A seismic shift recently occurred within the Democratic party that will shred the conventional wisdom held by the pundit class that we are in for a “blue wave” in November‘s midterm election. The buzz created by Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th House District is more likely to create a “blue boomerang.”
Ocasio-Cortez knocked off Joe Crowley, an incumbent who has served since 1999 and was thought by many to be the successor to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez’s rapid rise was fueled by support from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. Much like the Tea Party, which wanted more conservative leadership from Republicans in 2010, progressives are itching for a party takeover to move the Democratic party further left.
For decades, midterm elections have been about the party out of power claiming policy overreach of the new president. That argument has succeeded in every first midterm election since 1934, other than post 9-11 in 2002. As the Democratic base pushes further left, the focus of voters in key swing districts and states will drift away from the president and toward policies that are out of step with mainstream Americans.
The rise of Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders is based on the belief the party of Pelosi and Hillary Clinton isn’t liberal enough. Their message is clear: in order to win this fall you need to tout policy initiatives popular with progressives such as universal healthcare, tuition-free college, federal job guarantees, abolishing ICE and repealing the recent tax cuts.
The Democratic establishment is watching nervously as Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders stump for socialist-progressive candidates. At a recent rally in Wichita, Kan., Democratic candidate James Thompson said, “If a centrist message would have worked then Hillary would have won here in 2016.” Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders are sharing this message, even in heartland states carried by the president such as Kansas, Michigan and Missouri.
However, in tough races like West Virginia’s Senate race, you’re more likely to see Democratic candidates like Joe Manchin embrace President Trump than the progressive movement. Manchin has hinted he may support Trump in 2020, which speaks volumes.
The election is only three months away. According to the Cook Political Report, Republicans have the edge in 207 House races, while Democrats are leading in 202, with 26 toss-ups. There are 8 toss-ups in the Senate. There is no margin for error if the Democrats wish to regain control of both houses of Congress.
As the party in power, the Republicans have the economy on their side. GDP grew at 4.1 percent in the second quarter, marking the third consecutive quarter of at least 3 percent growth, a streak which has not occurred in 13 years. Unemployment is down to 3.9 percent, the lowest it‘s been since 2000. Wages are increasing at a rate of 4.89 percent. Republicans will take this message to voters in swing districts while Democrats appear to be mired in an internal struggle over the direction of their party.
What will happen in November? Will progressive purity win out? Or will it serve as a drastic shift that slips too far? This Republican believes the intra-party battle is likely to save the Republican-led Congress.