of their policy positions are more popular than the Republicans’ — on budget issues, on health care, on about everything but fighting terrorism. Yet policy increasingly doesn’t seem to matter in elections.
Last year when I wrote about how some longtime Democratic counties on the Washington coast had flipped to Republican for the first time in nearly a century, the former publisher of The Aberdeen Daily World, John Hughes, said Trump’s success was due to “radiating fear and loathing against Seattle liberals.”
OK, I pushed back, but these counties are helped by the Democratic social programs the most.
He wrote back: “I’m not saying it makes any sense. It’s all visceral.”
It is all visceral these days. Something is culturally off about the way Democrats are communicating with large swaths of the American public. Must be frustrating, because nobody seems worse at communicating than Trump. Yet so far this year, in the federal campaigns, the Democrats keep right on losing.
Democrats probably will win control of our state Legislature this fall. But the party’s problems outside of urban areas are deepening. Meanwhile Republicans aren’t even making a stab at contesting the most influential position this year in our urban area, King County executive.
That thing the Democratic operative said about his party being abolished? That was a joke. But in a sense, to both parties, it’s already started happening.